Why This Millennial Can't Help but See These 4 Failures as Roaring Successes

There's podcasts, books and studies aplenty these days on why "Failure" should no longer be seen as a dirty word.

The idea of failing as a millennial has always been seen as a dark mark on the record or a shadow of your personality; a part of your journey best left forgotten and far back in the past. We were told we had the world at our feet and we could do anything, so we strode out into the big world, ready to make waves and relish in our guaranteed financial, professional and social successes.

Obviously, this isn't how life works. Not just for our generation, but for any generation. We don't simply walk into the dream life, and not all of us are kitted out for our dream jobs.

But I digress. I really wanted to speak about some of of my "Failures" and write about why I now see them as massive successes - just in the off chance that someone, somewhere, might read this and change their perspective on these life lessons they've also been blessed with.

Failure 1: Academic Success

At school, I was relentlessly average. I never did badly as such but I sure as hell didn't excel either. I was a product of my own deep ingrained laziness, and a corrupt school system with one goal: send kids to University, or they've failed.

Spoiler alert: I didn't go to university. I didn't even finish Sixth Form.

As I watched academically gifted friends, mates who worked their butts off and incredibly talented peers push through school and then college, I soon realised this wasn't for me. I was frustrated, I was bored, and I had absolutely no drive.

Staying in education felt futile - and it was confirmed by the structure and attitude of some of the education professionals around me; when once asked at age 16 what I planned to do at University, and I explained I didn't want to go, I was asked "Well, why the fuck are you in my class then?"

With what felt like no support, and absolutely no help, I eventually decided to quit and take on a modern apprenticeship, and the whispers of my failure were deafening. 

Success 1: Finding a career

I went into hairdressing - once touted to me by a family member as a last resort if you don't succeed in school, seen as a drop-outs game for losers. 

But despite being in a global financial crisis, I saw relatable young women making good money. I saw that hairdressers were happy, stress-free (mostly), and lived amazing lives. At just 17 I saw that perhaps there was hope, so I dove straight into an apprenticeship and worked my ass off to achieve just this.

I commuted on a winding country bus route for over two and a half hours each day, I ran around making coffees, assisting stylists and lugging wet towels to a laundrette. It was dogsbody work, but it made me who I am, and it carved a future for me in a world which made me feel like a failure.

I have since been hairdressing for, at the time of writing this, nearly 14 years. It's created a backbone to my life, a fallback solution when things go wrong and a creative and social outlet which has made me who I am.

Dropping out is one of my biggest successes, and I'm so proud of 17 year old me for failing, quitting, giving up, and going into a last resort. What a miracle.


Failure 2: Return to Education

After a few years, I was a pretty good hairdresser. I was employed, I was in a steady relationship, my life was ticking over just fine. But I was getting restless - naive in my youth - I was still the same age as most of my friends in their second years of university, and I felt like perhaps I had learnt everything in hairdressing (I really hadn't but that's a whole other ego driven narrative).

I was watching people build towards bigger dreams than my own realised success (which, at that point, was a boyfriend and new shoes every other week). I used to spend around £30 a month on fashion magazines. I pored over the fashion spreads, studied the articles and lusted after designer gear, and I slowly began to think: perhaps it's time I aim a little higher.

I then decided, it was time to embark on my fashion career. I wrote to London College of Fashion and started researching access courses. I wanted to do a Fashion Studies course, with the plan (heavily inspired by the rise of blogging culture) of becoming a fashion journalist. I spend a whole paycheck in Jaeger buying Fashion Professional clothes (little of them to really get any wear) and began applying for jobs in the few fashionable high street shops around.

And then, I got the willies.

I couldn't do it. It seemed like too much. I took any bit of doubt in anyone's voice as a sign that I would be incapable of this move. I looked in the mirror and felt like a kid dressed in their mum's clothes. It felt damn wrong and I just couldn't shake the feeling it was a huge mistake...

Success 2: Finding Realistic Clarity 

This is still such a hard one for me; I still hold resentment for some of the people in my life at the time who discouraged me. But what I realise now is, being that easily discouraged was a sign that this was not a good move for me. To upheave my whole life for an uncertain future at such a young age absolutely could have been a success, but not for me at that time.

