Failing gracefully

September 11, 2010

For the majority of training, my language frustrations brought on most of my concerns and worries. A cloud of aggravation has followed me as I prepared and feared my LPI. When I didn’t pass it, the cloud only grew darker and heavier as if all of my success as a volunteer rides on being able to pass one exam.

This week is our last of training and then we prepare to swear-in. Following that, Peace Corps vehicles will take us a few at a time and drop us in our new villages. I am desperately excited to be done with language classes, but am starting to realize that my real worries and anxieties are yet to come.

Soon, the group of the 32 that has been my support system and family will no longer be my side. The safety net of language trainers that constantly corrected me on structure and pronunciation will be pulled out. There will be no one to cook my meals or do my laundry or help me navigate overwhelming situations such as transportation and the market. In a matter of days, I will be the only peach colored, freckled bearing person with broken French and pieces of Hausa in a swarm of Nigerien people, some of which have never encountered a person like me.

Language will continue to be a worry, but it will be one of many.

In the next few months, I am going to make mistakes. I will look like a fool. And I will fail.

Failure is such a dirty word. I hate to fail, and worse, admit when I do. Like everyone else in this world, I have failed, but I become a baby. I often make excuses and outrageous resolutions. Or I turn the other direction and beat myself up until my ego is so badly bruised that trying again will only lead to more pain. But here, in this role, failing is inevitable. And the goal will not be to avoid failure but to fail gracefully.

I have to stop being afraid of failure, and embrace it. Failure is a dark, hairy mess but when one endures it, one often comes our stronger and bolder. I keep telling myself that I need to make changes in my life, remold myself, and maybe to do that I have to fail. I have to fail over and over and over. For failure is a part of success and no one rises to the top without falling.

They’ve told us that we our goals for the first three months s to integrate and learn the language. I am adding another: make mistakes, take chances and learn to fail gracefully.

2 thoughts on “Failing gracefully

  1. thanks for that bit of advice, Heather. Language is my worry as well and I find it very hard to study here when it still seems a long time before we HAVE to use the language. I haven’t studied French at all, just Hausa, so expect failure will be at the top of my list of accomplishments before long. It’s good to know someone has failed and succeeded as you have. Congratulations again on that achievement. Judy

  2. Pingback: Mistakes | Heather Marie

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