“No one fails who will try, try again; everyone fails who won’t begin.” Guy Finley
What is failure?
According to the dictionary, it’s a breakdown, malfunction, collapse, disappointment, letdown, catastrophe, or fiasco.
It is also an opportunity. I told you in an earlier post that I had driven to Beverly Hills over the age of 50 for an Open Call in a top modeling agency and everyone in the room was 20ish with legs as long as palm trees. It was something I just had to do.
My specialty is working with women in transition. That often means women who have desire, willingness and a few years under their slightly expanding belt. But that doesn’t make their dreams any less compelling. Dreams, remember, are from the heart, which doesn’t give a whiff about ‘what-if’s,’ ‘if-onlys,’ or ‘maybe, I’m too old.’
I ARRIVED IN BEVERLY HILLS...
So I arrived in Los Angeles, parked on a perfectly manicured street in the movie capital of the planet, walked to into the agency known for signing only very tall, very young models. I wasn’t either one in extreme, but I had longevity, years of experience of living life. And they did have a “Life Styles Division,” so I was able to talk myself into believing I belonged there. Besides, I was wearing a terrific dress that was designed to make it look like everything worked, matched my green eyes, showed off my legs, and It made me feel like anything was possible – even the impossible. I entered a large room, the only furniture a large circular white couch with a coffee table facing a door leading to the booking agents on the other side. The door was closed and the room was alive with the energy of 20 year old gorgeous giants all wearing jeans, looking casual like they did this every day for a living. Yawning, listening to head phones, chewing gum. When I walked in everyone stared – I’d like to think it’s because they were thinking I could be the next Cindy Crawford not because they were curious what I was doing there. So I wiggled my way in between skinny thighs seated on the couch, trying to appear friendly and natural. I thought my heart would be happy I was finally listening to its voice. Instead, the way it was carrying on with its loud anguished panting and beating, I wanted to bolt out the door I just entered. But I’d driven all this way, had my hair done, bought the dress. I sat silently staring at the door in front of me with the rest of the group, tried not to look too eager, and waited to see what would happen next.
In other words, failure is not necessarily a problem, unless you’re leaving California and heading for Arizona and you end up in Oregon. I’ve been known to have direction dyslexia where I make a left turn when I needed to turn right. It usually means a lack of planning, or I’m busy and distracted from doing more than one thing at a time. But I hadn’t gotten here by accident. This was premeditated, carefully planned. If they didn’t choose me to be in their stable of talent, I hadn’t failed myself. I suited up and showed up. Still, I admit I was worried.
There is failure that seems to come built in to a situation. I call it ‘situational failure.’ Parents feel like failures when their kids get in trouble, people feel like failures when their marriages break down. “I didn’t get the part,” I didn’t get the job,” I didn’t land that coveted film role,” “they chose someone else,” “He likes her better.” ”I can’t please my mother…”
There’s failure from risk taking: “I lost my house,” I lost my money in that stupid investment,” “I wasn’t cut out to be a stand- up comic - why did I DO that? what was I thinking?”
Failure. Yuck. Do you go to bed, pull the covers over your head? Some do.
And many get up, take a deep breath, roll with the punches and start all over again. It’s about perspective, and it’s about understanding your own humanity and your inherent right to be here, to make mistakes, and to treat yourself with compassion and to keep believing and keep going - no matter what, ready or not.
NO MORE WAITING
That was me that day, sitting in that room, waiting for my life to begin. I could have stayed home like a quite a few women over 50 would have done in this situation. I could have Kept at my perfectly fine life, a smattering of challenging days like many people. But I designed this to make me grow, learn about myself and correct my weaknesses. So I could life the life of my dreams over 50. I had wanted this kind of opportunity since I was a young girl , until life interrupted with an elopement at 18 over the Mississippi Bridge, two children in quick succession, and a variety of meanderings through the next few decades. My marriage lasted, still alive and well today, a lifetime later. My life is a reflection of many lives whose teenage plans took a sharp detour when they weren’t paying attention. What I’m saying is that my life was good as it was, but I had to prove to myself that my dreams can come true at any age or stage, if we follow the rules of the Universe, of Nature, and head out in the direction of our dreams instead of staying home in our comfort zones. I had to prove it so I could teach it to you.
It was painful when a young girl with long brown hair walked through the door, didn’t glance at any of us, just picked up the stack of photos on the long coffee table in front of the circular couch, turned and left the room through the door again. I held my breath, suddenly ashamed that I didn’t have better photos. I realized that I didn’t take myself that seriously. The other girls had model portfolios, fine leather books containing their ‘tear sheets’ from other print jobs they had done, beautifully colored glossy photos of themselves in a variety of poses. I had a few pictures my husband had taken of me stuck into a manila envelope. It peeked out of the stack the brown-haired girl carried in conspicuous embarrassment, struggling to stay in the pack of leather books she carried, dangerously closing to sliding out onto the floor. What would I have done? Rushed over to here, “Oh, here, this fell out…”
Thank you Angels I didn’t have to do that. The door closed firmly as she exited the room. The group went back to their giggling conversations while I pretended to read my book.
Fifteen minutes later, the brown-haired girl returned, set the photos back on the coffee table, straightened and projected her voice out in the air: “You are not what we are looking for, thank you for coming.” She never looked at any of us.
The group stood up in unison, confused, we all glanced around at each other. “They don’t want any of us?” We milled out of the room. I felt a sense of compassion for the other girls. I doubted they had the resilience I had gained through the years. Some looked like their lives depending on this. When I got in my car I looked at my face in the rear view mirror. The eyes gazing back at me held a new level of wisdom and experience. I was surprised that I couldn have simply mailed in the photos – I didn’t need to drive the two hours, shop for the dress, I didn’t need to leave the house. The photos needed to be better. “No problem,” I told the image gazing at me. “I’ll get new photos.”
I knew I wouldn’t give up. I had more experience now. I had done something that was very challenging for me, I had jumped in at an emotional leve, gone for something I really wanted, committed, gotten involved. I risked anxiety,, tempted the fate of disappointment and indignity. But instead I gained self-esteem that comes from taking chances. I had learned, I had grown. And I was still okay. Disappointed, sure. I took a breath. I wouldn’t give up.
It wasn’t failure. It was a step forward that required getting new photos and finding agency representation who believed in me. Since that time, I’ve secured an agent and I have fun gathering auditioning experiences that I can write about and share with you and help you follow your Secret Dreams as I am doing. And once in a while – I get lucky and land the job!
"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."
~ Sir Winston Churchill