#1: Failure to Launch

From the Editors: 

It may surprise some readers but in my freshman year of high school I had my first and only acting role as Beatrice, an elderly seagull, in a friend’s play. The play was a series of vignettes about how various animals cope with devastating changes. In my scene, Beatrice and her friend Agatha are flying through the air, gossiping and reminiscing about bygone years when suddenly Agatha looks down at the sea beneath them. She realizes she doesn’t know what lies below the surface and has no idea how she has been flying all this time, and accordingly, falls to her death.

I bring this up because so often it seems that if we were to suddenly question what is propelling our success or self-maintenance, we might fall out of the proverbial sky. Sometimes the only time we begin reflection is when we’ve already hit rock bottom and there’s nothing left to lose by asking “why? ”

And so begins Mouth, the online publication that you’re reading now. We were interested in creating healthy intellectual conflict and getting perspectives on issues that are just a touch more global than what we tend to talk about outside of class. And this week, we were interested in failure because so often in the production of what you’re now reading, failure took us by surprise. Indeed, as seniors, many of us have now mastered the art of condensing our accomplishments into page-long resumes and paragraph-long biographies. But what the roughly year-long foundation of Mouth has taught us is that life wouldn’t necessarily be perfect if it went according to plan. You’d miss a few great lessons.

Don’t take our word for it. Professor and former judge Jennifer Sargent explains the downfalls of getting exactly what you think you want in your career, which comes as a reassuring reminder for those of us who are totally undecided about what we’re going to do with our lives. The Honorable Gregory Slayton explains the importance of failures for personal growth. And if they say it, it must be true!

When we asked our peers for stories about failure and its aftermath, the vast majority of responses involved drugs. Betweenself-reflective moments with LSD and with Xanax in the library, this issue probes at the idea of “our substances, ourselves.” This becomes all too real when a former Drunkest Girl explains how the real world and your first job lack some of the luster that your college-aged Andre-soaked fantasies might have presumed.

At the political level, we also get some stimulating perspectives on why some movements take off and some hit rock bottom. One columnist details the forestalled launch of the environmentalist movement in the U.S., despite the not so coincidental occurrence of Hurricane Sandy. Another takes a critical view of the quagmire the Republican Party’s “brand” is in. And yet, while we commentators like to think we’re pretty good at picking winners and losers, another contributor shows us whyhindsight is always 50/50, especially when it comes to understanding the career of LeBron James.

When I think back to that moment as Beatrice seven years ago, mourning Agatha on stage with a handle of Smirnoff filled with water, I realize how much I’ve grown from my own, unstaged mistakes since then. So although we’re well aware of the fact that it’s finals week, and that your fear of failure probably seems all too real at the moment, take a break, reflect, and breathe out. Read a few pieces. Maybe they’ll make you feel better. Maybe you’ll find something useful in D.S. Kaminsky’s finals week tips (probably not). But either way, thanks for sharing this issue with us. We’re glad that after about 10 months we have something to show for all the enthusiasm and pieces we’ve received since bringing this idea to campus this term. If you’re interested in joining us, let us know at mouth@dartmouth.edu.


David, Gabe & Sasha

Co-Founders, Mouth