prose// facing Failure

I am grappling with just so many things this semester. I think the biggest one, right now, the biggest mountain I am staring at and trying to figure out how to cross is Failure. There. I have named it and now I am one step closer to conquering it, which seems paradoxical, and perhaps, it is.

I graduated from a “good” high school. I wasn’t the smartest or the brightest but I made it through and I did well. I have often done well. Things come to me and sometimes I have worked hard for them and sometimes I have not but they become mine nonetheless. I know about success too much I suppose. It’s like looking at the world and only being able to see a variation of one color and missing out on all the others. The world is beautiful looking like that but it is not itself. And now here I am, finally facing Failure.

This semester I have fallen down, fallen down, and fallen down again. I have tried and I have forgotten to do so, and have been left with the bitter taste of the things and the person I could have been left in my mouth, and the time I spent waiting for courage to arrive piled up in my hands. I have laid at the base of this campus and watched people zip and float and fly right past me and I could not move my arms to catch hold and ride with them. Stumbled down and stopped there, have wondered where I went wrong and what I forgot and what changed about the world because it looks so different than it did before. Things are grayer and bleaker and scarier than they were before.

Fear is just so paralyzing. And I am afraid of Failure. Of this magnanimous being looming before me that I must make it past. I know there is something bluer and brighter and more kind on the other side, but I do not know how to reach it from here.

I feel small and for so long I have felt bigger than I am. That’s what ego and years of people applauding can do to you. You forget that you can crumble, that you can slip, that you can be wrong. And I did. I forgot them all and now they have come banging on the door with ferocity and menace. And I am terrified. And terror is paralyzing.

A friend of mine told me the other day that I will never admit when I am wrong. She is right I suppose. It is one of my any sad and banish-able things about myself that I hold in my head and let drip into my heart. I think about why that is the case often. How as a black woman I am not able to let myself be wrong, let myself be weak, let myself expose my heel and walk out the room still Achilles and still alive. It is so hard to put my pride away and let myself be human. To let the ways, I am not perfect wash over me and leave me cleaner and lighter and free. For so long, we, women, both black and Muslim and all of us who are standing at the intersection, have not been able to be human. It has been unaffordable, and all too risky to let myself sit in my own ignorance and inability, feel the weight of what it means to be wrong, and then blow it away.

But humanity, at its root, I guess, is a story of a mistake. God said don’t and Adam and Eve did. If it wasn’t for that pivotal, crucial, tipping-point of a mistake, humanity would not be here. I would not and you would not and so this mountain is a part of an ancestral story, it is sacred in its own way, holy and worthy in and of itself. Purposed by God, and I was created by Him, and I am human and all of those things are True. And the Truth is never anything but liberating. Painful it can be, gruesome, growling, even rabid, but always liberating.

I guess failure is in our DNA, the failure to meet the expectations we set for ourselves is grafted into our very own cells and we cannot pray or study or work that away. There is something unnatural, inhuman, and strange about the ways I have been taught to be in the world, the ways I have been trained to place up my own ego as a barrier between me and the colossal mound ahead. The cultures I have absorbed, in school, in class, in conversation, have taught me to stop at this point in the road, and instead of clear a path, to dig my grave.

There are a thousand and one things I do not know. I listen to friends talk about math and science and engineering and I count on my hands how many words I do not recognize. There are languages I cannot speak, places whose landmarks do not mean anything to me yet, and so many ways to trudge through life that I have not yet had the chance to greet. I number the things I have yet to learn and I make lists of all the ways I am not all-knowing. And you know what? I, today, I, Mona, am grateful.

So yes. I have failed. I have failed miserably and worked tirelessly and still have found no reward. I have been broken and blistered and still have so many things left to lose. I have let go of God’s rope and chased after it until my heart was ready to spill out of my throat and still I have missed the boat more times that I have caught it.

I have arrived at Mt. Failure and I have little on my back and few nice and neat things packed into my heart but I cannot believe this is the end of the road, or that what is on the other side is less valuable than where I am standing. Movement trumps stagnation. Growth trumps comfort. And fight till the end trumps defeat. I have not been defeated yet.

Insha’Allah I am gifted another tomorrow. I shall update you on the climb.

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