Moving on from failure

Moving on from failure

I failed at the violin.

I mentioned this recently to someone who knows me well—OK, my ex-fiancé—and his jaw dropped. Which is saying something, because at the time his mouth was full of Jersey diner waffle fries, and that stuff is precious cargo.

I guess I can understand his surprise. I played the violin for 16 years—from the age of five until I graduated from college. I entered competitions, attended summer programs, played in orchestras. I locked myself in the damp practice rooms beneath my college’s music building. I channeled my inner gypsy/witch when I performed the Saint-Saëns concerto, with its unsettling, strange beauty.

That might not sound like failure. But to me, it was. It is.

I was never as good at the violin as I wanted to be. I never managed to work hard enough at it, to give it my all. For years, the violin represented an instance where I failed to do my best, where I let people down—especially my dad, who spent hours each week shuttling me to and from lessons, writing up the advice my teachers gave me in his most careful handwriting, and checking on my progress.

When I zipped up my violin case after my senior year of college and adopted the excuse that I was just too busy to keep playing, I thought I’d move on. I thought a weight would be lifted from my soul.

But that never happened. I still carry the weight of that failure with me.

I explained all of this to my ex, but he was still baffled. “Sure,” he said, “you could have practiced every hour of every day, but you did other things with your life. That’s OK.”

But is it?

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A (super simple) meditation for when you feel lost

A (super simple) meditation for when you feel lost

I have an alter ego. An evil twin. A persona I slip into—sometimes without even realizing it.

Let’s call this persona Lauren. Lauren tends to take over in social situations where I’m keen to impress people or make them like me. (In other words, pretty much all social situations.)

Lauren is brighter than I am, sparklier. She laughs at your jokes, or when you say something mildly (or wildly) inappropriate. If the conversation lulls, she launches into one self-deprecating story about herself after another. She’d rather share painful personal details than face a moment or two of awkward silence. If you’re a single man, she might find excuses to brush your arm or shoulder with her fingertips.

Lauren doesn’t disagree with you, ever. Her cheeks cramp from smiling so damn much.

For years, Lauren came out whenever I went to a party, or clomped on my black heels into a job interview, or even tried to make conversation with the yoga teacher whose class I took every Sunday...

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