Our Voices Self

Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.

So, I’m sitting here, trying to start this entry, and I just keep erasing what I write. Yep, I’m trying to write a blog entry about failure, and I’m failing. Miserably. Actually I’ve had this blog entry floating around in my head for a year. AN ENTIRE YEAR. Talk about failure. (*edit* – I started this draft on April 26th. It’s now June 12th and I’m just finishing it. Double fail. Or is that triple fail?) 

It all started about a year ago (ok maybe more – crap, another failure!) I was at a meeting and the topic of the day was failure. Everyone was talking about the concept of failure, as if it were a hypothetical. This confused the hell out of me because I knew better. I knew that failure wasn’t a hypothetical. It was something I experience every single day. 

Always the black sheep of the group.

Now, because I have hoof in mouth syndrome (Sag rising here. Not my fault) when it was my turn to speak, the words “I don’t understand this conversation. I fail daily.” just came out. Of course, I was questioned about this, and stuck my foot further into my mouth by exclaiming “if you’re not failing daily, then you’re not trying hard enough.” 

Needless to say that was not met with enthusiasm. Because somewhere along the line, failure has turned from lessons you need to learn and grow, into something horrible and disfiguring that you should never actually bring up, or God forbid admit to, as then you’ll be sentenced by the pool of public opinion and forced to wear a big letter F across your chest. (Eat your heart out, Hester Prynne.)

While I have a list a mile long of things that society would deem to be failures, but that were actually amazing life-lesson blessings-in-disguise, one in particular sticks out. During the summer between my junior and senior years of college, I was lucky enough to intern at dance themed television show on PBS. The classically trained ballerina in me was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get started. I had visions of going to work and spending my days watching ballets, helping with interviews, and doing lots of other things I find fun and exciting. As it turns out, the internship was nothing of the sort. I did get to watch ballets, (yay!) but I also had to answer phones and do other such tasks that were not truly in my wheelhouse. (boo!)

As luck and fate would have it, I ended up getting fired because, simply put, I couldn’t take down a phone number correctly. I transpose numbers naturally and you can’t do that when writing down a phone number. I never really thought much of it, other than that I knew I wasn’t great at math, even though my test scores said otherwise.  I rocked some math subjects, like precalculus, but was utterly lost in others like geometry or calculus. Teachers couldn’t understand it, and you can’t help someone if you can’t figure out what they need. 

Somewhere between that lovely exit interview (is that what they even call it?) and my train ride home, I had an epiphany. What if my transposing numbers wasn’t a careless thing after all? (Yes, I had a teacher tell me that once. Super helpful.) What if it had nothing to do with experience or focus? What if it was just the way my brain worked? 

What? Your lightbulb moments aren’t multicolored?

So, I got home and started researching ala the University of Google and after reading article after article, study after study, I came to a stunning conclusion. I was dyslexic. 

Specifically, I have dyscalculia, which is a form of dyslexia that deals primarily with numbers. If you transpose numbers, like I do, that’s usually a big give away. But back in the day, no one talked about such things.  Teachers had no idea about it, so therefore they didn’t see the signs. When I transpose numbers, it’s not a mistake. It’s not being careless. It’s looking at say the number 478 and “seeing” the number 487. Or looking at the number 478 and repeating the number in your head as 487. 

I’m also dyslexic with words, (my spelling skills always sucked) but my brain figured out at a very early age that I could just read whole sentences and overcome the transposing thing. That would explain why, although I was reading very early (age 3. Yep, I just gave myself a medal), my reading comprehension skills were always lacking. And I was about 12/13 before I really understood left and right, which is also the age I learned to tie a shoe. 

Jeri = 1. Einstein = 0.

Talk about a revelation! It would take me years to learn coping skills to overcome/manage said dyslexia, such as repeating all numbers out loud as I write them down (totally just typed “right” instead of “write”and then laughed out loud.), but finally, after a lifetime (are we calling 21 years a lifetime?) of confusion, I had a solid understanding of what my problem was. And we can’t fix a problem until we know we have a problem. I think that’s step 1 of AA, come to think of it… 

Had I not been fired from that job, there’s a good chance I never would have known I was dyslexic. That sounds absolutely insane, I know. But it’s true.

Seriously, ask any happy, successful human and they’ll tell you (under the table and after a few drinks) that they failed. A lot. And they’ll also tell you that they credit those failures for their current success. That’s how it works. Success, and life for that matter, isn’t a straight line. It’s not even a curved line. It’s a crazy game of drunken naked twister that you don’t even remember playing. 

I did WHAT last night?!

But you do. You play the game. You put your left foot on blue and your right hand on green and you keep going. You keep playing the game, until you get twisted and fall down. On your bum.

Now, it’s your sink or swim moment. Do you stay there, on the ground? Do you give up and crawl away? Or do you get back up and place your foot back on that red circle, ready willing and able to do go wherever that little spinner commands? 

Perhaps you’re like some of the people at that meeting. Perhaps you’re on the side lines, watching the game from a safe distance and laughing at the ridiculous looking people who are falling all over the place. Maybe that seems like a good plan, but in my experience, it’s not. It’s the worst plan on the planet. Because if you’re not twisting in the game of life, then you’re not really living. You’re not allowing yourself to reach your true amazing potential. After all, isn’t that what we all want? To be the best versions of ourselves? I know that’s what I want. And I also know that in order to achieve that goal, I have to put myself out there, which often means looking like a fool, and failing. Daily. 

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About the author

Jeri Klein

A classically trained ballerina turned writer, Jeri spent the last several years as both production coordinator and social media manager for Malevolent, the first U.S. made animated horror feature, starring William Shatner, Ray Wise, and Morena Baccarin. She has worked for several award-winning documentary film companies in NYC, and has also served as social media strategist/manager for numerous nonprofit organizations. Her latest penned feature, The Big Pig, a horror comedy about a man, a killer boar, and talking dogs, is currently in pre-production.

Jeri holds a Bachelor of Science in Television/Radio/Film from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and has been practicing yoga for over a decade.

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  • “If you are not failing you are not trying hard enough”. One must try and fail in order to grow. Sounds like a good plan for a healthy, growth oriented life.
    Well written article.