You are not a failure.
You are not that meeting where you felt you sounded stupid.
You are not the tremble in your voice, the anxiety in your stomach or the self-doubt in your mind.
You are not a badly-graded assignment, or a presentation that went wrong.
You are not the mistake you made, or a negative piece of feedback, nor a passive aggressive email.
You are not the jobs you didn't get, or even the jobs you did.
You are the person who shows up. Who tries. Who keeps going, even when they're feeling fragile. Who masters the mess of being human and managing a human body, with complex thoughts and feelings, as best they can.
You are capable and brave and significant, even when it feels like you're not.
You, with all of your complexities and intricacies and secrets and hopes are dreams, are enough. More than enough. Wonderful, in fact.
There's so much more to you than what you do for a living.
Success ebbs and flows. Like you, it changes with the seasons. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. Sometimes you feel lost, sometimes you feel found. It's fleeting, always. And when you feel like you've finally got it in your grasp, it changes. Just like that. The parameters of success are never ending and always changing.
You see, you can't focus your fulfilment and contentment on something that's never really yours to keep.
Instead, all you can do is show up, do your best and, for the love of god, be kind to yourself.
Instead of scorning yourself for your 'mistakes', applaud yourself for your motivation.
Instead of defining yourself by your off days, focus on the moments you felt alive.
Trust your timing. Trust the process. Know that your time will come, but it will also go and there's nothing any of us can do about it.
Once you come to terms with the fact that success and failure are never really yours to keep, everything else feels lighter.
Because when did we start defining our lives with such transient terms, anyway? This is your life, not an exam or, heaven forbid, a driving test.
Your definitions of success and failure have been created in your head.
Sure, society and trash TV shows and reality stars and celebrity culture and Silicon Valley ideals have played their part, but those definitions, fundamentally, live in your head. Which is great because you, dear reader, can change them.
You can change them, update them and redesign them.
The next time you feel behind or lost or down or fed up, remember this:
You are not too old.
You will mess up, but you will bounce back.
You will have things that go wrong (we all do), but those are the things that will teach you the most.
You will likely lead a life that's different from the one you envisioned.
But you will never, ever, ever be a failure.