Failure as a Pathway to Joy
You’ve heard you have to fail your way to success. So annoying…and so true. The thing no one wants to hear from me is that you have to fail your way to joy too.
What seems like a millennia ago, I was a grad student in archaeology. Yep, you heard me…archaeology. One summer I worked for the Forest Service and by “worked there”, I mean I was living in the forest, hiking, mapping, and digging around for artifacts. On every dig there’s a person who documents the site, findings, soils, etc. They photograph each square that has been excavated and keep meticulous notes. I was that person for the summer. I had my professor’s camera, a ton of actual film, and his quick overview of how the camera works. No problem. I’ve got this.
We go about digging and documenting. I take pictures with his camera and hear the gears turning inside and think everything is grand. So wrong! Somehow I totally missed the concept of making sure to pull out the film and hook it to the little gear so it will advance every time I click the button. For the whole summer!
I knew how many were supposed to be on a roll and had a log for each picture, so when I got to 26 (the number of shots supposed on that reel), I just put in the next roll of film. I came back to my professor who had sent us into the wilderness with all the rolls of film. Nothing. Absolutely nothing on them. I had one angry professor and my confidence in my ability to figure anything out was in the toilet for quite a while.
But what if I had given up on photography the day I realized I had failed on that project? My first instinct was definitely to run away – to not work with that professor again, and to halt my burgeoning interest in photography. I tried to see through it with a different lens. I asked my professor a lot of questions to whittle back into his graces. He let me work in his darkroom the whole next fall, and it sparked a lifelong passion for photography. I know there are people that still use film, but I can’t tell you how happy I was the first day I could afford a digital camera.
I’m definitely not a professional photographer, but photography has given me so much joy over the years. It’s given me a reason to be out in nature more often than not. It’s a reason to wander the streets of foreign countries looking for cool doors to photograph. And it’s a reason to learn patience…to wait for the shot and to give myself grace when the shot is missed. Still today I take good shots and I take really bad shots, but I’m just so thankful that I’m taking them. Don’t miss your shot because it didn’t come naturally the first time, or the nineteenth time. Don’t let a little failure stand in the way of your joy.