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                                              (Image from I Can Has Cheezburger)   

Today in front of a group of his friends and peers, a friend of mine voiced that he felt like a failure.  The context doesn’t even matter so much as the absurdity of this guy feeling like he could even live in the same town as Failure.  This friend (let’s call him “Joe” because it’s a nice generic name, and for no other reason) is that rare guy that reaches out to everyone.  Joe goes around helping others because he’s wired that way, and not out of a need for people to congratulate him on his good deeds.  He’s built up a community made of people that have hard times fitting into other communities.  Joe is the most successful person I have ever known, in that he lives by his own code.  As we all know, a man’s got to have a code.  However, Joe’s community that he’s grown is having the screws put to it because all the money in the world has apparently disappeared.


This feeling of failure isn’t unique to my friend Joe.  We’re feeling it in my own home, as my husband’s eyes get a little more panicky every day that work doesn’t come in. Anson is hustling here and there and we’re making it but it isn’t without a ridiculous amount of stress. (When I say, “hustling”, I do not want to imply that my husband has turned to prostitution.  He has not.  Yet.)    I have a friend who is a clothing designer that just lost his funding, I have a friend who used to support herself with writing that has had to beg the cold arms of Corporate America to take her back, one of my favorite writers in Bed-Stuy has had to start using Food Stamps to feed her family, and I have a friend who works in banking who lost her job. When you get all up in this recession’s grill, it is so very freaky.


I guess this is my question to my people (You are my people now.  I’ve claimed ownership): How do we not feel like failures in times when all we can do is fail? Where are the success stories in this time in history and how can I get me (and my friend Joe) some of that?  


64 responses to “Fail

  1. I was ahead of the curve on this recession thing. (A year ago, February aught eight,) I quit /lost my very well paying job At first I panicked. I have a four year old to provide for. I felt not like a failure, but more like an idiot. Then a day went by and another and another, and the sky had not caved in as I expected and I relaxed, got positive and began to work. Freelance video production and stage hand jobs. Then I tapped into my true talent tour guiding. I worked it; Phone calls, post cards, personal visits. I was getting by nicely. Still it wasn’t easy. When the lean times came in the middle of the summer I was low on the list of who gets called to work. I went on food stamps in July after booking only two jobs the entire month. One of the smartest things I’ve ever done. There was no shame in it. I was only on for one month. There is no shame in these times we find ourselves in. There is only shame in giving in to feeling like a failure. It’s hard to comprehend at first. We are so used to gliding through and doing great. We fail once and it’s over. Or so we think. Adversity? What the hell is that? I must be unworthy of success. In our society we are not aloud to fail any more, to the point that any adversity in our chosen (or haphazard) path is interpreted as failure. We are sold the image of the wunderkind and we are all supposed to be one. Every successful person in this world is most successful at failing. Failing is just another word for trying. I really believe this and in these tough times, and they are getting tougher, not trying, not doing, not realizing that you can to steer your own course is really failing. Tips: • Talk to people, your land lord, your creditors, let them know where you stand. • Sell your old crap it feels good• Check out they have a calculator that lets you know what programs you might be eligible for.• STAY POSITIVE. You’ll get through it• Work out every day (its free to go running and it feels great)• Don’t sleep lateOk I am done Joe ( not that Joe)

  2. What a timely topic. My husband was told last week that his job was likely to either disappear, or be downsized greatly in the next six months. This isn’t something we saw coming, even though it is happening all around us.I don’t know the answer about how not to feel like a failure. I am comforted by the comments of Joe, and will take his advice.So, to all the Joes out there that are feeling like failures, I suppose there’s some comfort in knowing there are a lot of successful failures all around you. You’re in good company.

  3. man you said it. it seems like there is a lot of problems happening to people who you never thought would have them. makes me feel lucky to have a job, even if it is a job i don’t like. i keep hoping it will get better, and it will. probably if enough people have faith, it will. until then just hold on!

