1)Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of 2)criteria if you let it. So I think it[‘s] fair to say that by any 3)conventional measure, a 4)mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an 5)epic scale. An 6)exceptionally short-lived marriage had 7)imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.
Now I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has…since represented as a kind of fairy tale 8)resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the 9)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 10)arena where I believed I truly belonged. I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, 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 11)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 12)inevitable. It is possible to live without failing at something, unless you live so 13)cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail 14)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 disciplined than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of 15)rubies.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from 16)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 17)adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any 18)qualification I ever earned.
So given a Time-Turner注, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of 19)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 20)humility to know that will enable you to survive its 21)vicissitudes.