Fail Better.

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Photographs via the Girls & Dreams series from She Hit Pause Studios (love the name)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I want to be when I grow up.  I have a pretty fabulous job working for myself designing homes, writing this blog, penning a column in a local magazine and doing some fashion styling on the side as well. I know I have it pretty good. Yet, there are days when it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Or that its right. Or that there might be more for me- more depth, more meaning, more something. I think constantly about all the things I want to try and do and be and it’s dizzying to say the least.  I remember when I was little and all I wanted out of life was a hatchback Ford Escort and a job as a checkout lady at the grocery store (and to be Mrs. Luke Perry, of course). Oh how far I’ve come in my desires from life. I don’t feel cursed by the urge to expand my horizons, but I do feel pressure and the head spinning speed of passing time as I hurdle into my thirties. As if the universe wanted to make sure I felt understood in some small way, I was suggested to read an article in O Magazine by my favorite author Elizabeth Gilbert.  “You might cry it’s so good” my friend said. And I almost did, and I don’t cry easily.  Like her book “Eat, Pray, Love” I felt like she was speaking to me personally and it was a great relief. I urge you to read it and then sit with it for a minute or two and read it again.

Gilbert’s point that we all feel this insane pressure to be all things and compare ourselves to others who SEEM to be doing all those things we aren’t is a tale I know all too well.  While I get emails from readers- successful lawyers, doctors, financial executives, mothers, teachers- all who ask me how I was able to craft this dream job of mine and admit that they are unhappy and want to do what I do- I sometimes feel the same about their lives and the importance of what they do.  I am a classic “grass is greener” type of person and am always imagining what it’s like walking in other womens’ stilettos (or Crocs as the case may be).  I wonder about doing other things with my life; other things that interest me greatly like writing a book, focusing on painting again, opening a store, opening a bakery, teaching yoga, teaching art or giving into the rumored bliss of motherhood.  I dream about moving into the city (check), moving far, far away from the city, moving out of this country, vacationing in a jungle, or on a deserted island (watching too much Lost perhaps?) or taking a vacation alone.  The thing is, I know in my heart I can try all these things, and some of them might be failures.  But something I am learning very quickly in my adulthood is that at least trying feels really good because you know something positive will come of it no matter what- you either succeed or you fail and know that you gave it a shot and it wasn’t meant to be.   As I’ve heard a million times over- people far more often regret what they didn’t do than what they did do so I’m going to make a commitment to DO more without thinking it through and picking it apart until there isn’t much left.

All these new adventures in my life make me recognize the growth they are bringing me mentally and spiritually. Failure is something I historically feared more intensely than anything else in this world and I’m starting to find I am less and less afraid of it.  All I have to do is ask myself “whats the WORST that can happen?”– and more often than not, the true answer is not as scary as the bloodbath I conjure up in my head. But it is hard to let go of old habits.  My worst one is trying to be what everyone else wants me to be (or what I think everyone else wants me to be).  Being yourself and owning it- the good and the bad- is a really tough thing to do, but so worth the fight.  I have accepted that I will never be (and probably shouldn’t be) a doctor (despite my penchant for self-diagnosing on WebMD), a business exec, a talk show host, a lawyer, a shrink, a “save the world” type, a vegetarian, an actress, a blonde.  Other people were born to be those things, I wasn’t. Following your passion and bliss won’t always bring you fame and fortune, but it might just bring you a little peace of mind.  And once you stop feeling passionate about that thing you are doing, you can switch it up and try something else that does get your juices flowing.  The second I get up in the morning and don’t feel the immediate urge to write this blog, I’ll stop.  I’ll move onto something else that I do feel excited about.  But I won’t think of it as a failure, bur rather a recreation of who I am.  People are constantly changing (look at Madonna!) and what once made you delighted may now annoy the crap out of you. Go with it. Make changes. Try new things. Take a few risks. But most importantly, relax a little and be a smidge kinder to yourself and your path (discovered or yet to be).

Sorry for the digression into my inner monologue, but I felt that sharing this article which you might have missed if you don’t read O (which I don’t typically) was really important. Now, back to the shallow stuff…. :)


  1. As a former attorney, currently stay at home mom, who just started blogging…I felt like you were speaking right to me. This was great…I will be reading this O article next, and from what I just skimmed of it, probably over and over a few times! Thanks for this!

  2. Thank you for this! I’m at a crossroads here at age 32 and this is exactly what I needed to read today….we’re all there with you, so thank you for sharing.

  3. I just turned 21 a couple of days ago and almost finished university, so every day I feel like I’m more confused than the day before, but this is so wonderful to hear from someone who has been so successful at the type of career I hope to have in a couple of years. It’s hard not to compare ourselves! Thank you Erin.

