Yes, its a quite literal and brutal name. But it was such a joy speaking at the F Up Night that was held at HummingTree (a co-working space for creatives in Jeddah). I felt honored to be invited. I felt excited to be sharing something so vulnerable as messing up. Because, especially once you’re engrossed in the social media world, you note that people talk alot about vulnerability but what they post and pose for is still perfection.
We have a self created stigma around failure. Failure is such an inescapable part of our lives and also such a crucial one, because we wouldn’t know success without it! And yet the realization that we have failed often cripples us.
As an artist, as a mother, as a blogger, as a humanitarian I have faced so many hurdles on my journey. But a speed bump on a long road isn’t a failure, quitting is. The day you quit you let the failure define you. The day you quit you are telling yourself that the only thing that mattered was that one expectation you had of yourself, that one destination you had in mind. The day you quit you are invalidating the beautiful journey of self revelation you have been on.
So for me, embracing the journey means everything. Embracing the journey means failure is to be anticipated and celebrated. Embracing the journey means I don’t just live with failure, I grow with it.
F Up Nights is a global initiative hoping to break the stigma of talking about mistakes and instead embrace our human side, and be proud that we put ourselves out there, tried, learnt and grew because of it. By sharing these relatable stories we create real connections and empowerment.
Excited to be speaking about this meaningful topic this Saturday, 9th March, 7-9 PM. Come hear me speak atHumming Tree! Contact them for details!❤️
Here is a transcript of my speech:
Hi guys, My name is Kehkashan, I am and have been an artist my whole life but more seriously so these past 5 years. My greatest passion is public art, using my pieces to create interactive journeys for my audience. I also love to imagine and curate art events that can transform lives back home, in Pakistan. I also happen to be a mother to three little ones.
But before I get into my own story, I just want to raise an interesting point. Failure is so subjective, because each and every person has a different idea of success. Not to mention everytime we achieve one thing, our minds immediately hop to the next thing on our list of wants. The next promotion, the next feature, the next opportunity, the next outfit. We humans are quite the insatiable creatures.
But even if we take a more objective view of failure, failure is inescapable. As an artist I fail at least once every two pieces I create. (quote to put): My vision is always ahead of my execution. The piece just doesn’t turn out quite as I had imagined. As a mother I fail at least three times a day (if not more); everyday I feel guilt for a 100 different things and my failures teach me more than anything I teach my kids. And everyday I fail as a human; my brain usually reminds me of these embarrassing moments just when I am about to fall asleep. Can anyone here relate to that? Yeah, they aren’t kidding when they say ‘to err is human’.
But these are failures we all face, and I don’t think we even view them as failures. These moments when things don’t go our way come about daily and we deal with them daily and we move on. Yet there are other moments in our lives that can be like a real kick to the gut. These are the moments when our failures become tangible, and the rock the very foundation of who we think we are. These are moments when we realize our failures, or we feel like failures. And that brings me to another point which is, it’s not failing itself which is the problem, it is realizing that we have failed or feeling like failures that makes failure so destructive to our potential.
With that said, let’s dive into my story. Growing up in my culture art wasn’t really a “profession” and school was about focusing on science and math. Being an academically inclined and quite obedient kid I dutifully put my doodling aside and focused on what was “important”. But let me tell you something, the moment you let someone else define success for you, or the moment you choose one ultimate goal as the description of success you are setting yourself up for failure. So when things didn’t pan out quite the way I expected, when I didn’t end up, for whatever reason, at the exact university or the exact profession I was aiming for I found myself reeling and stumbling.
But here’s a fun fact I learnt about myself as a young adult. As young adults we’re so malleable and so resilient. Losing my footing professionally, becoming a young mom didn’t dim my spark. I had failed in something that mattered to me but the realization of the failure hadn’t hit me yet and therefore the failure hadn’t impacted me yet, hadn’t brought me down. And then after my second baby I faced something I didn’t even know was real.