I had little to no confidence, and I needed to find routes to happiness in my own journey without just noping out of this one and plonking myself in another. I can see now that writing alone would never have been creatively fulfilling enough for me, and in a world as competitive as the fashion industry in London, this little fish with no bravado, confidence or self esteem would get definitely get swallowed up.

Failure 3: Moving Out...and Back Home Again.

I lived at at home until I was 21. I then moved out. And it just didn't work. I was in a horrible mental place, my social circle was tiny (almost non-existent), I was unhappy in my relationship and there was some background noise in my life which was causing me so much trauma.

I moved back home after just 2 weeks. I'd broken up with my boyfriend, and being alone felt too much. My parents and dear brother came, and packed up my room, and moved me straight back. I felt like SUCH a loser - how have I managed to fail just being independent at 21? How am I ever going to rebuild my life?

Success 3: Say Yes More 

It's super cheesy to say that this was a pivotal moment in my adult live, but never since has anything been such a gargantuan change of journey than this period in my life. I used to blame being in a relationship as being the reason I had no friends and my life was quiet, dull and slow.

But you know what? The only person in my way was me. Not a boyfriend. Not a job. Me.

So, after moving back home, I made some big decisions. I learnt to drive. I decided to start saying yes. To every opportunity. Every party, night out, coffee date, holiday, work opportunity. I threw myself into life. It's cheesy to say you have to hit rock bottom to come back out the other side, but oh did it work for me.

I found confidence, I found fun, I found out who I was on my own, I surrounded myself with friends from all walks of life and I made new ones along the way. I still look back at this period of my life with such fondness, and my original "failure" was the catalyst for some many incredible memories.

Failure 4: Sparkle Bar

Let's fast forward a few (magical) years. 

I'm in a new relationship and finally managed to move out - successfully. I've left my hairdressing job for a change of pace, and eventually start working freelance (inspired by a dream whilst at Glasto, the best way to make any decision amirite?)

It's 2017, and festival fashion is going global. Brands making face gems, glitter, and avant garde outfits are huge. Festivals are popping up everywhere. Sequins become an integral part of everyone's wardrobe for the first time since the 1980s - and bloody hell, I was in my element.

After attending a festival wedding with a "glitter bar", and ending up doing everyone's glitter, I decided this would be an amazing business. I wanted to go to festivals and parties, weddings and hen dos, and I wanted to do facepaint and glitter and have fun. So I did.

I set up a small business as an off-shoot to my hairdressing business, and I did glitter. I did a handful of weddings, hen dos, I even did a New Year's Eve in a bar (which was less fun as it sounds because I was incredibly hungover...)

Success 4: Business is Bloody Hard

In the dawn of Instagram being used as a business tool, comparison was rife. I had no real experience of business, asking for money, making invoices or the patience involved as things take off. I just saw all these other small businesses doing super well, and I was like, well why the hell isn't mine?

I'll tell you why: because I didn't work at it. 

I didn't research marketing - I expected jobs to just fall in my lap.

I didn't believe I was very good - so I had no confidence charging for my services.

I wasn't consistent - I dropped the ball all the time.

And I still wondered why my business wasn't busy or making any money. But Sparkle Bar merged into Until Dawn as I started making festival headdresses and selling them, and eventually I closed all things Sparkle Bar because I realised that, even if I was busy, I would be busy on weekends and evenings and all the times I wanted to be free.

I learnt so much from this failed business. And I can't paint the business up to be anything other than a failure, I absolutely sucked at it, but everything I failed at with this, I learnt from when I continued in my freelance work and eventually into Until Dawn.

I am so humbled and grateful for the lesson that, if you don't work hard, nothing will just fall  into your lap. The world isn't that nice, and if you want to find your own successes, you have to be willing to learn constantly.

Success is objective, and some of the most "successful" people in the world are still working towards something. These are in no way my full list of failures, but they're the ones I take as being both my biggest fails and my biggest successes.

I not only learnt a lot about myself from them, but I learnt so much about the world of small business, entrepreneurship, and working damn hard to get what you want.

My business might not be making me 5 figure salaries yet, but I'm slowly, through a trail of fail and a journey of fuck-ups, finding my way to my own version of success.

Why This Millennial Can't Help but See These 4 Failures as Roaring Successes
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