  4. So good, so true, and such perfect timing. I can relate to everything you said and it’s so good for us all to know that we aren’t alone! Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. And this is one of the main reasons I love blogging – finding posts like this that reads like having a conversation with one of my best friends. I have also questioned myself more than once, and continue to wonder if I’m on the “right” path for myself career-wise. While my high school and college friends are in med/law/business school, I’m studying graphic design and feeling more inferior with every “I got an amazing new job!” on Facebook. But I suppose there’s always time to take big chances and try things out. We are exactly who we are no matter what we do as a job. I might be working from home or a hole-in-the-wall studio instead of Johns Hopkins or Goldman Sachs, but I will be absolutely loving every moment, to be sure. Love this post. xo

  6. Erin,
    You are actually quite wise and self realized. We, as women, need to relax and appreciate how blessed our lives are with lots of options. This is so hard to do, isn’t it? All of this seems to stem from a guilt that we cannot be all things. To be keenly aware of everyone around us (the natural state of women) and their talents and activities and not feel some sort of guilt, jealousy or envy is quite a challenge. Hopefully aging helps us achieve peace as we navigate through life. Sometimes I envy men for their simpler(not less intelligent), seemingly uncomplicated brains!

    I read blogs on all kinds of subjects and yours is the only one I ever comment on.. thought provoking writer you are, and honest.

  7. Thank you. I felt like someone was reading my mind and wrote it all down! While I’ve been trying to tell myself the very same thing lately I really need to put it into action. It’s all so easy to look at others and compare what you have or what you’re doing or not doing with theirs when really all that matters is your own life. And if you spend all that time comparing, your own will just pass you by! I am an “overanalyzer”. I analyze everything until my brain hurts and talk myself out of everything b/c I don’t have a concrete outcome. But really, would life be as fun if you always knew what would happen?!?!

  8. I am right there with you! At 32 and very much looking forward to my youngest starting kindergarten this fall (YAY!!!!) I am blessed with wondering what to do next. Not for a lack of ideas – maybe too many! So many things I want to do! I’ve just been praying to know what the right path is for now. I’m very much looking forward to the journey. Not something I usually do. Great timing, and just know that so many of us are going through the same thing. Thanks.

  9. Like the others above, I’m in the same boat. The last two days I’ve come closer to realizing my dreams than ever before. And you know what? I don’t feel excited! How weird?? I was about to panic about that, and then I received these quotes from the Daily Guru:

    “He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment.”
    — Meister Eckhart
    “The bird of paradise alights only on the hand that does not grasp.”
    — John Berry
    “It’s best not to get too excited or too depressed by the ups and downs of life.”
    — Dalai Lama

    Anyway, Erin, you’re a great writer, a great blogger, a great designer. You’re already everything most people would love to be!

  10. This couldn’t be more spot-on for me! You have taken my thoughts and put them into words. Happy to know that I’m in good company. Love love love your blog!

  11. Great piece.

    I think you should totally write a book. If nothing else a page a day, by the end of the year you’ll have atleast 200-300 pages.

    And as for vacationing alone…why don’t we both do it, stay at same place with side by side connecting rooms and accidentally run into each other…

  12. Wow! GREAT post! I was recently laid off from my job after working for the same company for 12 years. I was never very happy or fulfilled in what I was doing but it paid very well. Losing my job forced me to ask what do I really want to do? Well, I’ll be starting a new job on Monday. It’s doing marketing for a great local business part time so I can be home with my toddler and infant more than I ever was before but I’ll only be making 25% of what I made before. However, I can honestly say that even though my husband and I are a bit worried about the future and how we are going to raise our two small children on a much smaller budget I have never been more content and more at peace. Thank you so much for opening up! I love your blog!

  13. loved this post! and all of your posts! this 30 number puts way too much pressure on us and i, too, am awake at 3 in the morning thinking about those things!

  14. I read your blog not only because of design and fashion and all things fun, but because you are always real, and always motivational in that best friend-let’s go ahead and cry and eat ice cream-but you are great-no, really, you are great-way. If that makes any sense at all. If it doesnt’ make sense, I’m just saying, I love your blog and that you’re real and you are great! Thanks for being honest with your readers!

  15. First off – I love you blog and visit it regularly.

    2nd – you just described the battle I have been fighting in my head for months. I have had many life changes in the past year: family issues, work issues, engagement, breaking that engagement, meeting my “soulmate” and for once in my 25 years of life I feel content and *GASP* happy! I battled a lot, but stayed true to myself despite the opinions of others and the fear of what everyone might think.

    I recently quit my good job at a pharma in cambridge to up and move to nashville. I am scared, excited and straight up freaked out. However, I must face the unknown. A bold move like this is the opposite of who i’ve been all my life – it feels so liberating to step out of my comfort zone.

    You said it perfectly – we can only grow and learn from the experiences we encounter and in many cases running into failure will only make us wiser.

