In early July 2012, my application to be a rifleman in the Army Reserve was turned down because the recruiting pysch reckoned I needed more life experience. This wasn’t a “no” I’d take lightly. My “up yours” was to hike to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and then spend some time in Hong Kong during December last year.
When I got home, I began to seriously think of applying to the French Foreign Legion and when I read about them, I learnt the story of a legionnaire named Alex Rowe, who became one of its stars even though the British Army rejected him for a detached retina.
Failure gives you the chance to start again, and when you do, you’re twice as strong.
I didn’t see my first failure as ultimate, I was just moving towards my goal from another direction. I hiked up Kilimanjaro in July and when I got home I decided I was going to France in November. I was going to fly to the other side of the world to pursue my dream and why the Hell not? I’m 27, living at home and this was a way to get out and start my own thing. If I got accepted, I’d be paid in Euros and could become a French citizen after three years of service. Sure, I could be dead before my 33rd birthday but I believe it’s better to have a short yet full life than a long and miserable one.
An early death didn’t scare me, this was my hope and I would put my arse on the line for it. So I bought my plane ticket to Paris and then picked the dates when I’d quit my job and fly out. Meanwhile I kept running, lifting and taught myself to ask for the train station in French.
In mid-September shit happened, I discovered a hernia in my abdomen and had to shelve everything. I felt numb. This was something I nurtured for two years and it was over before I could put a foot in France. I suspect when my parents found out, they were secretly overjoyed. Their only son wasn’t going to get himself killed after all. I began dismantling my dream by deleting the Foreign Legion bookmarks I’d saved on my computer. Then, I went to Nepal again and Kuala Lumpur to place mental distance between that and the future.
When shit happens, and I’m sure you’ve got a story of your own, it’s easy to believe your life has ended. I felt like that in the weeks after discovering my hernia and then there’s mourning for what could’ve been. A new boyfriend or girlfriend, new job, money, whatever. I wanted a fresh start on the other side of the planet but I’m still in Sydney. It’s nevertheless important to grieve, but it can blind us to lessons we learnt over the process. And sometimes it’s about what we became, than what we had to gain.
Whenever you fail, I urge you run a post-mortem on it. Apart from understanding what went wrong, think about the qualities you displayed while you went after your goal. Mine were resilience, focus and discipline. Failure gives you the chance to start again, and when you do, you’re twice as strong.