The art of failing

“Fearlessness connotes freedom from all external fear…”

            As the van pulled up into the school for the blind, my eyes wandered to grasp the unfamiliar setting before me. Goosebumps appeared on my tanned arms while my mind jumped through the puddles of confusion bubbling inside. I had never been in a setting where I had a chance to interact with blind people and as I dived into this journey, I saw the blank pages of my experience tainted with the fear of the unknown swirling in my body, heart and mind.

            I understood that this fear shouldn’t cripple my interaction with the enthusiastic students as they smiled with their open hearts and taught us how to play cricket. But, the growing presence of my fear of unknown slightly intimidated me. I mindfully observed the school and the younger children playing on the swings. A short, petite boy held one handle of his broken swing as he tried to understand what it was. His hands moved gracefully. Slowly and steadily, his fingers maneuvered around the handle. His face relaxed as he familiarized himself with the texture of the swing with the touch of his hands. He began to understand the new and unfamiliar. The young, enthusiastic boy struggled to attach the handle to the long pole of the swing and tried relentlessly, each time feeling carefully and attempting to fix the swing. My eyes opened in sheer surprise as I tried to wrap my mind around his unwavering effort and spirit. I didn’t quite understand the meaning of failing and trying consistently until that moment. Every time he hooked the handle onto the pole, he mindfully tested the swing and every time he fell, his energy was pronounced, his touch was relaxed and his effort was sustained.

            My experience at the blind school shook the pillars of my heart as I struggled to understand my feelings. I felt so much every day but I couldn’t put a finger at any moment to a particular emotion precisely. A rollercoaster of varying sentiments shimmered like a spectrum, harsh and soft-- anxiety, fear, care, love, and nervousness.

            For the first couple of days of our Design for Change project, my heart was taken over by the fear of an incomplete and unaccomplished project that we may design with the children at the Blind school. It was the fear of failure that inundated the canals of my thoughts. Each time our group spoke about the implementation of our ideas, I worried that our final product wouldn’t be as stunning as I may want it to be. My fear spoke to me several times during this process because during the initial phase of our project, my focus was mainly outcome oriented. However, on our third day of our design for change project, I was reminded of the young boy at the blind school and the image of his continuous, unwavering effort. He was no different from any of us but he understood the difference between the internal and external fear. His passion to overcome his internal fear surpassed his fright concerning the external. My greatest struggle during this process was to allow myself to detach myself while being attached. My external fear was the inability to show the concern and care that I had for the children in a tangible form. However, a later realization struck me as I began to understand my fear instead of the game of running and chasing going on in my mind. My fear led me to think that the unknown result of our project at the blind school was bound to be a cause of agitation. But, the understanding of my fear fashioned my thinking into a process-oriented learning. I grasped the difference between letting my fear breathe and suffocating it; it may exist but it will not hinder the journey of the heart.