I am terrified of failure. I have always organized my life in a way that prevents me from failing by never actually trying. When I was young, I would spend months practicing my gymnastic routines, but then on the day of the competitions I would fake getting sick so I wouldn’t have to compete. I would spend hours and hours practicing the high jump and then miss the bus on the day of the track meet. I habitually start things and never finish them. I have drawers full of writing that I am terrified of bringing out. I have film projects that remain on the shelf half-edited. I inhibit my own success by never completing anything.
I am terrified of failure. I have always organized my life in a way that prevents me from failing by never actually trying.
Two years ago I embarked on a mission to make a documentary film about the role of gender and sexuality in roller derby. The inclusive nature of the sport was fascinating to me, and I wanted to compare the conversations surrounding these topics in roller derby to those happening in other organized sports. My partners and I were successful in securing funding for the film and we have been working tirelessly towards it’s completion ever since.
While filming, we received a letter from a ten-year-old transgender girl named Crystal. She explained that her school has not allowed her to participate in team sports since her transition. She also told us about the relentless bullying and the time she was thrown in a dumpster by her schoolmates. It was heartbreaking. Crystal’s mother wanted to know if we could put her in contact with some of the athletes in our film. Over the course of several months, we watched as roller derby skaters from around the world raised money and donated skates and gear to Crystal. They even started a scholarship fund to fly her and her mother to Los Angeles for a junior roller derby camp. It was amazing to watch.
She also told us about the relentless bullying and the time she was thrown in a dumpster by her schoolmates.
One day I got a phone call from Crystal. She told me that she had thought long and hard about it, and wanted to be in the film. I was shocked. I had never really considered interviewing Crystal for the documentary. I saw our project as a great way to introduce her to people and advocate for her, but this suggestion really changed everything. I would no longer be making a film that I could throw up on a shelf and forget. I would be making a film that could potentially impact a young girl’s life.
I would no longer be making a film that I could throw up on a shelf and forget.
We were out of money, and flying the crew to Crystal seemed impossible, making it easy to just throw in the towel and give up on the notion. I was mulling all of this around in my head as I walked past the Wall of Goliaths at D&G. When we are hired, we are asked to frame our fears and put them on display and we are tasked with the challenge of overcoming them. There, staring back at me in a black frame, was my fear. Failure.
I ran to my desk and I immediately submitted a Defiance Club application. Three weeks later, D&G had me on a plane headed to Crystal. I spent over a week with my crew documenting Crystal in her daily life. It was hard to see her sitting on the sidelines with no opportunity of participating in sports. It was harder to see the toll that the bullying has taken on Crystal and her family.
Failure is part of the process on the road to success, and if you don’t learn how to fall down, you will never learn how to get back up.
On the last day of shooting, we traveled with Crystal across the continent to her first junior roller derby camp. The first thing they taught her was to fall down, the second thing they taught her was to get back up. Watching Crystal skate with girls her own age for the first time had me in tears. When I was her age I had spent all my time pulling myself out of sports for fear of failing and all she wanted was the opportunity to play. I knew in that moment that I was committed to conquering my Goliath, and Crystal’s bravery would show me the way. Finish what you start. Failure is part of the process on the road to success, and if you don’t learn how to fall down, you will never learn how to get back up.