Postpartum depression. I like to think that what I experienced was a very mild form and probably a product of having moved to a new country (jeddah) recently with two very small children, taking care of whom could be beyond exhausting. So the failure and lack of direction that hadn’t impacted me earlier, suddenly began to assault me now. It was the realization of this failure, of feeling lost that really paralyzed me and kept me from moving forward, onward to new things. The biggest issue was that, being the caretaker of two little kids in a completely new country I often felt stuck at home with no intelligent conversation or anywhere to go to learn something new. And it became a vicious cycle of being tired and letting things slide that wasn’t getting me anywhere. I was underappreciated and overworked by myself.
Ultimately I turned to social media for help. This was way back when, five years ago when social media wasn’t used as avidly as it is used now. People weren’t as savvy about digital influencing as they are now. I opened a closed group on Facebook, “Mommies of the Round Table”, hoping to create a space for women who were struggling with their emotions or failures like me. Not able to appreciate the good things in life, simply because they were feeling so exhausted or blue. At the time it was a very tight knit group, now it is about 20,000 women strong. I began conversations on it to talk about things I needed to, and I realized others needed to, talk about. I found women from all walks of life struggling with similar issues and it became a safe haven and support for all of us to speak without fear or judgement.
I also picked up a paintbrush after ages and to spur myself on, took online classes and opened up a Facebook account and an Instagram account as an easy way to exhibit and sell that art. I got a good response, I started selling and exhibiting my art and it seems like I could say, I lived happily ever after, doesn’t it?
But no, this brings me to my second understanding of failure. Social media has another side. Even as I began to gain ground as a digital influencer, I also started to get addicted to it in a weird way. The day I didn’t get too many likes, too many comments, the day someone made a thoughtless remark, the day I was unable to post started to send me back into my blues. And it just grew from there. The digital world is such a curated reality. It’s not 100% vulnerable. It’s not 100% real. It can be very very misleading. And you see, comparison really is the root of all evil. It can draw you into a never ending race of trying to get more followers, trying to do more than everyone else, trying to create interesting content until you lose the purpose with which you started and just become another face vying for attention. So I began to get lost inside the very world I had thought was my salvation.
And if being a blogger was not allowing me to triumph in my personal successes until they were public ones, if it wasn’t allowing me to enjoy watching my kids grow up, my relationships, my growth, my surroundings, the little joys of life. Then really, this success was really just another failure.
So I reevaluated everything and I took a giant break from social media. Even now, I recognize what a great tool and a great platform for connectivity it is. I actually work as a digital influencer. But I always allow myself time to disengage, to find the balance. I first allow myself to experience and then I post if there is something meaningful I need to say. I redefined my goals and I took steps to achieve them, and having defined my version of success without the need for external validation I realized I was so much happier.
And this entire experience taught me a couple of vital things. First, do you guys remember this from your childhood, ‘the circle of life’? Yeah. It holds true for pretty much everyone. Everyone has major ups and downs, even if social media doesn’t allow you to always see the downs. So take everything you see online with a pinch of salt. Second, that when you are at an impasse, the only thing you can really do is take a step forward. Just put one foot in front of the other and keep going. It is only when you ‘quit’ that you really cement your failure. But if you keep walking you’ll definitely get somewhere and discover some truths in the process. Most importantly, I realized that to find my own version of success, my journey was so important. Had I not failed so long ago perhaps I would have gone in a completely different direction and the things that I call success now, such as my kids or my art, or my studies, simply wouldn’t exist. So ultimately, I learnt that I should be super grateful about the whole journey itself. And for me, this is a constant reminder to me to enjoy and embrace the journey. That even more important than achieving something, or finding out what I’m meant to do, is immersing myself in the whole experience, the whole journey and cherishing it. Not being afraid of it. Remembering to just keep moving forward, one step at a time and not getting held up by ideas of success which ultimately lead to a realization of failure! So here’s a quote by one of my favorite authors that really encapsulates what I learnt over the years: To love the journey is to accept no such end, I have found through painful experience that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.