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The F Word


By Lucy Johnstone – Guest Writer


Life has its ups and downs.

Sometimes you win. You achieve whatever it is you have set out to do. Sometimes you lose. You Fail. You’re unsuccessful.

When I reflect back on my own life there are some things I’m proud of and some successes I’m grateful for. Then there are the failures I’m grateful for. Failure may be an F word, but trust me, failure can also be F for fabulous.


I’m grateful that I failed at maths.

I appreciate that there’s a certain beauty in the patterns and shapes of maths. Being terrible at maths gives me a genuine admiration for people who can do long division, trigonometry, or even just add up numbers in their heads. The last time I took a maths test, I was 15, and taking my School Certificate (now NCEA) exam. My final grade was 18%. I was slightly disappointed that my friend Azza got 3%. I missed out on the infamy and ironic satisfaction of having the lowest mark in the school that year. Maths wouldn’t even give me that.


So maths and I parted ways, for the most part, after that fateful day. But when I look back,  it’s clear that had I been halfway decent at maths, my career potentially would have taken a very different direction. School Certificate Math was an entry requirement for several of the degrees that I was considering at the time. Once I accepted my academic shortcomings and focused on my strengths, I was free to follow the path to the creative and wordy world I now inhabit.


I’m grateful for my terrible sense of direction.

I just don’t seem to have that built in GPS that others do. Thank goodness for Siri and Google Maps. Before they came along, I used to get lost all the time. I still frequently do, but to a lesser extent.

On the bright side, having a terrible sense of direction has taught me to ask for help, sometimes from complete strangers, which has reinforced my belief in human kindness time and time again. My inclination to lose my way has also lead me to discover many a rad op shop or antique store in the middle of nowhere, and my multitude of getting lost stories are hilarious over a glass of wine. It’s just something I know about myself, and I’ve come to accept it.


I’m grateful for all my fashion faux pas.

I’m confident in my personal style. I know the colours and shapes which best compliment my body and I have amassed a wardrobe of capsule pieces which go together and take me through the seasons year after year. I only need to purchase a couple of on trend pieces each season, keep my accessories updated and replace items which have worn out.

But I didn’t get to this point without making some fashion faux pas.

I’ve fallen prey to two big mistakes when it comes to clothes. The first was investing too much money in on trend pieces. In my experience, trends are over before you can say “pink cowboy hat” or “slouchy suede boots which cost the equivalent of a week’s rent before Auckland house prices went insane and were destroyed the first time they got wet because their young owner (20 year old me) didn’t know about waterproofing spray for suede”. Sure, buy a couple of trendy bits per season, for fun, but ensure the rest of your wardrobe is full of quality, timeless pieces.

The other huge lesson I’ve learned when it comes to fashion is what flatters my body what doesn’t, what is comfortable for me, and what is not. I’ve come to love some parts of my body and cleverly disguise those that I don’t. Never let your clothes wear you. Get to know and adore your body and wear things which make you feel amazing.

I’m grateful for my failed relationships.

My relationship with my husband is something I’m proud of. I work at it every day and so does he. His happiness is intrinsically woven with mine. If I have a bad afternoon, or hear a funny joke, or learn something new, he is the first person I want to share it with. I will never say a word against him to others, and I have always been 100% honest with him. To me, he is the kindest, funniest most handsome man in the world and I tell him so all the time, sometimes while cooking lasagna.

Not to blow my own trumpet but I’m a really, really good wife.

I learned to be this way through my failed relationships. I’ve been treated badly in relationships in the past, and I’ve treated others badly. Through all this life experience I’ve come to know what I value most in a life partner; kindness, honesty and fun. I won’t accept anything less again. Life’s too short to share with someone who doesn’t respect you, challenge you in a good way and make you happy every day. I’ve also learned that the most important relationship you have is with yourself. If you don’t know and love and care for yourself you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being able to do those things for someone else.


I’m grateful that I failed my driving test the first time.

I can confidently say I’m a bloody good driver. I believe this is because I failed my driving test the first time.

It was a humiliating failure. Mainly because I’d been so confident of passing the test and therein lay the problem. I was young, I was cocky. I was arrogant. This taste of failure gave me a respect for the road, and helped me understand that it’s a privilege to be behind the wheel. Not a right.

Every year in New Zealand approximately 400 people die on the roads. I know this because after failing me, the instructor delivered a short but compelling lecture about the massive responsibility a person accepts every time they operate a vehicle. He told me I needed to pay more attention, to pause for longer at stop signs, not follow so close behind other cars, not be in such a hurry and that these small adjustments could very well save my life one day.

I went home and cried, took his words on board (no pun intended), practiced more, got really good, and passed the test. I’ve now been driving, entirely accident-free, for 17 years.


Everyone always tells you to celebrate the things you love about yourself, and this is great advice. But I also suggest you embrace your failures. That’s where the learning happens. Additionally, the things you’re not so good at are a valid part of the wonderful tapestry that makes you who you are. So maybe you’re terrible at spelling, or you couldn’t tell the time until you were 17, or your chosen career as a synchronized swimmer didn’t work out. Your failures are either going to teach you to try harder and persist until you succeed, or they’re going to teach you something about yourself which ultimately you need to come to accept.




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