The Difference Between a Fall and a Fail

“The secret to life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” Paulo Coehlo

You know those rom-coms where the girl storms out of the guy’s life, because he messed up too many times and she decides to leave the country? As the girl is at the airport about to board her flight, the guy realizes all his mistakes but believes he might still have another chance.  Distraught, he gets a taxi and there’s a dramatic scene where he runs through the airport, not caring about security and rushes to her, and confesses his feelings. There are tears and usually a crowd gathers as the guy is confessing his love while evading security guards. We have all seen some version of this movie.

When I was 16, I had my own rom-com moment.

I was two weeks into dating my girlfriend and I’m madly in love…Well, I think we’re dating. She thinks we’re friends. But I was gonna fix that!

I invited her to my house and told my mom she had to leave for a couple of hours. Before she comes over, I set everything up. I had Coca-Cola and pizza ready on the coffee table and a VHS tape (remember VHS?!)  of Con Air and I’m planning to do “the move.”

You know “the move.”  It is another rom-com staple – the guy yawns and brings his arm around the girl’s shoulders and then kisses her.

I was so anxious. I decided I needed to practice. I put two pillows on the couch exactly where she was supposed to sit and I just practiced it until it became smooth.  Lean down to put in the VHS tape, calmly step back and reach my arm around without even looking. I did this for a good five, ten minutes and I was feeling confident.

Looking back,  I remember how nervous she was and how nervous I was. I took her coat and she was about to sit in the wrong place on the couch! I had practiced with the pillow version of her in a different spot, so I directed her to the “better” position on the couch.

It had to be controlled and perfect. It was the only way she would be my girlfriend and know how I feel, right? I needed to nail the kiss. I was ready to do “the move.”  I got off the couch, I put the cassette in and without looking back I swung my arm around.

I knew that it was exactly two steps from the tv to the couch. Everything had been measured and accounted for – I had planned it all perfectly!

Except… as I was effortlessly swinging my arm around, trying to be casual and not even looking, she leaned over with her head forward to grab a coke.

My elbow connected with her head and eye and I not only felt the bump, but I heard it as well. It was a knockout blow.

She screamed, her head snapped back and she crumpled into a heap on the floor and started crying.

I panicked! But I’m like, wait, it’s not too late –  I can still fix this!

I ran to the freezer to grab some ice. And as I’m running back with ice in my hands, I say, “Hey, I’ve got ice!”  She looked up, but I was nervous and had an adrenaline rush. So I didn’t bring the ice to her eye, I shoved the ice towards her and hit her in the same eye again!

She yells out again as the ice slipped out of my hands and now we are both on the ground sobbing.

The poor girl, I had just hit her in the same eye twice!

After 10 minutes of crying. I pick her up and at this point, there’s no way. There’s no way I can win. I failed. I have lost the love of my life. There is no way to recover.

Defeated, I looked up and said “Hey maybe I should take you home.”

She looked up tearfully and said it was a good idea and she wanted to go home.

At 16 years old, taking her home meant that I walked across the street with her to wait for the bus.  So I walked with her across the street to the bus stop and in our silence, I was hating myself.

How could I have lost this chance? When I first saw her walk into the class, time slowed down. I knew from that moment, I loved her. I knew that she was supposed to be with me. Yet I failed, right? How could I possibly recover from this?

The bus pulled up and I mournfully said “Hey, ok, bye.”  Then I walked away. But as I was walking away, the bus doors opened and I realized that if she got on that bus and I didn’t do something, I was never gonna see her again. I needed to take another chance. As she took her first step onto the bus, I turned my head and I yelled “Alexis!”

Oh yes. Her name was Alexis.

She paused and I ran up to her and gave her a small peck on the cheek and turned my head away because I was so red with embarrassment.

But as I walked away, I glanced back and saw the weirdest sight; a  15 year old girl smiling with rosy cheeks and a black eye. Alexis became my girlfriend for a year and a half and was the first girl to ever meet my mom.

And I do my best to channel that 16 year old brave Alex. Because what changed in the five seconds between the time I was walking away thinking I had failed and then turning back and kissing her was my mindset.

My mindset changed so I believed that maybe I didn’t fail. We tend to think of failures as irreversible. But maybe this wasn’t a failure, maybe this was just a mistake and mistakes are fixable. You can get up from a fall or a mistake. You can just get back up and try again. And so this week I want you to channel that 16 year old kid who thinks “Hey, this is just a mistake.”

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