Am I a failure?


Am I a failure?

Sometimes I have to ask myself that. Things never turned out the way I planned, but they didn’t turn out bad. I guess I need to keep things in perspective.

I want to write. I’m a writer. I tell other people’s stories. I don’t get paid much, but it has never been about the money. I could be a biography channel junkie, so when I am privy to a “famous” person’s life, I get giddy. That feeling is a GIFT. But the real gift is the lesson the person I interview delivers to me. I get to share it with other people who need to hear it as badly as I do. That’s not failure, is it?

I wanted to write a novel, so I wrote a novel. But it sits unpublished. I don’t even have an agent, but I never pushed to sell it. My parents died. I lost my drive. I guess I figured that in a serendipitous sort of way, an agent and I would cross paths, and everything would fall into place. It hasn’t happened. Am I not working hard enough? Will the story be continued? Or have I failed?

I never wanted to teach, not really. I feel really bad saying that because there are so many very dedicated teachers out there who take pride in what they do. Teaching was my Plan B. I was a RIM major at MTSU. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I was a terrible RIM major. I had no direction, no prior knowledge. I just loved music. But I got married in college and faced the harsh reality that I would probably be living on a farm the rest of my life. Farm living was not for me. I live in a subdivision now. I guess nothing ever turns out like we plan. Now my older son is living the life I dreamed. He’s making music videos and has a writing job that PAYS WELL. I write for pennies per word now. He is worried about being a failure because he feels where he is in life is not enough.

Ah, music, my serenity. There was a time when God let me visit the music world on the weekends. I stayed pretty busy as a freelance music journalist until Michael came along. Then the writing trickled to a stop. The boy never slept. The boy never stayed still. All my focus went to him. His dad was busy coaching and being a youth minister, so I became Michael’s personal sports trainer, chauffeur, and teammate. I taught him how to catch and how to throw. I played football in the front yard. I raced him around the house. I took him on adventures in the woods. I camped out in the living room with him when his dad was on trips. I took him to every practice. I learned how to keep the books in baseball, and I worked the fair booth as a football mom. I coached his soccer teams and basketball teams and even his coach pitch teams. When he became older, I dragged him to his first drum lesson and said YOU WILL PLAY DRUMS. Why not? Every part of his body moved in a different direction, but in rhythm. I knew he’d be a natural. He says he likes it, and it’s something we do TOGETHER. His older brother got his writing love from me. Maybe Michael gets the music from me. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to live vicariously through my children. I want them to be happy. I don’t want to be a failure mom.

So I spend my day teaching, but I don’t want to teach. I don’t want to fill out lesson plans. I don’t want to grade papers. I don’t want to lurk behind the lockers to make sure couples aren’t sneaking a kiss or two. I don’t want to chaperone dances, to spend my Sundays at awards programs, to sell tickets at ballgames, or to listen to students tell me how much they hate the subject I’m teaching. Does that make me a failure? My dad never wanted to be a printer. His guidance counselors tried to match him up with a job, and that’s what was left. So for his entire working life, he was a printer. He brought home boxes and boxes of scrap papers and envelopes. I loved to write and draw, so I was never without supplies. I never thought he was a failure, but he never did what he wanted to do. But he helped me do what I wanted to do.

I teach because I have to. But I interact with students because I want to. I don’t keep them at a distance. I open my life to them. I am a firm believer God puts people in our path for a reason. People are treasures. So, okay, right now, I am not living the life I want to live, and I may never live it. I’m getting old. My time is now spent encouraging the kids I teach to find what they love to do so that they’ll never have to work a day in their lives. That’s not failure, is it? Maybe I’m not a failure because I can help others see that they’re not failures. Maybe that’s enough to be a success. Maybe all my creative dreams aren’t as important as helping others.

Today I got a hug from one of my first semester creative writing students. She came back to see when she could take guitar lessons again.

Today I got a BIG thank you from a student because I paid his field trip fee because his cash was running a little short.

Today I got a note on my board from a former student who visited me Friday, the day I had to go home because I had a fever, bronchitis, a sinus infection, and perhaps the flu. Ugg. She said she missed me.

Today I received word that my former student, J., wanted to see how I was doing. He’s working as a Walmart greeter now. I’m so proud of him. He had to overcome so many obstacles in school. He always has a smile on his face, and he always wants to tell me about the last movie he watched. I owe him a meal at the Mexican restaurant. After he graduated high school several years ago, I treated him, and I think it’s time he, his mom, and I went back for some more chips and salsa. Yum!

Today my seventh period students told me what teenagers look for when they read. They were trying to help me become a better writer.

What is failure anyway? What is success?

I haven’t gotten what I’ve always wanted, but maybe God has given me what I need.

Maybe success and failure is determined by attitude, not necessarily achievement.

19 thoughts on “Am I a failure?

