Just a couple days ago I was reading a New Yorker article on Mo Willems. Mo Willems is most famous for his Pigeon books, his Elephant and Piggie series, and for Knuffle Bunny. The Pigeon books started it all with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. But what he points to in his interview with Rivka Galchen is the fact that he had to fail a lot to get where he was. Even when he was succeeding, he felt like he was failing to a certain extent.
I hit that point today where I was thinking much along the same lines. What was I good at? How am I doing in life? What defines a successful life? And, truth be told, I had hit a point where I was beginning to think that it wasn’t much that I was successful at. And yes, that tends to be what happens when you have a couple of failed job interviews and your home feels like a laundry monster exploded all over it. It seemed so inconsequential that I didn’t realize why I was so upset until I spent time reflecting and pulling all the pieces together.
And then I thought of Rivka Galchen’s interview with Mo Willems. What am I good at? Am I doing things well and just not counting them because of those things that have gone wrong?
That’s when I started thinking about my long abandoned stories and plot lines and writing that has happened and writing that hasn’t happened. What about those dance classes I haven’t taught in ages? What about the shows I used to work on? (Okay, I did just help with a show. Maybe striking Panto has me a little sad because its over…) Where are my creative outlets?
But all of this also got me to thinking about something else. Failure is a part of life. Failure is something that you spend ages trying to get students to understand is okay. Failure teaches you how not to do something. Without failure we cannot understand our own limits, nor how to surpass them.
And yet, we as a society are so afraid of failure. We are so afraid of what could happen if we fail that we don’t want to see failure as an option. As the Yoda quote goes: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” But isn’t that the essence of life? We must be constantly trying in order to do. And if we are constantly trying, we will occasionally fail.
So it’s with this in mind that I have moved on to the next thing and have decided to just keep trying. And it’s all thanks to a book series and an author. Thanks, Mo.