An Untold Story of Failure

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Remember the fall collab from last week? Well, I may or may not have skipped over the part where I ended up in the rocks, covered in whipped cream and pavlova, bawling my eyes out.

Let’s back up.

Everything was set up and pictures were mostly done after more than seven hours of prep, cooking, baking, transportation, and setup. The only thing left to do? Assemble the pavlova and snap the pic.

You might be able to guess where this is going.

Pavlova starts with a giant meringue that's carefully baked and cooled to avoid cracks, which I then hand-transported down to the campfire area and watched with a nervous tick to make sure it didn’t accidentally get squashed or dropped. After spreading the cinnamon honey whipped cream over it, I topped the pavlova with spiced apples and finished with a healthy drizzle of the leftover caramel sauce.

Here was mistake #1: I assembled and staged the pavlova on a rickety little Walmart table (the kind that looks nice from far away, but the closer you get, you can clearly see why it only cost $10).

Mistake #2: Realizing the table was crooked and self-assuredly deciding to shimmy it into the rocks to make it even, WITH THE PAVLOVA STILL ON TOP.

I kid you not, as soon as I started moving the table, I thought to myself, “This is a dumb idea. It’s going to fall.”

Two seconds later, the table capsized, and in slow motion, I saw the whole plate of pavlova go flying. I stopped it halfway down to the ground with a giant hand right to the middle of it. Can you tell?

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I lost it. Getting to the smiling picture above took quite some time. 

Here’s a fun fact about me. The bigger the project that I take on, the less I allow myself to fail. And if even just one small little thing goes wrong, the pressure that I’ve put on myself explodes into complete defeat. Although we were able to salvage a little piece of the pavlova and get a decent picture out of it, every other part of my collab contribution felt pointless and a waste.

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When my family first started going through separation from the Amish church, I felt so lost and forsaken, and I had no idea how to work through my feelings and deal with the situation. I was just old enough to understand what was happening and lose all my friends because of it, but still young enough that I couldn’t make my own decisions and plan my escape from the nightmare around me.

To cope with the loneliness and pain, I created a theory, a formula for acceptance and worth. If I could somehow earn my keep, my spot at the table, then my worth would be restored, I’d be valued once more, and I wouldn’t have to face rejection ever again. And in order to earn my keep, I had to measure up, and I couldn’t ever fail.

Over 10 years later, I’m just now starting to figure out how deeply that mindset has impacted my self-worth, my faith, my view of others, my interpretation of grace, and even my personal projects.  

So when I sat there on the ground with broken meringue, whipped cream, slices of cinnamony apples covering my hands, I was completely incapable of giving myself grace. My first thought was to wipe the dessert from the menu, forget about sharing the recipe, dump the mangled leftovers into the trash, and never talk about it again. 

But I’ve been reading through my journals from middle school and high school and college, and I can’t help but cry for a girl who exhausted so much effort trying to earn her keep and show herself worthy of acceptance to the people around her that she missed the point of most of it. So I want to do her some justice and let her know it’s okay to fail AND share those stories of failure with others.

Failure doesn’t determine worth. Not now, not ever. It’s merely a learning opportunity, like: don’t use rickety tables to stage delicate desserts.

Be kind to yourself,
Angelina