  1. You are most definitely not a failure ! You have helped so many people live better lives ! You are a multitalented person and that is rare. I’m sorry you lost your parents I know how it feels to be an orphan, I lost both of mine by age 21. You should look at some pics and stuff and cry if you need to but you need to keep moving forward …you have a lot left to do…publish the novel and get to work on the next one. Don’t spread yourself too thin with too many projects . You are awesome and inspirational to all of us …never give up your dreams ….and if I can I would like to rrad the novel

      • Billy, thanks so much for the encouraging words. I didn’t realize you lost both of your parents at such an early age. I’m sure that experience was truly difficult. I think you’re right about taking on too many projects. Focus is paramount. And, as you know already, you changed my life. Thanks for being such an inspiration to me. I would not have been able to connect with all my kids who love music if you didn’t let me tag along (and occasionally steal your drum sticks when Mr. Rawn wasn’t looking). 🙂

  2. There is no way on earth you are a failure. Just because you haven’t hit all the milestones that society says you must in order to be a success, doesn’t mean you aren’t one in your own right. It just means you are human and not only that but you are open to the twists and turns the universe throws at you, the secret serendipitous powerful moments that weren’t in the plan but make life better all the same. For all the goals you haven’t accomplished, you have to remember all the ones you have, ones that people all over the world meant to but didn’t.

    • Thanks, Cindal. I kind of threw out this blog, not seeking pit but because it was how I was really feeling. I made a promise to myself to be transparent when I write because I want to write truthfully. You are so right about the serendipitious moments. You can’t force those to happen. Even if you did, the moments wouldn’t be the same if forced. I admire you so much. I have been so bless that our paths have crossed.

  3. Moses began his 40 year journey with God’s people when he was 80. With age we become wiser and have more stories to tell. With age we have better perspective about a wide variety of life choices. You have been planting precious seeds into the life of so many and the harvest will be great…because of your time, love, compassion and effort. And while you have been investing in the lives of others, you have gained insight and inspiration that will contribute to great stories. You have great adventures ahead of you! You are not a failure, you are the inspiration!

    • Thank you so much for the reminder. I’ve always had this thing about numbers. I guess I’m somewhat of a control freak even if I don’t want to admit it. God is in control. I have to remember that, and you and I both know we’ve had some pretty amazing adventures so far. Whose to say more aren’t around the corner? Thanks, my friend, for the encouraging words. I really look forward to our next amazing writing adventure.

  4. Teresa, you are not a failure. You have made a difference in alot of lives. I agree with Bill about you need to look at some pictures, remember the memories, and do some crying; but then move on and do what God wants you to do. Your Mom and Dad were very proud of you and your family and they would want you to move on and be happy. I would love to read your novel. We love you. Gary and Judy (Romans 8:28) God has a purpose and reason for everything that happens in life. Follow Him!

  5. Oh Tee, as I type this I continue to wipe away my tears. I completely understand how you feel. As we all start our lives with hopes, dreams and high exspectations of ourselves . I have to agree with everyones responses. You, the kind hearted, multi talented person you have turned out to be. You are anything but a failure. You are in a posistion to guide, and instill dreams like the ones you have. I know what it feels like to think your children get to be everything we wanted to be. You are not old either, there are still many seasons that you have left to explore. There is no deadline or expiration date on success. Push that novel like its girl scout cookies, someone always buys them. I am also pretty darn sure your parents, kids, are proud to have been a part of you. . . 🙂

    • I have a very long text message or FB message I need to return to you. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down at the computer for a long period. I was really afraid to read the comments on this post because I was really open. Scary to read the replies. But thank you so much for understanding You are such a wonderful encourager.

  6. You’ve put to words what (I think) the entire human race feels. Very few people end up living the life they’ve drempt of or planned. What’s that song, “Sometimes I Thank God For Unanswered Prayers”…

    The first career goal that I can remember was “Writer” (before I started school). “Teacher” (age 7 or 8), then “Jockey” (maybe age 10), Then “Pediatrician” (made it through 2 years of pre-Med), then “School Psychologist” (got my degree in Psychology).

    I write, but I guess I’m not serious enough… I’ve been “retired” for a dozen years, but am thinking that I want more out of life. No husband, no kids, no real legacy or anything for people to remember me by. Perhaps I am a failure. But,… I’ve lived 48 years and never really done harm to another person (that I know of) — maybe that counts for something. What shall become of me???

    NOPE, NOPE, NOPE, NOPE, NOPE You are NOT a failure. You are soooo much more than you will ever believe. ♥

    • Once reason why I wrote this is because I think I’m not alone in feeling this way. I write for me, but I also write for others, especially my kids at school. This year I’ve decided to do what I ask them to do–to be fearless. I need to take the first step for me–and for them. Thank you for being encouraging. The last two weeks have been tough. Gee, I’m tired of rain.

  7. No, you are not a failure. I can say that without hesitation. You’ve mentioned some of the things that you know you’ve done and the lives of people that you know have been touched. There are many more out there that you’ll never even know about. You had super parents who believed you were great, and you have children who are accomplishing so many things and I’m pretty sure they would say you were their inspiration. You are accomplished. You are caring and concerned. You are not a failure.

    • Thank you. I think it’s tempting for people to get the “big head” when they talk about themselves. I worry about being prone to that. The Bell family has a competitive spirit, and I’m very proud of being a Bell. I just don’t want to let my competitiveness take over. But investing in others usually has a nice pay off that you can be genuinely proud of without feeling a twinge of guilt.

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