Sometimes I repeat my story again and again because it’s interesting to see how many times it gets edited, and how much the right to tell your story doesn’t exist. People reckon that I need a political degree in order to go, ‘My school got bombed and I remember it cos I was ten-years-old’. I think if there is an issue of people who, having had first hand experiences, are not being able to recount that – because there is laws or government restrictions or censorship or the removal of an individual story in a political situation – then that’s what I’ll keep saying and sticking up for, cos I think that’s the most dangerous thing. I think removing individual voices and not letting people just go ‘This happened to me’ is really dangerous. That’s what was happening… nobody handed them the microphone to say ‘This is happening and I don’t like it’.
Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.
So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.
DEFINITION: Pronoia is the antidote for paranoia. It’s the understanding that the universe is fundamentally friendly. It’s a mode of training your senses and intellect so you’re able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.
HYPOTHESES: Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is our birthright. Receptivity is a superpower.
PROCEDURE: Act as if the universe is a prodigious miracle created for your amusement and illumination. Assume that secret helpers are working behind the scenes to assist you in turning into the gorgeous masterpiece you were born to be. Join the conspiracy to shower all of creation with blessings.
Anger has become one of the trendiest emotions of all. In moderation it can be a righteous force for constructive change. But its hackneyed omnipresence means the vast majority of its outbreaks are trivial. The paucity of colorful obscenities is aggravated by an abundance of frivolous fury.
We’re not going to waste our valuable space or your precious energy by giving equal time to stories of tragedy, failure & tumult. They get far more that their fair share of attention everywhere else. Future historians might even conclude that our age suffered from a collective obsessive-compulsive disorder: the pathological need to repetitively seek out reasons for how bad life is.
It’s not just about me and my dream of doing nothing. We don’t have a lot of time on this earth! We weren’t meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.
Hope is about choosing to believe that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.