How Failing Feels

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.”  – Rumi

I remember driving directly to my bridge with little thought behind my decision. Lying down on a bench, I gazed directly upwards —  right between where the massive structure split — into the clear blue sky. Despite the beautifully warm weather, I felt incredibly cold. I had just been fired. I started to shake as I felt — what can only be described as — my world coming down around me.

A bout of depression had me in a difficult place. I was constantly tired and distracted, even to the extent of crying at lunch.  Of course, this wasn’t the only reason  for my termination — the small five-person company had a lot wrong with it. I had all intention to quit after my coming holiday, but I was still shaken by what had happened. It was the spanner in the works that really turned my life upside down. From there, I made the decision to strictly apply for non-profit roles — eventually getting into government-funded volunteer program which placed me in Tonga for one year.

Upon returning, I moved to Sydney for one year — which was definitely a challenge. I never truly felt at home there but I stuck it out, and eventually things fell into place. As my contract came to an end, another suitable role opened up in Melbourne at the perfect time. Here, I found everything I failed to find in Sydney: a great living location, the perfect housemate, the perfect gym, and a continually expanding circle of friends. Things finally felt in place.

During the company induction for my current role, the CEO showed a painting by a man who had an ongoing history with mental health conditions. It was of a simple house, a fence and a green lawn. He had described it as the ‘safe place’ he wanted — in other words, a normal life. It’s also all I wanted for myself, and now it breaks my heart to say that I stand to lose it all.

This time it wasn’t my attitude. I never failed to show up with a smile — even on my most difficult days. Still, I’m not exactly sure how it all happened. How I’ve reached a point where I’m being told I’m not performing to the standards I need to. Even though my role involves directing people towards support services, I still failed to seek help. Maybe I just really wanted to believe I had everything under control. Had I acted sooner, I feel things could have been different. Had I trusted my manager and been honest about how I was waking up exhausted, struggling to concentrate, and feeling overwhelmed, maybe things could have taken a turn for the better rather than worse. I did start seeking support after returning from Nepal. This led to improvements in how I felt and in my performance… but it clearly wasn’t enough, soon enough.

Since receiving the news, I’ve felt a constant, familiar, chill. There’s shelter in sleeping and other escapes — but they are only temporary. Even work lets me pretend that everything is still as it was. I know I have to start thinking about my options soon — I just don’t know where to start. This might be the universe telling me something that I realised long ago… That I can’t stare into a screen for the rest of my life. That I’m better off finding something more aligned with my individual passions, strengths and weaknesses. The world needs more people who have come alive right?

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” – Pema Chödrön

I’ve been at the edge of uncertainty before — there times in fact — so I know anything could come up. But understandably, I’m not feeling particular confident in myself to summit whatever does arise. Right now my concern isn’t about heading somewhere new, but rather, avoiding where I’ve been before… Particularly how I felt upon returning from my year in Tonga. Where day-by-day your motivation and self-esteem shrinks as you desperately search for any sort of clue as to what your next move should be.

Back to the here and now — I’m not sure how long I’ve got left. But I’m still going to give it my heart, if not to prove my worth to those making this decision, then at least to myself.

I’m typing this from my balcony couch. Every now and then my eyes go from my screen to the few visible stars that aren’t cloaked by the city lights. I’d leave right now if I had the chance. No goodbyes or baggage necessary. Somewhere where there isn’t anyone to disappoint…

If there’s one harsher lesson I learnt in the Himalayas — and not reaching Everest Basecamp — it’s that, unfortunately, best intentions only get you so far in this world.

I’m sorry if I let you down.





  1. Hey Ricky, sorry to hear you’re going through a rough time. Let me know if you wanna Skype, I’m currently only 1 hour behind you so hopefully that makes it easier. Sending you good vibes <3

    1. <3 Thanks Jenny :) I'll let you know. Thank you for the postcard too, it was definitely a nice touch to my day. Yours is waiting for you back in Perth.

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