The One After the Seven-Month Hiatus

Failure: (n) [1] Not meeting a desirable or intended objective.

Little of my life seemed interesting after I decided to ditch my original glorious plan last November — until then, I was going to travel the world, teaching English and experiencing everything, full stop. Compared to that, slinking back home for no dramatic reason and taking the first job I could find was not worthwhile blog material.

But that’s what I did.

None of my narrative fit with what I saw around me: Endless stories of satisfied graduates, selfies on top of important mountains, new friends in strange places. Mine seemed more fatalistic.

The moral was sometimes, you fail, and it’s just you. There are people who will listen, and people to give advice, but the ultimate choice comes down to you buying the plane ticket home, staring down the future written on a glowing laptop screen.

Failure: (n) [2] Not choosing the right path.

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Kitchen window in my very own apartment, ft. roomie’s plants.

I moved out of my parents’ house in mid-February, the best Valentine’s day gift I could give myself. My roommate bought the entire cactus section at Lowe’s and I provided us with air mattresses, a stopgap until we could buy the real thing.

We camped out in our new apartment, a darling, wood-floored place with two whole stories, crown molding, and chalk paint on the front door. It’s about the small victories after you’ve hit rock bottom.

When I say rock bottom, I mean no one’s dead, and I’m young, I’ve got the potential to fall further. I understand scale and scope. But another part of being young is having a limited scale for comparison, and my personal inability to hack it abroad hit home.

And this isn’t the first time.

Failure: (n) [3] Not learning from mistakes.

I started the Appalachian Trail during the first week after exams my second year of college. I lasted six days.

For those of you who haven’t heard, rucking a pack up and down hills all day, every day is a rough undertaking. The thing about teenagers believing themselves invincible is real, though, and I did, so I was.

The camp stove I’d shipped home made it back two days after I did, in its tiny package with a note to my family who assumed they wouldn’t see me until August, a testament to my previously iron will.

Failure: (n) [4] An opportunity for growth.

This story isn’t about a closed door and opened window, or the cosmos pointing anyone anywhere. There is no magical yes. It’s about how a year ago, I imagined my life very differently than it is now. It’s about taking opportunities right in front of you. Not waiting. Seizing the day. Whatever cliche you’d like to believe.

I’m still sleeping on an air mattress, and I’m still working the job I took in December.

But I’m also enrolled in a computer programming course, because you’ve got to reach for what’s out there, even that means the opportunity to buy a plane ticket home three months after your bus pulled into the Saigon station.

In class, the teacher talks about growth versus fixed mindset. Growth claims human brains are elastic, and our capacity for change is bound only by what we choose to believe. There’s scientific evidence.

Fixed mindsets lead to stagnation, and the belief that a person can only expand in directions in which they’ve excelled before.

In other words, anything is possible, if you put in the 10,000 hours.

Failure: (n) [5] This one’s all yours.