WHAT is so wrong with having a good old, ridgey-didge go? I have been boring my friends and colleagues with this question since attendi...

WHAT is so wrong with having a good old, ridgey-didge go?

I have been boring my friends and colleagues with this question since attending All About Women at Sydney’s Opera House a couple of weekends ago, so I figured, in the interest of wider debate, to put the question to you.

As a child and on a long visit with my grandmother I was bored, restless and probably a right little prat and I whined a horrid, drawn-out “I cannnn’ttt” in her earshot. Quick as you like she bailed me up and shot back; “Spell can’t”.

Ha, who did this woman think I was? Of course you weren’t going to be able to trick me with this one. “C.A.N. apostrophe…”.

“No,” she said, stopping me before I could get to my grand finale of ‘T’. “Wrong. You spell can’t T.R.Y”.

With that she resumed whatever she was doing and left me starring, slack-jawed at (a) her terribly bad spelling and (b) the fact I’d just had a right ticking off, and (c) sadly for my bored whiny self, my grandmother, bad spelling or not, was onto something.

I can remember that conversation as clearly today as the day we had it and, between you and me, have rocked her line out a couple of times.

I raise this childhood memory because I felt my grandmother’s gee-up to get over myself and get on with it was the elephant in the room throughout all the sessions I attended at All About Women.

The program of speakers and panel debate designed to tease out issues impacting and informing feminism (my take on the day, not the advertised theme) was wide and varied and the first session I chose to toddle off to was titled “How to Fail”.

Now, I’ll lay it out there. Last year I made a decision to leave a job I loved and a career I’d built up over the past 18 years. I left almost two decades spent in a newsroom and 10 years at News Limited to start working for UNICEF. I know. I know. Bloody big gap in organisational philosophy there, right? Hmm, let’s leave that one for another day.

Anyhoot, as far as career changes go I thought I’d faffed it. Things didn’t seem to be going well and I was ready, several weeks in and well before my cursory three-month probationary period was up, to declare defeat and admit I’d failed.

As it is, I’m still plugging along and, looking back on those first weeks in the role, it was a period of transition I was just going to have to go through. My response to it and unexpected shock of the upheaval did, however, shift my expectations and in choosing to attend a panel discussion titled "How to Fail" I think I was looking for recognition that failure is a real, tangible and even necessary part of change.

The women on the panel were amazing, don’t get me wrong, but as I listened politely the curt tone of my grandmother was ringing in my ears. Why were we talking about failure simply as unrealised success and just calling it what it was? A fuck up. Yes, they happen and honestly, for me it was a breakthrough. To have failed was to be put on the other side of a very comfortable comfort zone, to take a look around and wonder at what I’d been missing out on and find a path through it.

It’s not far from what the panel was trying to say, but, glory be to Jesus, I was a little gob smacked to hear women actually say they don’t allow themselves to fail and suffer an almost crippling fear of it. Because, dear reader, it’s that crippling fear that keeps us women on the comfy side of whatever we’re all doing. Ah ha. It is. We all know it so why aren’t we "feeling the fear and doing it anyway"?

So, I ask, what is so wrong with having a ridgey-didge go?

PS: I’d love you to comment if you saw the discussion and tell me whether you felt the same.
PSS: If you didn’t see the discussion, maybe you’d like to comment anyway. 
PSSS:  There’s more where this came from. 

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  1. How can you "not allow yourself to fail". Huge parts of life are uncontrollable. If we never fail, we never learn.
    Great Post. Would love to hear more.

    1. Jodie. That's how I feel and it's a philosophy I have and that was really tested by my own recent experiences. I can't say I have a great fear of failure, if any (now), so it was a shock to hear how women framed this and how, when I started talking to colleagues and friends, they felt as well.

    2. Working in a primary school I wonder, If we never allow our kids to be not-the-best at something, if we constantly reframe every single thing into a success, what happens when they get into the real world? Are we setting them up for a shattering awakening or will they blithely reframe their whole lives.
      A kid should not fall apart when they don't come first, they cannot be first at everything everytime.......

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post and feel encouraged that you have more to say on the subject, Katie. Failure is so subjective. Also, I have found that since turning 50 alot of things that seemed okay and safe, are now intolerable. Likewise, things I was passionate about have suddenly lost their lustre and new, unexpected interests are popping up everywhere. Just because you've done something for 20 years you don't have to keep doing it. Good for you, choosing to change and actually going through with it is a HUGE success in and of itself. I heard a film director/writer/painter/musician the other day saying 'don't keep grinding the same old bone. Try new things all the time.' Simple advice but powerful. Often we get so focussed on 'success' that we forget to live. xx

  3. AMAZING. Tell me more. And I want to hear more from your learned readers too (if Jen and Jodie are any indication). Are there podcasts or such like of any of the AAW talks, do you know (actually, why don't I get off my chuff and look...)

  4. Such massive food for thought. We tell our kids that they should try anything, that winning doesn't matter, to find their passions. Yet... we don't seem to grow up to really believe those things ourselves. When did the business of living become a competition that you have to win? x

    1. It does feel competitive, doesn't it? Do we add to that, as bloggers and social media peeps? Do we?