Promise Me You’ll Fail

Shana Warkentine Meyer, Regional Director

May 31, 2019

Time marches on. I recently had the opportunity to chaperone my high school daughter’s senior service day. Groups of students descended upon the city to do their small part to help others. Our energetic band of volunteers painted props, planted flowers, peeled and stuck floor tape, and cleaned storage closets at the Dance Arts Center. By the end of our time there, the students had begun having fun with some of the props they’d found in the storage closet. Pipe cleaners became headbands; strips of cloth became twirling ribbons; children’s drums became the back-beat to the songs of the 2000s they had requested. When a High School Musical song came on (according to them, High School Musical 2 was the best), they choreographed their own song, laughing and dancing to “We’re all in this together.” Funny, and a little cheesy, and not at all perfect, but spontaneous, honest fun. As I watched the little group, I realized that in less than a week, they will be graduating from high school. In a few months, these “kids” will be entering our campuses as freshmen.

Fortuitously, a Facebook memory popped up in my feed today. I don’t think it was just chance that I once again saw “promise me you’ll fail….,” just as I was contemplating these 18-year olds’ futures. I don’t know the author of this piece to properly attribute them for their powerful words. As I think about my daughter, her high school friends, and the roads they have ahead, I want them to promise me they’ll fail.

Promise me you’ll fail…..

this is a big and bold promise to me that you will fail. Promise me you’ll stumble. You’ll make mistakes – big ones and little ones. You’ll be unafraid to ask questions. You’ll take risks that are bigger than your own body and your own space.

Promise me you won’t let fear drive the car. You will refuse to let fear drive the car (it was worth writing that twice). You will explore possibilities. You will partner with yourself instead of bullying yourself. You will be young, and dumb, and restless, and passionate.

You will let things mess you up.  You will try your best. You will give tasks everything you have in a moment when you are asked to give it all. You will be unafraid of the doors that slam in your face again and again. You will bear huge rejections. You will cheer on the victories of others.

You won’t let people belittle your creativity. You will refuse to be kicked down by the things in this world that want to yell in your face, “you can’t. You can’t. You shouldn’t. You won’t.” You will silence the loud and rowdy naysayers with one footstep after another footstep.

You will give yourself grace. Buckets of grace.

Promise me you’ll fail. Failure is one of the sweetest parts of this life thing. It will mold you. It will make you new. It will push you to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday. And it isn’t that the only goal worth pinning your whole life to: the hope you’ll come out looking different at the end of this.

What a lesson for us all. While high school graduations may be a few (or more than a few) years behind us, we still have room to ask for growth from mistakes, to ask more questions, and to take risks. We should continue to push ourselves for new opportunities and give ourselves (and others) grace when we fail. We must relentlessly pursue our passions, forge forward, and—fail.  We owe it to ourselves; we owe it to our students; and we owe it to future generations like this year’s group of graduating high school seniors to reach for the stars, set new sights—and along the way, allow for the crash & burn. Keep reaching & stretching & eventually--we just might get it right & go farther than we ever thought possible.

Congratulations to high school seniors everywhere! I hope to see you entering our college campuses, but no matter where you land—technical schools, the labor force, as stay-at-home parents, the armed forces….wherever you go, promise me you’ll fail.

Until next time,

Shana Warkentine Meyer

NASPA IV-W Regional Director

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