This is a letter to the forgotten majority; to those who tried just as hard but failed. This is for the one thousand failures that happen for every success.
Our names will not be forgotten, because our names were never known. Our stories, however incredible, will never be termed ‘inspiring’. We will never feature in motivational speeches, or appear in television documentaries. We may never taste the alluring sweetness of triumph.
We can persevere all we want. We can work tirelessly day and night. We can work our coarse fingers down past the bone, into the marrow, until our cracked lips are stained by blood masquerading as lipstick, and until our heartstrings strain like an over-tuned violin. And still, success is as blurry as fine words seen through myopic eyes.
There really isn’t much we can do. When we’ve given everything we are, everything we have, and everything we ever were, we become a threadbare cloth that isn’t even worthy to be used as a rag.
Trash; trash, trash, trash.
We belittle ourselves, scorn, and find comfort in abusing our naïve selves that believed we were ever worthy of even the most meagre piece of praise. Why? Because if we manage to convince ourselves that we are rock-bottom, anything else that we are will only make us feel better. It’s a pathetic attempt at boosting our confidence, but when we’re so deep in despair, pathetic is but just an eight-letter, three-syllable word.
We’ve arrived at a point where even excuses don’t work anymore. There was a time when we were afraid of putting in our all for fear of failure. We used to say to ourselves “you didn’t really try, did you? If you gave it your all, you probably would have succeeded.” But what happens when deep down, we know that we broke our backs and necks trying, and we’re still confronted with the ice-cold chill of failure?
Our lids flutter shut, because we can’t stand another second of this despicable world.
And we instantly regret it.
Sleep used to be peaceful. It was a natural morphine that let us slip away; feel nothing, be nothing. But now, our troublesome slumber is plagued with visions of failure. Our muscles are paralysed, and we can’t control anything. It’s like we’re ice skating on concrete, scuba diving with a snorkel, or playing the violin with a flute. We want to wake up.
And whether we’re woken up by piercing sun rays, a shrill alarm, or even by the raging war between our restless hearts and brains, eventually we’ve been thrust into reality again, and we forget why we wanted to so badly.
We struggle through the ticking seconds, longing for the day to be over. But when the day does eventually end, we agonise over yet another day devoid of meaning and progress.
The days of hopelessness at times, become unbearable. We see news of people we know who are basking in their glory, and mutter to ourselves ‘just wait and see. I’m going to be better than all of you someday’. But what frightens us most is the very real possibility that we may never truly succeed. Quotations don’t help. Phrases such as ‘never give up’ and ‘practice makes perfect’ are so abominably cliché they sicken us. They’re all based on the assumption that success isn’t just a mirage – it is a solid, tangible treat at the end of a journey. But we’ve learnt the hard way that that isn’t always true.
People point out to us the hundreds of ‘rags to riches’ stories out there. But they forget, or just don’t care to mention the millions who are still, and may forever be, in rags.
We hear successful people give maudlin speeches about their adverse pasts. Their bright, overly crisp tones describe an assiduous but enjoyable journey. They’re supposed to be inspiring, but all we feel is acrimony. Once someone succeeds and leaves the failure club, they can never really return.
“I understand how you feel,” they say. No, they don’t understand our feelings anymore. Their failures became sweet and beautiful the moment they achieved success of equal or greater magnitude. Our failures are still bitter and ugly, staring us down in the face like Big Brother every moment of every day.
“Keep trying, and I guarantee you will get there.” Why? Because that’s the only outcome you’ve known?
But we want to convince ourselves that despite everything, we’re not bitter. We’re good people who can still be happy for others. And so we swallow and ignore the acidic burn of failure. Every congratulatory word uttered from our mouths liberates our conscience, but highlights our inadequacy just that much more.
Their failures became sweet and beautiful the moment they achieved success of equal or greater magnitude.
We remember back to a time when our failures were still few enough that we could individually dwell on each one. But now, we’ve failed so many times it all just feels likes a blur. What was once an emission line spectrum has now turned into a continuous spectrum. We string them together and wear it as what? A necklace? A noose?
There will never be a definite guarantee that success will occur. Realistically, it may even be a better choice for us to sometimes give up altogether. But the failure to achieve a dream or goal does not deem us as worthless. It does not give us the right to hang our heads for all eternity. After all, we are the forgotten majority – there are millions out there who feel the same way we do. But it’s not always obvious, because many of us still choose to lift our heads and smile.
Whether we form a new dream or continue persevering, it really doesn’t matter. All we really can do is live in the moment and find joy and satisfaction in the smallest of things; the cars that stop at the crossing every morning for us, the shop assistant who seems genuinely interested in helping us, the stranger who left a note on the park bench reminding us we were beautiful. Acknowledge the impact we can have on the lives of others – as family, as friends, or even as strangers.
There’s no telling what shapes and forms lie in the thick fogs of tomorrow. Maybe success is only one final muscle-pulling stretch away. Maybe it’s too far for us to see yet. Or maybe it never really existed in the first place. So we’ll continue to plough on, sometimes with flying force, and sometimes with battered wings that flutter weakly alongside our laboured breathing. We’ll start playing a game with life, seeing how many times it’ll take before it tires of knocking us over; we’ll keep vigil over the flickering hope that someday we will be one of the lucky few to succeed. Maybe someday, if we’re fortunate enough, we’ll be able to look back fondly and smile reminiscently at our nights of despair.
And hopefully one day, we will come to understand that we are all, in our own unique way, successful.