Are Baby Horses Failures: Reframing an Age-old Question

Considering the educational opportunities I had in my teens compared with the career path I took in my twenties, I’ve often been overwhelmed by a great sense of failure. My career path could be compared to an infant horse trying to walk for the first time. It struggles to stand. It stumbles and falls. It looks like a total dumb ass and you’re like, “That baby horse is a failure at walking.”

But, all of a sudden, something magical happens. It manages to take a few steps before it falls again. Eventually, it becomes a proficient walker and you realize you were the dumb ass all along. You explain your stupidity to the baby horse and invite it out for a drink. Being a devout Catholic, the baby horse feels compelled to forgive you, and the two of you develop a longstanding acquaintanceship in which you can’t help but wonder if the baby horse is still wrestling with a grudge against you. But you grew up Protestant and maybe Catholics are just kind of like that.

Similar to many baby horses of historical significance, I’ve been fired from, walked off of, or resigned from more than fifty jobs over the past ten years. My resume is very much a work of creative nonfiction. It describes actual events but the author has taken some liberties for narrative effect. Years ago, I was let go from a car dealership after passing out on a test drive with a customer. One therapist described this event as the behavior of an alcoholic. Actually, I was just exhausted from all of the fun I’d been having the previous two days. Either way, in this position I learned to maintain a sense of ease during negotiations. At least that’s what I’ve told later employers.

Obviously, these weren’t the expectations I set for myself when I entered the workforce, but life isn’t predictable and sometimes you have to expand your expectations. I used to tell myself things like, “As long as you save a decent amount for retirement by the time you’re thirty, things will probably be okay.” Now, I say things like, “As long as you’re mostly sober when you drive, you’ll probably never be convicted of manslaughter.”

Of course, it hasn’t been all fun and games. It’s just this question of what to do for money has plagued me. Mental illness and a constant suspicion that I’m in wrong place have driven me away from a steady stream of opportunities. I frequently approach the stream only to find the water tastes of monotony and stale conversation.

I used to think it’s unfortunate that I’m not motivated by money or status. Yet, every self-destructive second of my life helped me discover what I really value in this world, so one day when I’m dying I’ll be able to look back and be happy with a decent portion of it. And all of the behavior of the past that doesn’t make sense to some people makes perfect sense in my head. In my head life is meaningless on a cosmic level, and the gravity we give it is just a joke we tell ourselves. It’s only in the present moment, that fickle awareness of passage, that we find meaning. When we grasp it, we find that we exist somewhere between our best and worst selves. When we lose it, we are always at our worst.

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