  4. I could write a book on why I fail like a f***ing failure, seriously. I am a straight commission HR Consultant. Recruiting, benefits, P&P, etc. You probably have noticed everyone and their mom’s have been laying off? Yeah… guess what? They’re not looking to hire. It blow all the way around. A buddy of mine got let go from his position, and couldn’t find a thing. He took an awesome thought and made it work. “Hmmm, I’m not making anything right now. I’ll bet I could get a metric shit-ton of money for school!” Financial aid is GREAT when you’re not making any sort of income. He is making himself more marketable! He asked me “How are you doing?” the other day. I wanted to break down and say “I’m f***ed!” Instead I paused, thought about what I do have. Family, friends, a job & health insurance, my health, a home, etc. My answer, “Not as well as some, better than most.”I think that’s a decent way to look at it.

  5. It helps to know we’re all in this together. It helps to know that in five years, ten years, when people look at our resumes and see blank spots in 2008 or 2009, they will nod their heads and understand. Just like if I (I’m an HR Manager) see a resume of a New Yorker who fell off the face of the earth for a year or so after 9/11/01, well. I understand. I cut them slack. I know that it’s still stressful to live through and wonder how you’re gonna eat, but it helps me to know that any financial or employment stumbles that I make this year aren’t going to have a hugely long term impact. Because all my future employer/creditor has to do is look at the year in which it occurred, and then they’ll go – oh. That was tough times, eh? Thank god we’re out of that.

  6. I feel very lucky so far. My brother, on the other hand, has been out of work for just under a year. As has been said already, the best thing to do is try to keep the bigger picture in sight– No one who’s been laid off is alone these days and in 99.999% of cases, it has little or nothing to do with anyone’s skills or productivity or dedication. That’s both comforting and frightening, but if I were in that position I’d hold on to the comforting part like a life raft. Reading comments like those here has to help, also, to get survival ideas from how others are coping. So, Jodi, if you happen to mention that Anson’s grown the ‘stache back, should we know that means things have grown dire enough for him to hit the streets? (Sorry, gallows humor and all that…)

  7. I’m the one others look at to feel better about their own situations. The past 18 months have left me unemployed, uninsured, homeless (currently bouncing between friends’ cabins) and single, as the cumulative circumstances proved to be too much for my then-relationship. Truly, it couldn’t have been much suckier if there had been a Professional Suck Oversight Team involved.What gets me through? Partly the comfort in not being alone, as previous commenters have observed. The knowledge that I’m not being singled out or punished for something I’ve done, said, not done, left unsaid…etc. I think Don was the one who said he had to look at what he *did* have, and then he felt better. I do the same. I no longer have any of the things society tells me I *should* have in order to be a person of any value, but I DO still have all the little things we are usually too busy to notice or value. I cook for my friends more than ever, I dance with my dogs, I smell springtime smells in the forest, I watch the stars and the sky, I take notes about the tiny little details of the universe as it unfurls a little more every day. Things like rain puddles and funny shadows and my ability to read and to think and to question make me happy now, and I indulge them all. Meanwhile, instead of trying to find a new full-time job, which was a thoroughly depressing venture at which I failed for the 14 months I tried, I’m now making money wherever I can, a la Anson. (But no prostitution here quite yet either!) I take tiny web design jobs for a hundred bucks a pop. I take in tedious writing and editing jobs that I would have refused once upon a time, and I’ve accepted that for now, I need to say yes to everything that comes my way. Sometimes it’s great work like voiceovers or a website for a brilliant client; sometimes it’s physical labor like cleaning houses or seasonal ranch work. What I do to bring in money is not a reflection of my value. Once upon a time, I defined myself by my work and I was snobby about my education: I am on the air. I am a web designer. I have a Masters in Internet Strategy Management. I train police and SAR horses. I am Terribly Important because I have fancy jobs and a fancy degree. The past 18 months have knocked me off every high horse and most of the lower ones, and I can finally breathe deeply and identify myself as who I AM rather than what I do to bring in cash. It’s been a grounding, humbling experience, and honestly? Despite all the shit I’m still smack in the middle of, and despite the chaos and confusion and destitution, I’m happier now than I was before this all hit. When you lose everything, you have to find value in nothingness, value within, value without. We’ll all be okay in the end, but we do need to prop each other up sometimes along the way.

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