Sadly I had to have this conversation with my son tonight. Maybe my words helped him. I hope they did. Maybe my words can help you too.
Josh starts his first day of school tomorrow. Grade 5. Again. It was a tough year. His mother and sister stayed here for seven months, and his mother is not entirely stable. I tried to help her and be there for his little sister, whom I love very much, but it wasn’t meant to be, and they left. I can’t have Megan here again. Of course it affected him, as did my poor job of disciplining him last year. I gave him too much leeway to play on the Xbox, and he failed the grade.
So tonight he said to me, “I’m a failure.” No, you’re not. Failing doesn’t make you a failure. It gives you a second chance, a chance to try again, to do better. He countered that I never failed anything and that he has wasted whole year. But that’s not true. Sure, I never failed in school and always excelled both there and in my studies after, but I failed later. I was a meth addict for eight years. For those years, I stopped and watched the world passing me by. I stopped growing, grew distant from everybody, performed poorly at work, lost friends, the trust and respect of my family and my peers, and I even lost my son for a few years.
But failing didn’t define me. Failing gave me a second chance, to try again, to try harder, and do better. I’m clean over six years now; in two years I’ll have been clean for as long as I used, and I’m not stopping there. Losing everything gave me a chance to see the world through different eyes. I saw through the eyes of a homeless man, a man with nothing. Stripped bare of my privilege for a time, I learned to appreciate what I’d had and what many others never even had to begin with. I learned empathy for my fellow humans, learned to be a better man, someone who respects everyone in their station in life, but mostly I have had the most amazing opportunity to come back from the brink, but come back not as the spoiled brat I was before, but a better man, a man who got everything back, including my son Josh, whom I’ve been parenting on my own again since 2015, but also I’ve come back with empathy, understanding, and love for my fellow humans, especially those who didn’t start out with what I did. In short, my failure didn’t just push me to succeed after picking myself up, but to come back as a better person than I could ever be had I not failed in the first place.
Sometimes the best thing that can ever happen to you is failure. I hope that my son can grow to understand this, and that his small failure now can prepare him for the rest of his life, such that he never needs to fail more seriously as I did.