Welcoming Ruin: Why I Risk Failure in Pursuit of Dreams
Sometimes, you just got to say, “F*** it. Ruin!”
At a tattoo parlor in the fall of 2018, I overheard these surprising words of wisdom: “F*** it. Ruin!" These words made up a young man's explanation for inking the word “RUIN” in fat, bold letters across his throat. I had watched as that same man entered the parlor and casually chose a font from the wall behind the receptionist's counter with the same care I give to selecting a pair of white socks from my drawer. Any pair will do, but I suppose this will suit me today.
If I had been permanently modifying a very unhidden part of my body with a message, I would have spent more time debating on the merits of cursive versus print. I would have pondered the psychology behind typography. I would have had an internal debate on the implications of selecting serif over sans-serif. But this man waggled a pointer finger and gestured at a font without much concern. He then went into a side room to have the word "RUIN"- in his selected font - tattooed across his throat. As he chatted with the artist about his decision. He was asked why that word and why on that body location. His response? "Sometimes, you just gotta say, 'F*** it. Ruin."
After the tattoo was finished, this same man paid for his new ink sauntered out of the room and paid for his new ink at the desk. Before leaving, the man pointed to the artist and declared, “You do God’s work.” Then he was gone.
To say I wasn't laughing at the incredulity of the moment would be a lie. It felt like a joke, but, it wasn't long before I began to see that moment as a pivotal memory. That moment became a whole vibe. His words became my new mantra: Sometimes, you just gotta say, “F*** it. Ruin!”
Life is a bit chaotic. Life is a bit unpredictable. When we try to control it, setting goals and plans for our future in cement, we watch bulldozers come through. When we try to be so responsible and so careful with our choices that we never take steps forward, we find that life continues to happen regardless. It happens, yet we don’t.
We cling to what we have, our safe, familiar present, as we peer around the corner into the unknown. We seem to want more, but we don’t want to lose what we have. We want to reach something more, something better, but we are still holding on to our average, comfortable haven, afraid to let go. Instead, we try to stretch, clinging to our existing security while we reach for more. Unwilling to risk the danger of losing everything, we attempt to extend ourselves as far out towards opportunity as we can without releasing our grip. We hope to be close enough to that better life that we can step over to it safely, easily. Then, we often watch it pass us by, thinking it’s not meant to be. Opportunity was out of reach. Opportunity didn’t land at our feet.
Did you ever think maybe you were meant to chase it? Did you ever think maybe you need to let go and take a leap if you want that opportunity? We cannot meet a better future while holding onto what needs to be released into the past. We cannot seize opportunity while still gripping onto a life that should be behind us.
I’ve discovered the weight to the words my intrepid tattooed friend declared: “Sometimes, you just gotta say, 'F*** it. Ruin!'” Sometimes, we have to be willing to risk some damage. Sometimes, we just have to take the leap. Sometimes, we have to be willing to sacrifice comfort before we have certainty in the new. Sometimes, we have to jump and hope our feet will land. Sometimes, we have to let go of what is safe to grab something wondrous.
“Ruin” is a word I use these days for when I need to take those unpredictable risks. “Ruin” is a word that I use as I jump into the deep end not knowing what waits for me below. “Ruin” is a word I use when I let go of my need for control, for predictability, for safety, and I simply trust that the sun will still rise tomorrow and I will rise with it. “Ruin” is a word I use when I require inspiration to be as bold as the letters on a young man’s neck. “Ruin.” I risk failure. I risk destruction. I risk it for the chance of something incredible.
There are times in life that we must be willing to risk a little damage to create change. There are moments that we must be willing to fail, to make a mistake, to be wrong. I’m one who used to play it safe. I was one who was successful and comfortable in my safety. I was content. I was not miserable. It’s easier to take a leap of faith when you are being chased off a cliff. It’s easier when you have no other option. But when life is satisfactory, it takes more courage to risk losing mediocrity for an uncertain future.
I’m learning to release the fear that holds me back: the fear of losing, the fear of embarrassment, the fear of rejection, of being vulnerable, of failing. The old me would clutch to what is safe and call my actions ones of responsibility and practicality. And in doing so, the old me would miss opportunity. The old me would hold onto the mapped plan for my life and miss the adventure. She would choose the safe route where a future could be easily seen; meanwhile, the unpredictable path was shunned. But that which is safe, that which is predictable, that which is comfortable does not necessarily lead to a life fulfilled. The old me chose paths that held security and no risk, but those were also paths that didn't necessarily spark joy. They were nice, easy, forgettable paths. I’m done with comfort over joy. I'm done with accepting a mediocre life when a fulfilling and rich one can be obtained - if I just take a bit of a leap and just be willing to lose that mediocrity in the possibility of more.
Life is complicated, tumultuous, and beautiful – when you let go. When you stop trying to control every bit of it, when you stop trying to micromanage it. I’m letting go. I’m saying “F*** it” to that which is keeping me from an astounding life. I’m risking ruin. Instead of clinging to that which is safe and known, I’m stepping into untrodden territory.
Come, risk a little ruin with me.
Allow yourself to fail, to make mistakes. Allow yourself to be rejected, to be told no, to be wrong. Allow yourself to be a bit foolish. It might be embarrassing. It might sting. It might not be worth it in the moment, but don’t regret it. Don’t regret the missteps when you are being authentic to yourself and your values and your dreams.
Take risks, but never risk what does bring you joy. Risk ruin to that which you can afford to destroy. You have to be willing to lose what you risk. I have walked away from jobs that didn’t value me; I have left people who didn’t love me. I would never let go of those who love me, those I love. Don’t risk what you love for something you like. Risk what you like for something you love. If you need more from someone to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship, you might have to risk losing them. If you aren't being heard, you might have to risk them not liking what you say when you decide to speak up and demand to be seen for your true maginificant self by creating boundaries and knowing your value. That fractured relationship might become whole and healthy, or it might need to end. That's the ruin risked. You risk losing something okay for something wonderful. But you have to be willing to lose that which isn't really working. Maybe that is the great risk most of us need to take: speaking our truth, stating our needs. You might have to risk the destruction. You might have to risk losing a relationship you care about to get the relationship you need and deserve. Are you willing to fail?
I’m willing to fail. I only have this one life, and I want to live it thoroughly. I’m willing to lose an average life, mediocre relationships, a satisfactory career. If it means the chance to have an exceptional life, thriving relationships, a spectacular career, f*** it; ruin.
What do you say? Will you join me? Take my hand and let's jump.
First published: March 15, 2019. Updated: April 19, 2022