Dear world: I'm a failure. And I couldn't be happier.
I'll explain why. First, a note about why I'm posting today.
This is the third anniversary of Lascher at Large's launch, of the day I first penned a modest declaration about how, "Whether breath on our lips, ink spread across a page, keys hammering into a ribbon or electrons running through a circuit, I’m concerned with how thoughts are captured, contained, altered and disseminated."
Lascher at Large's third birthday also marks a massive redesign of the site. I hope the redesign will make it even easier for me to "offer a deeply connected, reflective banquet of thoughts," and that it will allow me to better reflect upon the places I've been and promote the endeavors I've pursued. Whether you're new or returning to L@L, please peruse the site, preferably from the front page or my portfolio (and please let me know if something doesn't work).
With the redesign, I look forward to recommitting to the site. I see both this third anniversary and the start of 2012 as an opportunity to reflect, to take stock and to ponder again my passion for "In-depth, unrushed reporting, storytelling and reflection" in this world that "still values words, but doesn’t neglect the power of images and sound."
As I thirst for some sense of clarity in an increasingly muddled world, I'm enthusiastic about how I've already seized the outset of 2012 as a chance to refresh everything about my life. I have a tenuous relationship with resolutions, but I feel as if I've resolved to do something this year, and that something is living my life. My life.
To live my life, I need to be honest, so why not be honest about what I've poured so much energy into these past three years? When it comes to journalism and my effort to provide "a perspective on the world wider than a slim glimpse, something more than just a taste," sometimes I just want to come right out and say it: I'm a failure.
I have attempted project after project after project and often left them to unravel, to wither, to fall apart. I've let possibilities slip by. I've missed deadlines. I've used my time inefficiently and not properly budgeted my money. This summer, I went to a fellowship in the Bay Area, got excited about interactive graphics and spent the last day of my journey making lemons out of not having a camera by creating an illustrated tour of San Francisco by hand. I'd hoped to digitize it, but that tour remains unpublished and half-finished because I got discouraged that the trial version of the software I'd planned to produce it expired, and I've yet to be willing to buy my own copy, or to learn a workaround. Such problems could easily be remedied by initiative on my own part. Such problems are also plentiful. Sometimes, such problems are mundane and avoidable: Once this fall, I got lost on my way to an interview, forgot to bring the right memory card for my equipment and showed up at the source's office with my sweater on inside out.
Such problems are also life.
In admitting these mistakes, am I breaking every rule of professionalism? Many words we choose shape people's impressions of us, but few shock, few seem as toxic as failure.
How many people are saying "Here world, here are my weaknesses, here are reasons you might not want to hire me in this excruciatingly competitive professional landscape. Here are but a few of the albatrosses I wear around my neck. Here are my liabilities. Yes, world, I am fallible."?
As I've been grinding out some semblance of a career, falling down, and getting up, and falling down, and getting up, over and over and over again, I"ve been attempting to follow the "rules," but oh, how I've been failing. Now I'm breaking the one rule so much more abhorred than any other: admitting that I've fallen down.
I am human. I call myself a journalist and yet this return to blogging — blogging, what a dirty, dirty word, right? — finds me expressing myself, finds me exhibiting a personality. By admitting to being human, that, by extension, I might not be neutral, am I blacklisting myself (and let's not forget how admitting my liabilities might impact my personal life)?
Why am I telling the world this? Why am I telling you this, you, reader, the one who has come to this site with a journalist's promise of renewed attention to this blog; why to you, the one who may very well want to assess my professionalism, who may be weighing a job offer or a recent freelance pitch I've made; why tell you, who may be evaluating the credibility of my reporting after I reached out to arrange an interview; why you, the potential new fan who's curious about the quality of my work?
Because, I've been wasting too much time trying to prove myself, trying to fit all the guidelines I'm supposed to fit to get your attention. I am here. I am who I say I am. I am what you see on this screen. I am the voice you hear in my narration. I am the eye behind my lens. I am the fingertips on this keyboard. The best way, the only way for me to go forward is to embrace my failure.
As it happens, this year has started with an abundance of life, so why not run with it? I'm spending less time worrying about the rules, worrying about whether I'm doing it right, and more time just doing it.
Feeling it in your fingertips
Failure doesn't mean defeat. It means an opportunity to regrow. This year I"ve been taking more yoga classes, and so far that's meant recognizing my body more, identifying its limitations, and beginning to see how I can move beyond those restrictions. If I fall down doing a balance pose, I fall down. There are other poses to do, and other opportunities for those same balance poses.
Still, I'm also accepting something else, that it's not so easy just to not worry. It's not so easy to "just do it." One rule we have to remember not to pay too much attention to is this rule that somehow we should just magically snap our fingers and relax, that all you need to say is "don't worry." For now, I'll try to remember to take delights where I can find them. That feeling of asking a source a question he hadn't thought about, but about which he has so much to say. The satisfaction when your web design looks not just as you imagined it, but better. The flavor that last dash of ginger added to your meal. The way the dough feels in your fingertips. The little blush racing through you when the phone rings.
Is a new year or an anniversary an artificial starting point? Perhaps, but who cares that our landmarks are artificial if they help us? What is artifice, really, but something we humans create with these amazing, fascinating minds of ours? If we can find utility in artifice, is it still artifice? If we open ourselves up to living, who cares when it happens?
For months, maybe years, I've been grinding. Every element of my career, my personal life, even my mind has scraped and jammed and grated against every other element. It 's been as if nothing flowed, or when things did, they'd eventually catch on the gears again. Now I don't have time — let alone the energy — to try to make things fit. I don't have time to adapt to the gears of this machine any more, so the first thing I'm doing to break with the past is admitting that I don't fit, that I just don't care about the rules any more.
Though I'm breaking the rules, I have no intention to break connections. Rather, I'm eager to connect with others more — professionally and personally — by being clearer about myself and where I stand. Among the things I'm excited about: writing more letters to people, welcoming guests, and sharing what joys I find in this world with others (a passion that should also aid my storytelling).
Last week I took a seed start class and became fascinated by the idea that these little dry specks, with the right attention, the right balance of nutrients and light and air, can emerge, wander through a mess of soil, and explode ever so slowly into this world, full of nutrients and life and flavor and reality. But such explosions must start somewhere, imperceptibly, somewhere that, ultimately, comes from substances packed with energy but which are the product of decomposition.
In just a few weeks, deciding to be more present has allowed me to notice where aspects of my life have fallen apart and left room for others to take root, elements squirreled away in dark, innocuous little corners of my world that for so long I might have overlooked as I've fretted over securing assignments and getting paid and not wanting to feel alone.
So what's happened as I've let go? I've found new assignments. I've completely reconstructed this web site. I've made new connections. I've planned adventures and found new and renewed passions in the most unexpected of places. My writing, and my faith in it, has blossomed, thanks largely to the inspiration of others, some through their own writing, some just through honest conversation, some in these and other ways at once. Meanwhile I've found more clarity about the stories I want to tell, and I've become more adventurous with the new tools I'm learning, like audio equipment and cameras and all the nuances of web design, not to mention the focus I've found outside the professional realm.
I've had enough with what was, and whatever it might cost me to say so publicly, I'm admitting it. Today I'm letting it all snap. Today I'm letting go. Today I'm admitting I'm a failure.
And I'm so excited about it.