Welcoming Ruin: Why I Risk Failure in Pursuit of Dreams
Sometimes, you just got to say, “F*** it. Ruin!”
At a tattoo parlor last fall, I overheard these surprising words of wisdom. At least, this was the explanation that a young man gave for inking the word “RUIN” in fat, bold letters across his throat. The same man casually chose a font from the wall with the same care I give to selecting a pair of white socks from my drawer. Any will do, but I suppose this will suit me today. I would have spent more time debating on the merits of cursive. I would have had an internal debate on the implications of selecting serif over sans-serif. But this man waggled a pointer finger and pointed out a font without much concern. Afterwards, this same man, upon paying for his new ink, pointed to the artist and declared, “You do God’s work.” And it’s become a whole mood for me, 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 something this past year, an idea to which my intrepid tattooed friend gave words: “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 being vulnerable, the fear of failing. The old me would clutch to responsibility and practicality and miss opportunity. The old me would hold onto the mapped plan for my life and miss the adventure. The old me would choose the safe route where the 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. I’m done with comfort over joy.
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, 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. But if you need more from someone to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship, if you are not being valued, you might have to risk losing them by demanding your value. Maybe that is the risk we must 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’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.