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Learning to Fail, One Step at a Time

© Krista Stryker 2010
I moved to Amsterdam three years ago full of dreams of how I would spend my time there, yet it took only a year of constant failure to make me feel like a worthless human being.

I had certainly run into my fair share of bad luck.  My husband worked for Nike at the time, and we moved over there thinking I'd have no problem getting a job (a bright young college graduate with exciting ideas - who wouldn't want to hire me?).  But I had plenty of factors going against me:
  • The recession had just hit the US and was quickly radiating to the rest of the world, including Europe.
  • I didn't speak Dutch (this turned out to be a much bigger issue than I'd thought)
  • Being a relatively recent college graduate, I didn't have the mandatory 3-5 years of experience required by most of the companies there.
  • I didn't have an area of "specialty." 
Combine these external factors with the reality that I didn't know what the hell I actually wanted to do with my life, and it's pretty obvious why I may have had a lot of failed attempts.

Try and try again 

Though I had been a journalist before moving to the Netherlands, I realized pretty quickly after moving that I would have to be open to different opportunities.

So I tried getting a job at my husband's company.  No dice (not enough experience/no specialty).  

I tried working as an English-language correspondent for a Dutch newspaper.  They told me I needed to learn to read Dutch better - though I thought I could do the job just fine using a dictionary and Google translate (if you're wondering, I did take Dutch lessons, but it is not an easy/desirable language to learn).

I got my personal training certification and tried working at a gym just to have something to do.  Again, not enough Dutch (mind you, every Dutch person can speak English, they are just stubborn about it because they know Dutch is a dying language).  

I applied to every job I could think of with no luck.  Eventually I just gave up.  

Learning to fail

Giving up was the worst thing I could have done.  It made me lose my hope and my passion for life.  It made me think that I was worthless, that I used to be smart/interesting/ambitious/creative but that somewhere along the line I'd made a wrong decision and there was nothing I could do about it.  I was doomed to live an unfulfilling life.  In short, I was screwed.

But of course I was having a tough time.  I was living in a foreign country where I had no contacts, resources or people to help me.  I missed my family.  I was lonely.  The worst recession since the Great Depression had hit just as I had graduated college.  It was a tough time for a lot of people.  It still is.

Things gradually started to pick up for me, but only after I started accepting the following:
  • That I never want a real job (I define a real job as a 9 to 5 job at some sort of company or corporation, involving lack of freedom, creativity etc., but feel free to add your own interpretations).
  • That I actually am a creative person, and I do have something to say and contribute to the world.
  • That I haven't chosen the easiest path, but ultimately it will be the most fulfilling.
Everyone fails.  The key to success is to keep trying and to learn from your mistakes.

I know I'll get it right eventually.

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