Take the risk to fail

My birthday had me reflecting on how short life is. Peter almost had me convinced I was 55! I’m not, it was my 53rd birthday. I’d forgotten how old I was, a sign that I am ageing. Gone are the days of excitingly waiting for my birthday to come for the cake and presents and being made a fuss of. But neither do I, any longer, dread them coming. It is a privilege to grow older, one that many don’t get.

So what makes a life wonderful?

I think (since going on medication) I have a very blessed life and a responsibility to be grateful for it. I have seven amazing human beings in my life who I was fortunate enough to give birth to and a loving husband. I can at times focus on the negatives but that really is an unproductive and selfish way to live. Being grateful for what you have, having goals and dreams are as important as the essentials of food, water and safety.

Yesterday was the Christmas Party for the shop, Nigelle-ann of Miss Gracie Taylors Pre Loved Books  organised it this year and last year. I overthink everything and worry about organising events, will anyone turn up? Nigelle-ann took the risk of failing from me and just did it.

As I sat there last night and Nigelle-ann gave her little speech about how valued my little business is to her and the town. Then Tracey from Watervale Retreat added her thanks and talked about how it had helped her settle and make friends in a new community. Deb piped up about how the shop and community had made a very difficult time in her life, a little easier. I sat there and tears welled. I may have helped others but my primary reason for opening the shop was to help me. I took the risk of failing in opening my little shop and it may not be a profitable concern in terms of money but in other ways, the ways that matter to me, it is a resounding success. I have made friends and together we have built a community that supports us all.

I think back at all the times I have taken risks in my life and from those risks I have had great successes but I don’t remember the failures as vividly. I obviously had them. I took the risk of moving to the NT in 1990, with two suitcases and about $500 in my pocket straight out of uni. From that risk I had a life that many Australians never will get to experience. I lived in remote aboriginal communities, on remote cattle stations. I learned to jump start a generator; change my own oil in the car; drive dirt roads; shoot a 410; have a baby crown in the front seat of my car. I got to go hunting for bush tucker in places were very few have been. I heard languages which are sadly almost extinct. I made family from friends, in an isolated community that many would never see the heart of gold of. I’ve had some sad and scary times too. I’ve had my eyes opened to the injustices and inequities and seen life from a different point of view than the world I grew up in. I met my ‘angry little gnome’ and fell in love with his gentle loving spirit. I birthed children in a remote community. Had the opportunity to be a foster mum of many children and the teacher of many more.

Sometimes we don’t see our failures as the successes the really are until we see them over the distance of time and the eyes of others. The young woman who approached me in the supermarket one day in Alice Springs to tell me how I was her all time favourite teacher, as even though she had given me a hard time, I never gave up on her. I had though she had not liked me at all! Or the time one of my students years later visited me in Tennant Creek and as he showed his partner the photo albums of his school days, he recounted the happy memories of his time at school. I had thought I had failed them, really literacy and numeracy levels when I left that school hadn’t been great. But there he was that day sharing something more precious happy memories of school and childhood.

I’ve run 7 half marathons, one for each of the children I have birthed. And from experience, child birth is harder! But with child birth there is no choice, in running a marathon there are months and kilometres of training and stick-to-it-ness.

As another year and decade are about to end I am grateful for my extraordinary life and I am proud I am someone who will take a leap and risk failing occasionally . Because failures may from another perspective be our greatest victories. You may look at me as an over weight middle-aged woman with a less than successful business, or you can look deeper and see I, like everyone, am an extraordinary human being, with a story to tell.

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