Growing up, we are taught a lot of things. We are taught how to speak, to stand up and learn to walk, and all the other basic foundational skills for development. As we grow older, the things we are taught gradually go from learning fundamentals to having an emphasis on avoiding mistakes. Since we learn to have more control over our actions, there is an expectation that we are able to do things right and perform according to how we desire. There are small mistakes we learn to mitigate, like how not to spill a beverage, what to do when you’re lost in an unfamiliar area, or habits you should pick up to avoid getting a failing mark in school. Then there are the bigger things we are expected to know how to be or do, like how to be a good person and to apologize when all else fails.
However, there comes a certain point where we are not only expected to not make mistakes, but learn to carry the burden of having to know better and lessen the slip-ups we make because we are older, wiser, and are supposed to know better how to curb the chances of doing something wrong. In a way, we are expected to come close to perfect because there is this idea that the older you are and the more experiences you have in life, then the more you should know how to handle problems so that they don’t lead to making mistakes.
But life is unpredictable. At times, no amount of commitment to striving for perfection, pulling out all the stops, or praying for the success and fulfillment of something you’ve been hoping for is enough to see it happen. Sometimes failure is the only thing that comes to you, even when you were expecting to welcome triumph.
Beauty queen and social entrepreneur Zara Carbonell talks about her intimate familiarity with failure and the unpredictable nature of life in her novel, Lost You Found Me. Although she is known for her glamor and accomplishments, Carbonell recounts the details of her life when everything revolved around the pursuit of finding herself and her success. She mentions the challenges that come with the journey of trying to get where she wants to be, such as the difficulty of preparing for beauty pageants and traveling the world alone to discover the hidden parts of herself. Carbonell was always striving to find herself, pursue what feels right to her, and find a life of happiness.
Despite her strong intentions to succeed, Carbonell details how she often feels lost on what to do with life and her network of relationships. A feeling she prominently felt when ending romantic relationships, when she failed to bag the winning crown during her first pageant, or when she thought she had a terminal illness. She has tried, and tried, and tried—often rerouting her life and the direction she wants to pursue, but sometimes life only takes her back to square one. But Carbonell perseveres, as she believes in the importance of leaning to heed the sound of surrender.
“If there’s anything all those years of searching have taught me, it’s that “lost” is a state we will perpetually be in. And instead of battling for certainty and comfort, life is best approached by embracing it as it is.”
For Carbonell, surrendering is not an act of giving up on our dreams and what we are pursuing. To surrender is to let yourself give up the tendency to want complete control of yourself in trying to fit the perfect image and having the ideal life at all times. To surrender is to let yourself fail and stumble, make room for mistakes, and treat slip-ups as a benchmark for improvement. Although we are often told that growing up means knowing better, this doesn’t mean that we are able to predict the outcome of every action we do.
“I used to think surrendering meant giving up. But, as I welcome a new chapter of my life, I’m learning that “to surrender” is the strongest form of combat. It’s learning to think bigger, and to be a part of the grander scheme of life. We may not always see eye to eye with life on how we want to achieve our dreams, our peace, and a long and full life, but I’ve come to believe that our why is always in sync.”
In a way, failure is necessary in the journey towards success because when we first pursue what we want, we often don't see the way or the direction going there. As Carbonell says, we should take the time to learn from the fall of our shortcomings and failures to assess ourselves. What can we do better next time? How can we do better next time? Surrendering is an important value to have as it can also open up new opportunities for us that we weren’t able to see because we were fixed on a single goal.
There are rigid expectations placed on us of how we should know better, or that we grow wiser with age so failure should be something we know how to avoid. But at the end of the day, most of us start with square one and there is no shame in going back there from time to time when plans fall through. It is important to surrender not because starting over is the end to our journey, as Zara Carbonell has graciously shown us in her novel.
You can read more about her life’s journey here.
Blog by Gabrielle Moira Cayabyab