  16. Okay…so I’m still getting over your “change” post from a month or two ago and how I’m convinced you’re in my brain. And then here you go posting this one! Thank you, again. It’s so refreshing to listen to your words and read the other comments from people just like me. The article was great as well (although now I’m secretly stressed out about having to plan a perfect scavenger hunt when I have kids one day…). Kidding, sort of. :)

    I have been reading a lot of inspirational quotes lately to push me through this phase, and one that I flagged seems appropriate to this post:

    “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure – which is: try to please everybody.” — Herbert Swope

  17. I feel the exact same way and I see from the comments that many other women do too (which is comforting to know I am not the only one!)

    When I think about all the things I want to be I wonder how I will fit it all into my life and I worry about how to do it and how much it will cost to get there (in the event I need special education for the specific type of work). I think I often times get waaaayyyy too caught up in the “how” and literally kill the opportunity or idea with negativity, instead of making a decision and going along the path of discovery.

    It is so much easier to say than do. I am trying to build up the courage and make some important changes in my own life. I don’t want to end up regretting not doing something I have always wanted to do, I already do regret some stuff and I am still in my 20s!

    Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

  18. Love your blog! Read it regularly!
    Thank you for such an inspirational blog post. It was just what I needed to hear!

  19. Thank you for this post. It is beautiful. I am going through so many changes in my life that this may have been written just for me. Keep up the great work!

  20. Life unfolds, follow your passion and find a way to make money at it. Looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see is really the most important thing. Then you are free to love and expose your vulnerability , your life’s direction will unfold before you.

  21. Love, love, love this. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been down on myself lately and this really helped! Thank you. -Jami

  22. this sooooooo was taken right outta my thoughts. i can understand exactly as this is EXACTLY how i feel…thanks for sharing.

  23. “Following your passion and bliss won’t always bring you fame and fortune, but it might just bring you a little peace of mind.”…. beautiful

  24. I love how you connect with people Erin, this post got right into my heart. It’s amazing how it shows so many people were touched by this post. There’s an incredible urge for me to print this off and put it somewhere where I can read it every day. I know what I want to do, but I have to learn something that people in their twenties don’t have much of – paitence, sit and wait while things unfold this year then I can go for it. Thank you for this post Erin I will read it and it will make that wait a little more bearable because I know things to come will make it worth it. :)

  25. I couldn’t relate more. It’s nice to know there are other people out there who feel the same (even if you are on the other side of the country!)

  26. Yesterday, I handed a letter of resignation to my boss, ending 8 years of teaching at the best school in our area. I gave it all up to stay home and be a mom, something I once declared I’d NEVER do. HA! Writing that letter and then handing it in was the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time (and I just gave birth 3 months ago so I’m aware of hard!). I keep hoping that this is the right thing to do and your words “What’s the WORST that can happen” keep ringing in my ears. Thanks for your entry. I’m sure I made the right choice, but it certainly helps to hear other women question themselves!

  27. Thank you, Erin for a post that was so from-the-heart– the risk you taking sharing these thoughts with an audience is laudable; you make a difference!

  28. Thank you for posting this! You made my day! I am 27 year old with a degree that has got me now where thinking I’m an absolute failure. It got me a great job photocopying.(ha) I cringe when I see others having successful lives and realizing that I’m stuck. You are 100% right that life is about going for things and choosing your own happiness. :)

  29. Wow- I think we are about the same age and I think the way I am feeling in my life right now is spot-on EXACTLY as you have described it. I really appreciate your candor in sharing this, and it really is comforting to know I’m not alone. I actually wish I could have YOUR exact job (I love decorating and think I’m pretty good at it, but maybe scared to go for it because of failure?) and to know that you have all of that and feel the same way as I do in MY career is really eye-opening for me. I completely identify with everything you’re saying and thank you for sharing it. I also struggle with with I “think” everyone else wants me to be. Wonder if this is something that is natural for women our age?? Definitely food for thought and I’m going to check out that O article now (I normally don’t read O either).

  30. I’m not sure how I missed this earlier in the week. I am right there with you. I have been going through the same thing for the past couple of years and have really felt the urge to figure out what I am supposed to be when I grow up soooo much lately. Like you, I have a laundry list of things that I would like to accomplish and experience, but am unsure about how to make it all happen. I am a classic type A personality, so rolling with the punches and seeing where the cards may fall is so difficult for me. The greatest challenge for me is allowing myself to let go and enjoy the ride. I truly believe that we will end up where we are meant to be. The keys (I think) are patience, courage, and tenacity.

    Big hugs! You’re definitely not alone in feeling this way! xoxo

  31. Thank you so much for that. I am 41 years old and in my last 7 months of nursing school. I am scared to death. I can’t even believe I made it this far. How can something that makes me so scared make me so excited at the same time. You are such a fantastic writer and what you wrote really spoke to me. Thank you so much.

    P.S I think that you have to most amazing style and taste . I am a true fan.

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