Redefining Failure

Written by: Christalle Bodiford

When I started my career in the fashion industry over thirteen years ago, I thought I had it all figured out…  

I’d always dreamed of being a designer as a child.  I remember wearing what many saw as “outlandish clothing as a child, in comparison to my friends, and being asked questions like, ”What are you wearing?  Where did you get that?” (not in a positive manner) Nevertheless, I believed that staying true to myself was always “in style,” regardless of the criticism I often received.  At the age of twenty-five, I laid out a path that would I thought undoubtedly lead me to the success I so fiercely chased. I thought, ”I can’t fail with a plan,” and believed I had life figured out, upon graduating college.  It seemed so easy… I would accept my newly offered position as a Product Development Assistant, move up from the assistant position to Product Developer after two years, and begin making my transition into a design position by year five.

You see…  I’ve always been a planner because it helps me to feel safe and less anxious when I know what to expect.  As much as I hate to admit it, I am a creature of habit and love routine. Some may say I’m a “control freak” to an extent, but I look at it as “being in control of my destiny.”  The tricky part of planning is that life will always throw you curveballs… What you think is the “right path” for you, maybe leading/teaching you a lesson via a challenge. Using our heads, instead of listening to our intuition, typically does not lead us to the “right path,” but it’s important for us to learn the difference - which we can only do through experience.  Often following our intuition leads us to something greater than we could have ever imagined… something bigger than ego, money, or ourselves - a true life purpose. What I perceived as the failure of my fashion industry career was actually a lesson… A lesson I was not previously open to receiving but that was about to change.

One and a half years ago, I found myself ready to surrender to the lesson that had been forcing its way into my life for some time.  I was twelve years into my fashion industry career… I had worked diligently, paid my dues, and accomplished all of my goals. Not only did I drop the assistant title after two years as planned, but I had become Director of Design & Development at the accessories company I worked for, just a mere four years after entering the chaotic world of the fashion industry.  Shortly after, I dropped the “development” aspect of my title and began focusing on design. I wore so many hats over the years and learned how to handle tasks & challenges outside the scope of my titles & positions. Not only did I work in design & development, but I planned photo shoots, hired models, created graphics & other media for trade show booths & flyers, edited photos, laid out catalogs, merchandised products, built client relationship, and even dabbled in sales. I felt so accomplished and yet so empty.  The work I was doing wasn’t contributing to the world in a positive manner. I felt drained on a daily basis, caught in a rat race of constant work with nothing to really show for it, other than a portfolio of designs and a resume´ filled with skills and name-dropping.

In early 2017, I decided it was time to make a major life change…  I wanted to make the leap from the fashion industry to make my passion project a full-time reality.  At the time, I was working full-time as a “Textile Stylist” at a medical scrub company but wasn’t happy.  The office environment was so unhealthy… filled with drama, unrealistic workload expectations, and my department spent more time focused on gossip instead of their work.  Not only was this not a healthy work environment for a typical employee, but I had a neurological disorder to take into consideration. I found myself feeling trapped and falling into unhealthy work patterns.  Well, friends, the universe is an amazing planner… better than I could ever hope to be. Life is full of synchronicities that we never catch, yet they lead us to the most beautiful outcomes.

In April 2017, I was able to leave my job…  Why? My husband was in a biking accident, broke his hip, and needed in-home care.  He almost lost his leg, had to have major surgery and was not able to walk for 3 months.  I couldn’t afford in-home care for him, so the only option was for me to quit my job and for him to collect disability.  (Thankfully, we had savings to help us make it through his recovery.) After I left my job, the feeling of failure began to settle in…

I felt as if I had failed my education, my career I had worked so hard to achieve, the family that had helped me pay for my education and supported me through all of life’s challenges, and mostly myself.  What was I doing? I was leaving everything I thought I wanted in a career and what I thought was the perfect plan. But again, the universe had a bigger vision for my life and was challenging me to step into my greatness.

It took a while for me to realize all of the puzzle pieces being assembled to create the beautiful picture I now call life.  Through all of the highs & lows, I realized my true calling was to be a voice for the epilepsy community. Next March, I will celebrate the second anniversary of the non-profit I founded, Life Elektrik.  I never saw myself as the Founder/President of a non-profit, but I realize I’m a vessel. I can plan all day every day, but my purpose has been written for me. I’m honored to be a part of Life Elektrik and be able to make a difference in so many people’s lives.  It may have taken me eleven years to realize that every failure is only leading to success through experience, but I’m wide awake now and able to see what a positive impact failure can have on one’s life.

If I had not worked in the fashion industry, I wouldn’t have gained the skills & knowledge needed to start Life Elektrik - a community for adults living with epilepsy - or be a leader within my community.  I want to end with a quote by Henry Ford that I believe is so powerful for our collective outlook on failure…

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” -  Henry Ford

Transformations—broad, fundamental, positive, forward-moving changes—power Christalle Bodiford’s work as an epilepsy advocate, activist, and artist.

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Frustrated by the negativity dominating many of the “support” groups for epilepsy, Christalle founded Life Elektrik to fulfill a pivotal need among those it impacts: a positive nexus of story-sharing, education, community, and genuine support.

Christalle’s epilepsy story is a tale of surprise, fear, misdiagnosis, and misdirection but one that has taken a positive turn. After a successful career in the fashion industry, she has come to see that her true mission is to work her artistic magic on human hearts—specifically, the hearts of fellow warriors struggling to live out their dreams under the often dark and stormy sky of neurological disability.

Chelsea Francis