Being so utterly disappointed in Facebook’s interpretation of my 2016, I decided to think seriously about how my year actually has gone. As far as things go, it’s been a pretty big one. Over the next 10 days, I’ll be reviewing my year by alternating between the worst and best bits of the year. I hope that the introspection and discussion can set us up for a better year next year.
We’re coming to some of the best bits of my year, but today it’s a little bittersweet.
Picture me, sometime in May. I am sat at home in front of my computer, and I am writing my thesis – a common undertaking for me at the time. I am in quite a state. I’m trying to work to a July deadline for the thesis. My experiments aren’t working. I can’t figure out what I need to do to make my data make sense. I have run out of experimental time. I’m broke. In short: I am failing in more ways than I knew I could.
The stress has built up so far I’m beyond panic, just numbly working in the hope it might magically get better. I don’t believe that it will, but I have to try. I take a break to watch a short video about the creation of Overwatch. It features Jeff Kaplan discussing project Titan, Blizzard’s famously cancelled game. Jeff is saying how it felt to have to admit they weren’t going to ship the game. How hard he took the loss, the sense of complete failure despite working their hardest. How he interpreted the phrase “you’re only as good as your last game”.
How Overwatch grew from the ashes of Titan.
I don’t know when exactly it hit me, but I remember the sensation. I was crying before I really knew why. I couldn’t stop, couldn’t help myself, couldn’t have a coherent thought. It’s the only time all year that I cried deeply and sincerely, and the first time I remember being genuinely surprised at myself. I’d got the message;
It’s okay to fail.
Months later, I’m only just understanding the degree to which that moment changed me. I really did have a weight lifted from my shoulders. Sure, I’d failed – I knew I couldn’t change that. It didn’t matter, though. I’d realized that just because I had failed, and even if I didn’t ever succeed at my PhD, I could succeed elsewhere. In another time, in another way: I could succeed, and I would be stronger for my failure.
Think what you will of my choosing an apparent low as one of the best moments of my year. I changed at that moment, and came out a better person. I was better for failing. I went on to damn well succeed.
Without that moment, I would be a completely broken man right now. For that, I am truly thankful.