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The art of a decent failure

November 6, 2018 Karianne 5 min read 2 Comments

As soon as I got the schedule for this semester I couldn’t wait for class to start. Topics in Nonwestern Art History (my third and final round of Art History…meh…) and—dah-dahdah-DAAAAAH3D Computer Animation Motion Studies.


It was proof that I had finally finished all the required “foundation” courses and could dig into what I loved: animation. The first assignment was simple, animate a bouncing ball. But as the deadline for the assignment drew closer, I still couldn’t start working on it. I was paralyzed, and I didn’t know why.

From the beginning of my online college career, I kept to a routine:

  • Monday: read the lectures and presentations.
  • Tuesday: create a discussion post (it’s how my college takes attendance).
  • Wednesday: post an update to the in-progress critique forum.
  • Thursday or Friday: complete one big assignment and reply to peer discussion posts.
  • Saturday: complete everything else.
  • Sunday: recover and get ready to do it again.

It worked perfectly…until this class.

It was already Wednesday, the day we are supposed to share our progress to the critique forum, and I still couldn’t start the assignment. At the last minute I did a little bit of work, submitted what I had, and rushed over to a friends house for board games—it was Halloween after all. Maybe the holiday was what kept me from starting my assignment? Yeah. Let’s go with that.

Yet Thursday and Friday my poor little ball sat un-edited. I even purposefully made plans that forced me to put off my homework. What was wrong with me? Turns out, I was afraid.

Up until this class, I could have failed all my classes and said, “That’s alright. It’s not like I want a career drawing naked people.” *cough* Life Drawing *cough cough* But I actually DO want a career based on this class. If I finish the assignment, turn it in, and get an unspeakable grade that will mean I wasn’t meant to be an animator! I will have spent $15,000 and 3 years hunched over my laptop, neglecting my friends and family, for nothing.

What if I can’t do it?

What if I fail and have to drop out?

I was a moody, brooding teen all over again.

I prayed, and worried, and prayed, and worried a little less. Yet it’s amazing how God works even simple things together as we need them.

Several months ago I made plans to go to Guffey, CO to celebrate my friend’s kid’s first birthday. That sounds strangeI went to a birthday party for a one year old. We were asked to bring a card with a handwritten message inside, and on the kid’s 18th birthday they will surprise him with a box full of the cards, each containing a thoughtful message of love and wisdom that waited 18 years to share its secrets. No pressure though.

I fretted over what to write, finally came up with something good and cheesy, and included a bill so I could say “This is called cash. You probably won’t use this by the time you get this card.” I was ready for the party. But when Saturday came there was a massive storm over the mountains, right where I needed to get through.

When it was time to leave I grabbed my coat and the card as my grandmother filled me with confidence. “Use your head and stay home,” she said. But I didn’t.

Driving through the mountain pass, the clouds were thick and flinging puffs of snow at my windshield. I could only see three car-lengths ahead, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been! In front of me, a red pickup truck with a camper in the back carved a path through the snow and water that settled on the road. A few times I thought, “Grammy was right!” But I kept going.

Immediately after the pass the sky opened up. On every side breathtaking views of the mountain range greeted me. Frosted pine and aspen trees glistened in the golden light. It felt like a ray of sunshine followed me all the way to my friend’s cabin.

Please excuse my dirty windshield.

While out in the middle of nowhere I realized I’d been completely absorbed in the digital world, caught on one path. It’s not a grand realization, and you might think it’s so simple it’s silly, but I finally got the space and time I needed to understand that if I failed at animation, I could try again or try something new.

When I got home that evening, I marched to my laptop and finished the assignment proudly. I sent it off to be graded and slept peacefully all weekend. I was ready to fail or succeed. Either way, it wouldn’t be the end because I love sharing stories, and animation is an amazing way to do that—even with a simple ball. Maybe someone dropped it from shock, or maybe someone was really bad at bowling?

Ta-dah! My bouncing bowling ball! (Pretend to be impressed.)

Yet it was almost like my instructor became supernaturally aware of my new confidence. Without hesitation or even a warning, he gave me a 59% (F) because he couldn’t open the video file…

I choked when I saw the grade.

I thought it was an error. I thought about switching schools. But mostly I thought about dropping the class and waiting until there was a new professor who would let me know 1) that the video file didn’t work and 2) which file type WOULD work BEFORE finalizing the grade.

(UPDATE: Apparently there was a whole file on “submission guidelines” in the announcements section…How did I miss that?)

But 10 minutes later I calmed down because, thankfully, I’d already prepared myself for what to do if I failed. (Ha. I thought it would be an “if”…) I decided I would not quit or run away. At least not yet.

My professor also assured me that in week 8 I can submit any assignment to be regraded. You can bet my ball, and maybe every assignment to follow, will be there. And from now on I will submit the video for my assignment in every video format possible. We’re talking mov, mp4, avi, and whatever else my computer can create. That way, surely, one of them will work. Right?

Although I say it through gritted teeth, I’m grateful for the 59%. It tested how much I actually believed I could try again or try something new. I’m not ready to try something new or switch degrees yet. But I will try again. And again. And again. And again.

Actually, while studying in the business program I learned that failure is just another phase towards success. While it’s not always easy to act on, I believe it’s true. So just like I will for the assignment this week—animating a tail on the ball—I encourage you: keep trying.

Meet the author
Founder - Art Director - Animator | Website

Book progressBucket list

Karianne is the founder of Windmill Ways. She plays the cello professionally and currently works as an Art Director for a charity. Because she loves animated shows and movies, she studies 3D animation and graduated with a BFA with the unfortunate class of 2020. Her dream vacation would be just staying home, but "home" being a glamorous cabin somewhere in the mountains surrounded by forest.

Favorite band: Lord Huron
Favorite book: This Present Darkness
Favorite quote: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)

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  • Lynne November 6, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    “insert impressed comment here”…never give up, never give in.

  • sharon November 7, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Yes, I am impressed by your bouncing ball. Don’t worry. You can do this.

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