Today it’s 25 years ago, that I did something that at first looked like my biggest mistake up till then. I was 19 years old and for the first time in my life, my parents were on holiday without me.
I felt an adult. I had been living more or less on my own the year before at university.
Although 1991, had been a tough year, by the summer I felt like I finally had control again over my life and everything was about to get better. I had again a girlfriend, my parents trusted me to stay home in their house. In my hometown I had been going for the first time in my life to 10 days of partying at Gentse Feesten. And I was doing volunteer work with children at a playground. I felt at the top of my life.
And then 1 august 1991, around 19 hours, fate struck, or was it desitiny?
I made my own French Fries, and with that I burned down my parents house.
I was 19, all alone, no cell phone, without a number to call my parents, no house, wearing nothing but underwear and a pair of jeans. No t-shirt, no socks, no shoes. I went to my neighbor and I called my girlfriend, unfortunately her parents had never seen me, and they did not believe that a boyfriend they officially did not knew she had, had just burned down a house. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.
I felt very very lonely.
I was 19, although my life was not an open book to my parents, I realized then, there was no way that I could hide this from my parents. And even postponing this, would not help me.
Yes that evening I learned the value of transparency and default to open.
First thing my mother did when she came home, she did not say a word, she hugged me. That hug told me; yes you failed, and no you are not a failure.
It was a healing hug and it was the start of a long journey, that makes it possible that I can say that for the biggest part of the next 25 years, burning down that house was one of the best things that happened to me.
No, I’m no advising you to do the same. I’m advising you, to look at the failures in your life and see what you can learn from it.
What do you gain from hiding them? Most people gain a life of fear. Fear for being embarrassed. I had just burned down a house and everyone around me, knew about it. I had no place to hide. not literally, not emotionally. Yes there were (Tons of) people that made fun of me. I even had a friend who yelled at me. He yelled because, yeah because of what? It wasn’t clear to me at the time, now I would say, he yelled because of his own fear. Today, I’m ok with it, very OK with it. It told me he was not a real friend. The kids and colleagues at the playground on the other hand turned out to be gold.
Today I will celebrate the fire. Celebrate at work, and celebrate with my family; I’ll make some French Fries and I’ll explain to my son why burning down the house turned out to be ok.
And next time I make a mistake, I’ll do a #FailureBow. If you haven’t decided what to eat today, have some French Fries and think of your failures.