Failure is not an option for me.
I hate to fail. At anything. Anytime.
I blame it on my massively type A personality. Or my ENTJ Myers-Briggs type, affectionately known as “The Field Marshal”, the Bringer of Order to chaos, the need to control everything and everyone.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’m good at everything I try. Far from it. Like singing, for example.
I’m a terrible singer. Like Cameron Diaz in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” terrible.
But I’ve seen enough American Idol auditions to know that you’re either born with singing ability or not. I, simply, was not, and I’m fine with that. I accept the fact that I lost the genetic lottery on that one.
What burns me is failing at skills you can actually learn.
For instance, watercolor.
Flashback to 9th grade art class and I’m sitting in front of a painting that looks equal parts mud and ugly, streaks of uneven color staining the paper like an unintended Rorschach test.
Watercolor is everything I’m not. It’s wild where I’m controlled. It’s ethereal where I’m heavy-handed. It blends and bleeds where I’m all about boundaries. And despite being an art snob, I simply could not master the frustratingly, deceptively simple-looking techniques.
I was happy when we moved on to wire sculptures and I started bending metal to my will, forming an anatomically correct spine for my sleeping baby fawn.
So when I heard of an art class put on by UK artist Bridget March, I decided to exorcise my watercolor demons.
In our first lesson, she proclaimed…
“I don’t teach drawing. I teach a way of seeing things.”
“I sold a lot of work but I couldn’t make the transition of giving up the day job and hoping to make ends meet. You have to pack up the car, set up a stall, and whatever. So you lose a day each time you go to market. But then at that point, you become a creative laborer.”
“I love urban landscapes, especially old architectural elements. The next thing I’m going to do is spend more time in Cholon (Saigon’s Chinatown). I’m seeking out Old Saigon. There are so many buildings that are unnoticed. They’re not pagodas, but it’s that lovely feeling of colonial architecture. It takes you back to the merchants who built their properties; from one window he could see the port and from the other window, he could see the market. He could literally see his entire empire operating. A lot of the streets here used to be canals. Even now, you can see the old merchant houses between the big hotels. You can feel the history.”
This was the beginning of a new me.
Methinks Bridget has an endless supply of euphemisms for “You stink”.
But I needed to hear it. I needed to know that it’s okay not to be the best at everything.
My self-confidence is still intact, though. I interviewed for a position as a guidebook writer earlier this week and I’m sure I’ll be stunned if I don’t make it to the next round of selections.
In my mind, I’m already packing my bags to uncover the stories behind distant ruins or wading through wet markets and popping into trendy restaurants.
Because the lesson isn’t that I failed to succeed. It’s that I must fail in order to succeed.
Who knows how many unmastered skills will litter the wayside on my way to finding a new, perhaps totally unexpected one that I’m really good at? One that enriches my life. That teaches me to see through new eyes to better appreciate what I have, the world around me.
The key is to keep trying. Being willing to take on scary new things (like the thought of spending the next eight months traveling the length and breadth of this country) even if they don’t always work out.
Yes, watercolor is still my nemesis – my wild, unruly, “let the colors bleed” enemy. But it is also my teacher. And I will not fail you.
For my full article on Bridget, please click the image below.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge Bridget March fan and she has graciously allowed me to sprinkle her artwork throughout my site, lending it a bit of much needed class.
And if you’re fortunate enough to be in Saigon tomorrow, Bridget is selling some of her work for the first time in Vietnam at The Art Market at VinGallery. I already have a few pieces picked out.