Recommended Reading Soundtrack: Hello My Old Heart by the Oh Hellos
I am a sucker for a movie scene that perfectly depicts a person leaping from the top of their game into the great abyss of the murky unknown. Writer/Director Cameron Crowe gives us plenty of these charming moments in his Oscar winning film “Jerry Maguire.”
Lead character Jerry is quickly figuring out that life is not what it seems as the masks of those he trusted are speedily being removed one by one, vulnerably exposing him to the littered path of his own clouded ego. To add another nail to his perceived coffin he realizes that his relationship with his fiancé is doomed. The breakup scene ends with a punch to his face nudging him further into the quicksand of his life with a declaration of his official entrance into Loserville. Classic.
Maybe looking into the silver lining of that “loser” feeling is not such a bad thing? Perhaps owning our inner “loser” leads to promising, untraveled roads and an appreciation for that which we judged – particularly about ourselves. Maybe it’s the only thing that can pull us out of our self-made quicksand?
So the question remains, what does being a loser mean to you? This is exactly what legendary Seattle-based record label Sub Pop wants applicants to answer for its annual “loser scholarship” award. When I first learned about this scholarship I couldn’t believe it. I found myself staring at the computer screen questioning my eyes and cognitive ability to process what I was reading.
In my heart Sub Pop has historically been a record label that supports the independent artist, introducing the world to talent that wouldn’t have a chance with a commercial giant. And then, to stumble upon their scholarship program students willing to talk about their failures and how it brought them closer to their goals?
So I decided to look into my own productive failures and answer that question as if I were lucky enough to be an Oregon or Washington high school senior vying for the scholarship. Out of all the questions on the bill, I’m torn between what being a “Sub Pop” loser means to me and how my biggest failure has brought me closer to a life goal. But in all honesty I feel the two questions go hand in hand.
I wish I could go with something light, like when I naively attempted to sing a song from The Little Mermaid at Karaoke and totally bombed. Then BS my way into some deep lesson behind the whole experience, but for some reason I don’t think that was Sub Pop’s aim. So I’ll go to the dark side.
When I was in my mid-20s I met someone that was a perfect pairing for my co-dependent self. He was an addict and I was an addict in my own way, constantly in search for my next fix of feeling needed. I was too scared of being alone to listen to my own inner voice that told me something was not quite right.
Just like Jerry in Crowe’s film, there was a moment in my relationship where I had a clear choice to exit and work on my fears of being the “loser” alone. But I didn’t have his courage to say, “It’s over” yet. So instead I married him and dragged my entire family into the dysfunctional relationship. Shortly after, I divorced and held onto a lot of shame around my “failure.” It took a long time to forgive myself, and not feel like the “loser” that exposed my family to the mess of me.
The Turning Point
This was truly a landmark failure from my ego’s perspective, but from my heart it was a turning point in my life that inspired me to become emotionally healthy and learn to value what I had to offer the world. This included a gift we all have- the gift of inspiration. We are here to inspire one another to become aware of our light in its entirety. Every time we feel like a “loser” and learn from that experience we have an opportunity to demonstrate to someone else that their life matters.
At the end of the recent “Biggest Loser” finale, one of the contestants named Colby Wright shared that in telling his story about his father’s suicide and the pain it caused him as a son and human being, someone that had also been planning to take their own life reached out to him. The viewer told Colby that because he opened himself up and shared his story, they decided to get help and not give up their life.
To me, that’s what being a “loser” is all about. It’s about making mistakes, owning them and sharing them with others even when we feel vulnerable and scared. Whether it’s through our art, or just talking to someone you know that needs help- we can all make a difference in this world through our unique experiences and productive failures.
Let’s Take the Leap Together
I say- let’s take the leap together and share with others what makes us human. Whether you call it feeling like a “loser” or giving up- it’s all one in the same. We are all here to teach one another that the trip to Loserville is not the end, it is only the beginning.