We’ve all been there. All of us. At one time or another, we have all attempted something and come up short. It might have been something as small as a grade on a paper or a test when we were in school. It might have been something bigger like training for months to set a personal record in a half marathon. Or it might have been something truly life-changing like taking a high-profile new job in an unfamiliar place halfway across the country. Big or small, there is something especially painful about investing your time and energy into something, working hard, truly doing your best, and having it not be enough. We’ve all been there.
I am not talking about that time I signed up to do a 5K and then never really got around to training. That’s on me. I’ve jumped head-first into plenty of endeavors only to find myself too busy to really invest the needed time to do it well. I have a collection of hobbies in the garage that never really made their way into my daily routine. Of course I am not an expert with my bow and arrow. I’ve hardly ever used it.
No, I’m not talking about those things. I am talking about the things that mattered.
I am talking about the things that were worth the time and money and patience and heart to get right. I am talking about the things that got you up at 3:45 in the morning, the things that sent you back to school, the things you obsessed over and read about and journaled about, the things that convinced you to walk away from a safe job in a familiar place with people you knew only to start an adventure with an uncertain ending.
I’m talking about the pain that comes when one of those things doesn’t work out, when your best isn’t enough. And we have all been there.
In those moments you have a choice. You can choose to be defeated. You can choose to wallow and retreat and shut yourself away. You can choose to stop taking the big risks.
Or you can stand up, face the reporters (literal or figurative as they may be), and explain that you did your best. You can continue to wake up at 3:45 and to take the big risks. You can choose to hold your head up, maintain the highest levels of class and grace and dignity, and honestly mean it when you say that you would not have traded the experience simply because it did not end the way you had hoped.
“That wasn’t the measure of the experience. It’s just the way it ended.” (Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing)