Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fear of failing

I spent most of my early school life excelling academically. But in my family, there was not a lot of pressure to perform. As a child, I genuinely enjoyed math and english. In preparation for the (first ever) common entrance exam in the country, I had a book of math and english exercises that I worked through like they were puzzles. So I entered high school as a reputed "bright spark." You know how these things can go to your head - you start believing that you are good at everything! Cruisin' for a bruising' my friend would say.

In the auditions for the choir, I chose to sing next to a brilliant voice (she happened to be my desk mate) and the effect must have been that I was tone deaf. I refused to sing ever since. I learned to play the piano proficiently to grade two or three but to this day, I am convinced that I am not musical, cannot sing and will not even try. My younger sister on the other hand was a member of the choir! 

Sport too was a field to fail in. Active, outdoors farm life didn't prepare me for what sport is all about - regular practice, mental focus and perseverance. Long legs and a skinny torso do not an athlete make. Plus we didn't have that tradition in our family to be fit for fitness sake. Spare hours were to be spent at work, not play. I would have loved to be in a dance class, but it was one of those extras that I didn't dare ask for.

My first job was almost automatic - teaching at my high school. I didn't have to think too hard about university because a scholarship was offered. Qualifying for it included being recommended by the principal. Being of a particular ethnic group to round out the representative Trini quintet of the day - Afro-, Indo-, chinee, white and a red 'ooman -  was helpful. Grade point average was not a pressing concern, except to ensure that I would complete the degree efficiently in the time allotted, and get back home. My challenges were about writing papers! And if I failed a paper, it was not because I didn't know the material, it was because I wrote it badly.

Still, I wandered into my profession with similar nonchalance. Since I was little, I fancied myself a writer.  Getting into a publishing company was easy enough. Harder still was learning that writing requires readers. It was in this field - my chosen field - that there has been the most pressure. Texts submitted, and critiqued. Manuscripts provided and rejected. You would think it was not a big thing; that being reviewed, edited, having one's writing not liked and subjected to modifications are normal for any writer. It is, but the individual writer has to come to terms with this. I couldn't live - not for long anyway - with the feeling of always being less than, of not being perfect, of failing. There are options of course - go through hard with brave danger until you are accepted just as you are; change and try other tactics; never write again, at least not anything that you would show the world. 

Attitude change is always the hardest. This is entirely you and yourself alone in your own deep dark corner. Why are you doing this? Who are you hurting if you fail? Of what importance are you to the universe? Do you allow "not being good enough" to shape you? Who and what are "you" anyway? Can you forgive yourself enough to go on, to allow yourself to be loved for who you are rather than what you do. These are hard lessons but worthwhile. 

I learned to say "thank you" to every criticism, every re-write requested, every rejection, every review; and to seek to understand what is being taught, the lesson for me. I learned that every writer needs a good editor; sometimes I am writer, sometimes editor. It becomes easier as the years go by. I lose ego, and maybe my writing is clearer. As a writer, I have my part in the world, good, bad or indifferent, a porous membrane, a channel. And I am no longer afraid of being rejected, of failing.


1 comment:

  1. I think losing the ego is important in our transformations on earth! nice post a. gail. I enjoyed reading it.

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