Failure is not an end … but fear of failure can end things

blogging-bonanza-bugWelcome to Dear Diary Saturday here at all things Monica Lee. I’m celebrating the countdown to launch on March 28 of Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982 with a month-long blogging bonanza, which means I’ll be blogging here every day this month about my book, about memoirs in general and about the launch. Each chapter in my new book begins with a word-for-word excerpt from my teenage diaries, so on Saturdays here I’ll be sharing blog posts from the Minnesota Transplant archive (my everyday blog) that used diary entries as inspiration.

* * *

Thirty-five years ago, I was learning to drive.

Aug. 2, 1982

Dear Diary,

After our trip to California, I had to start behind-the-wheel right away. The first day I went, I was dressed in loose Chic jeans, an old shirt of Mom’s and my hair wasn’t curled or anything — it was straight and in barrettes. I didn’t look good at all and you’ll never guess who I had the unfortune of having it with: [name deleted to protect the innocent — for the purposes of this blog post, we’ll call him Reeve], Mr. Perfect — almost tall, beautiful hair, a super athlete and rich.

I couldn’t even drive.

The next day, I curled my hair and looked halfway decent but of course I couldn’t make any conversation, I was just so nervous.

Anyone else remember Chic jeans? Misfortune, anyone? Right around that time, I bought some skin-tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans — those were a lot more fashionable. At least in Wadena.

Mr. Polloch, the instructor tried making conversation with us while we were driving but I couldn’t talk and drive at the same time. Reeve could though. Just from listening I learned that Reeve went to France by himself and visited an old friend. That French people smell. French movies are very expensive, and that he went on a bike trip while he was there. I learned that he has a cabin on Pine Lake, eats Cheerios for breakfast and has a huge boat. Lots more, too, but some I don’t remember and some is trivial.

Like “Cheerios for breakfast” isn’t trivial?

On Friday, I had to take a test. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat breakfast. I passed though, with an 81. Reeve got a 92 or 94 (he can even drive!).

Some lessons need to be learned over and over again. For me, it’s not driving I need to learn (while my Beloved thinks I drive like an old lady, I will point out the only real accident in which I’ve been involved was caused by someone else –Dad, I’m not counting the garage door).

No, the lesson I can’t seem to get through my head is that learning oftentimes means not knowing what to do and sometimes means failing.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

~ Theodore Roosevelt

It’s a serious character defect that I fear failure so much it paralyzes me.

I’ve spent the past week formatting my memoir for publication [this was a reference to The Percussionist’s Wife back in 2012], and I’ve learned more about Microsoft Word and e-publications than I have time (or you’d have interest) to recount. I’ve spent weeks (months? some might say years?) fidgeting in my seat and dragging my feet and (and other metaphors for procrastinating), thinking I could figure out self-publishing by reading about it.

Nope, it requires experiential learning. Just like learning to drive.

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