Fail Better

I’m glad I failed at…

It’s cliché to spin failures as lessons we can learn from and improve after, but like a lot of clichés it has basis in truth.

Of course, sometimes it’s a while before we can look at our failures in this way. Failure stings and you need that to pass.

So what failure am I glad about?

Tough one, I fail a lot.

Probably the one I got most out of was my first (and, so far, only) foray into politics.

Yes, I once stood in an election.

In 2007 I ran for Student Union Entertainment Officer at Lampeter.

Lampeter Student Union, my old stamping ground

I’d like to say that I ran because I thought I was the best man for the job, or out of some sense of duty to give something back to the student community. But if I said that I’d be lying.

I stood because I thought being Ents (as we called it) would be (a) fun, I mean it was just organising parties and (b) easy, see (a).

And my major motivation was fear. Fear of what was going to happen after uni. I’d already realised that a Film Studies degree wasn’t going to smash down doors for me and being Ents would look good on my CV.

Also it would be an extra year in the safe cocoon of Lampeter. I had several friends who were staying on for MAs or who’d deferred, why not join them?

For those who didn’t go to Lampeter it might be hard to fathom that this tiny town in West Wales was hard to leave. You knew pretty much everyone, it was quiet and cheap, so people stayed. I knew students who had been there well over the standard three year course. People seemed to get stuck there, it was a safe place to hide until real life came calling.

True for many

And I wanted that cocoon.

So I registered to run.

To be honest, I realised pretty early on I was unlikely to win. The four other candidates were members of big societies or teams, which meant voters. One was the current deputy, and another was heavily involved in the union.

I was just a slacker who was fairly well liked (I hope), but at a campaign meeting we knew I needed to be a lot of people’s second or third choice under the alternative vote system. Even then, it was likely I was heading for a pasting.

My friends and I tried to estimate how many votes I’d get, and set about pestering classmates, teammates and flatmates.

At the count I came in third. I survived a few rounds but eventually the leading two were beyond me. Still, part of me was chuffed.


So why am I glad I failed?

Well, I think being forced from the warm bosom of Lampeter was for the best. If I’d stayed my path would have been very different, and my life vastly different. And while it’s been bumpy and could be better, but I’m pretty happy with where I am with my life.

Besides, I’m not sure I’d have been a good Ents officer. There was probably more to it than socialising and organising parties. I knew the previous officer and she’d obviously worked hard at it, and it hadn’t been without stress as she was ludicrously accused of racism because the MOBO society felt they didn’t get enough nights.

So perhaps both I and Lampeter’s students dodged a bullet.

But if that’s the case I’d view my campaign as wasted time, which I don’t, because I actually got a lot out of it. I enjoyed campaigning but the major highlight and best part was having to give a speech at Hustings. With around 200 people in attendance it was the biggest crowd I’d spoken in front of.

Beforehand I was extremely nervous. I reread my speech and tried to remember all those public speaking tips- go slower than you want to, breathe, look up from your notes, picture the audience in their underwear (not helpful, more distracting if anything).

But once I got up there it went brilliantly and found my groove. People laughed in the right places and I got sincere applause at the end. Afterwards people congratulated me and praised the speech, which was a big confidence boost.

A friend who was running for SU President said that she’s seen a new side of me, that my speech made my campaign seem more real. Before she’d thought I was treating it as a joke or trying to blag my way through (if only she’d known the truth!)

She said she hoped I’d win and it would be good working with me. In the end it didn’t matter, both of us lost. Shortly after Lampeter had to merge with other universities. We’ll never know whether our regime could have stopped the rot.

(We do know, it had sod all to do with the union)

That speech remains one of my proudest moments. Unfortunately, I lost the speech, having leant it to a mate. Which is a shame as it would be nice to have kept it, to see what I said and what my campaign was based on.

All I remember is my opening:

Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at your next Entertainment Officer…… It’s definitely one of the five people on stage.

It got a laugh, even if my friend Rich was worried I’d gone in too cocky and blown it. The punchline was a relief for him.

I’m glad I failed, but I’m glad I tried. The campaign was fun, and the response I got was a confidence boost and helped me feel good about myself.

Failing was part of getting me where I am, and I don’t regret it. Although I did like that on return trips to Lampy I heard many complaints about the person who’s beaten me (petty, moi?) and there is part of me that wonders if on an alternate Earth I absolutely stormed being Ents officer and there’s a building named after me.

The Chris Page Building?

Well, you never know.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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