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MIT staff blogger Kellen M.

a small moment in time by kellen manning

on failing...*very long sigh*

My first truly colossal failure feels like it happened yesterday. I still remember walking away and feeling like my blood had drained out of my body. I felt empty, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before sorrow filled the void left after everything I thought I was had vanished. In the meantime, all that was left was this unshakeable fog that I had no choice but to walk through.

In my head was a mix of regret, anger, sadness, confusion, and shame. The world felt…different?

“This was the year he fell to pieces, and ironically, this was the year when more people than he knew existed scrambled to put him back together again.” – Pride’s Paranoia. SLUG (2003)

Right. There are people in my life. Before it got too bad I started calling the people I cared most about. Not necessarily because I was looking for sympathy, kind words, or anything like that. I just needed something to remind myself that I had existed before that moment of failure and that I continued to exist after it, because the world felt like it was about to collapse within itself.

Here’s the thing, the idea that I might not succeed or be good at something hadn’t crossed my mind. That’s not to say I didn’t worry about things, BUT the fact that I could actually try and STILL come up short seemed unthinkable. I had based my whole identity around my confidence. So, in a way, the world I had created for myself had collapsed.

Oh, and remember that void I was talking about earlier? Well, those burning feelings of sorrow came pouring in, filling in every inch of nothingness. I had become pain incarnate. Full of sorrow, but somehow, emptier than I had ever felt before.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?” – Kahlil Gibran. On Sorrow and Joy.

I loved that chapter of The Prophet when I first read it. I held on to it for a future moment, but when I needed the words the most…they just didn’t hit like I thought they would. I wouldn’t say the words ran hollow, but I just couldn’t find the point. Despite that, I just kept running Gibran’s words through my head in between conversations with people, trying to decipher it like a puzzle in hopes of solving this sorrow. But, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t figure it out.

Well, at least not at first.

“I been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,
Looks like between ’em they done
Tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!” – Langston Hughes. Still Here

After a while, I came to realize two things about failing: 1) the world kept moving  2) and so did I. Nothing ended, and most people didn’t even know  that I was going through something. The thought of being infinitesimally small in the cosmic sense actually provided me more solace than anything else. I started to realize  my own arrogance. I had operated like the world would actually stop because things hadn’t worked out for me.

With that, I started to think about other times I had failed.01 and it wasn’t a short list What made this particular shortcoming feel so different from the times before? Soon, I realized the only difference was time. I felt similar then, as I do now, but time moved on and muscle memory just carried me along the way.

“You take a loss, don’t cry about it, just embrace it.
Minor setback, for major comeback.
That’s my favorite.” – Kendrick Lamar. Dedication by Nipsey Hussle

Slowly but surely, things started to hurt less. After a bit of reflection, I started seeing the steps, mistakes, and choices that had led me down the path of failure. If I’m being honest with myself, I knew things weren’t working out long before everything came to a head. Instead of saying something or changing anything, I stubbornly went forward because I couldn’t shake the world I created for myself. The world where it was unheard of for me to struggle, or be wrong, or, even worse, fail.

“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same” – Rudyard Kipling. If

Honestly, I don’t know why I wrote this blog. If you noticed, I never even mentioned what I actually failed at doing. The reason for that is that it doesn’t really matter. At this point, it’s just a small moment in time.

Failure is such an interesting concept. Sometimes you have complete control over an outcome and you don’t realize it until after it’s over. Other times the end result is totally out of your hands and you don’t figure that out until it’s too late. And, most of the time, it’s a fleeting moment for you to learn from and then, despite how hard it seems, move on from and grow.

“Breathe in, breathe out, let it heal all your exit wounds
Something inside said that’s the move
And maybe today I’ll restart fresh and new” – Phonte. The Day by The Roots

  1. and it wasn’t  a short list back to text