This is not a comprehensive guide to dealing with failure. If anyone happens to have one of those, kindly pass it to me. Rather, it’s about seeing the bigger picture while being blind to it simultaneously.
My optometrist is a balding man of few words. I began going to him in high school. Given my hesitation to go to doctors and hairdressers, the fact that I’ve stuck with him up until today, says something. My very first appointment with him took place when I was in grade eight or nine. Which fourteen year old doesn’t like being fetched early from school for ‘doctors’ appointments’, right? Uhm…me.
I seated myself in the beige chair in his practice, nestled between a pharmacy and a coffee shop in a mall nearby. After the usual small talk, we began the eye test. I dreaded eye tests but soldiered in in the cause for 20/20 vision. He placed the cold metal apparatus against your face, and proceeded to switch the lenses. I stared straight ahead at the projected images and letters, trying to will them into a discernible symbol.
“Which side seems sharper, clearer, more focused?” He recited his trademark lines.
“Can you read out the letters for me in the row?”
What first seemed like an ‘U’, quickly morphed into an ‘O’. I cursed the English alphabet as well as the font they were using to seemingly, derails this eye test.
Once the eye test was done, my doctor asked: “Are you a perfectionist? Because you seemed to keep worrying about whether you were giving the wrong answer.”
Wasn’t that what everyone did?
People go on and on about the ideals set for us by media. What about the standards that we and those who know us hold us to? The older I get, the more invasive and suggestive the questions get. When are you getting your drivers licence? What if you don’t pass? What if you can’t get a job with your degree? Those what if questions don’t take what has happened into account, and all your previous successes, they only feed on your fear of the unknown: i.e yout future.
Despite being the least sporty person on any given day, I did a bout of athletics at school – hurdles specifically. It was all about choosing when to jump. There had to be a certain distance between you and the hurdle to make sure you could cross over it without damaging your limbs. The coach placed a few hurdles in a row, and gestured that I start. Each time, I approached a hurdle, it seemed too big to jump over. In close proximity, it was a big bulking structure which loomed over me, taunting me with the possibility of failure or injury.
While I successfully propelled myself over the hurdles, there were some that I stumbled over. But I didn’t simply stop. I had a bigger picture in mind at the time: a spot on the athletics team. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the team. Later I was relieved. The uniform was a shorts and a vest made partially of net.
Nevertheless, the hurdles become a metaphor for overcoming short sightedness and working toward the end goal. Whether personal, financial or spiritual – most of our actions are geared toward a goal of some nature. Any setback is instantly shrunken when you compare it to the destination that lies behind conquering it. From a bout (only 12 years) of high school Maths – once a big hurdle to passing for me – I learnt a thing or two about ratio. And hurdles are nought in comparison to how huge the field is. Or how tiny the podium where the winners and runners up stand, clutching trophies or medals that are several times tinier than the feeling of triumph that overtakes one at the texture of victory.