A letter from the Editor...

I always wondered about that phrase that gives lemons a bad reputation. You know the one about 'life giving you lemons'... right?  I've wondered about it because lemons are a part of a lot of my favorite things, and primarily my favorite desserts. I mean... lemonade, LEMONADE (the Beyoncé album), lemon tarts, lemon bars. Oh my goodness... LEMON BARS. I just feel like lemons get a bad rap.

I know it's because on their own they are sour, bitter and too tart for most people to consume solo, but if you know what to do with them, they can be quite delicious. And if you know what to do when life throws you a 90 MPH sour citrus curveball, you get a chance to be Beyoncé or the person who invented lemon bars. How sweet of a gig is that?

In my experience it is a frequent and often occurrence for life to dish out lemons. I'm an expert at needing to handle situations I didn't see coming. I often have to figure out what to do next after something I've worked towards has failed. There's a discussion I keep having with friends about this theory that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who are afraid of failure and people who are afraid of success. I am infinitely more scared of success. I don't see success as a glitzy, glamorous thing. It's been worn down over the years. To me all it means is that you've passed. There was a test, you did well, and now you have to do more work. It's like navigating an obstacle course and getting through a difficult level only to find out that you have twelve more levels to work through. Failing feels like a problem to solve now, and succeeding is a labyrinth of problems to solve later. In my adult life I have been infinitely better at failing, which can be puzzling to a lot of people. 

Even in writing this I don't know what I'd prefer. I'm really comfortable with failing, which in a way makes me fearless. I put myself out there for big things, and I do my best, but when I get the news that it hasn't happened, I move on. Of course, when I fail at something I get upset. I cry. I get worried I'll never amount to anything ever again. I get heartbroken about a lost possibility. I mourn the success in that situation that I'll never know.  But then... I move on because there's is work to do and I'm the one who has to do it. I'm fine with being comfortable with failing, but I'm still not super comfortable talking about it online. This year I've pitched 5 or 6 different book ideas that have failed, I've made huge pitches to big companies that have not been accepted, and I applied to a well known creative residency with this idea, and it did not get chosen. For some reason, this makes me feel shame... even when my soul knows it shouldn't.

When it comes to succeeding though, I'm not very good at that either. For me it feels like National Ice Cream day or turning 27. Yes, you celebrate a little, but the next day is just the day after eating ice cream or the first day you're 27. I'd like the whole thing to be less like turning a year older and more like having a good birthday party. I want my successes to feel celebrated and important to me. I don't want to just blaze past them on my way to do more work. I want to be able to say confidently that I've had photos in magazines, a photo on the front page of Forbes.com, that I was a SXSW speaker this year, and that I moved to Austin 3.5 years ago and started a successful business that pays my bills monthly. I want to be proud of myself without immediately feeling minimized because my successes live in the shadows of the success of others in my mind. 

If I could harness my ability to fail and recover, while also turning my successes into things that feel important, I think I'd be tapping into a super power. I think we all would. And that's why I'm here. 

I realized a few months ago that the reason I'm not comfortable with talking about failure or feeling my success is that we don't talk about those things enough.

It's because in my world I sometimes have on blinders. I often feel like I'm the only one who is failing. I don't see other people's failures online-- I see a highlight reel of beautiful lives, of perfectly relaxed mom jeans paired with white t-shirts with no stains on them, of happy hour cocktails with girlfriends and no failure in sight... but I know we all fail and we all fight like hell to succeed. Why aren't these things Instagram worthy?

Occasionally someone will share a failure online and be heralded as brave, and yes-- they are! But what if instead of brave it was just normal to talk about missing the mark? Or hitting it? Or not knowing where the mark is at all? 

I think success and failure are twins. They are both evidence of shooting the shot, showing up, and doing the work. I think they are both important and both worth talking about. 

That's why we're here. That's why I've created pass/fail. I want this website to be a resource that is inclusive, open, fun, and empowering. I want to share stories and interviews with people all over, about what it looks like to work hard and succeed, to fail and get back up again, and everything that happens in between. I want to work to demystify success and normalize failure through talking about it openly. 

I'm so glad you're here. I'm so happy to be doing this. I'm so excited to press publish. 

 Illustration by Tara Johnston

Illustration by Tara Johnston

Chelsea Francis is a photographer, editor, connector, and creative director out of Austin, TX. She's most passionate about making people see the beauty in their own lives, a good cup of coffee, and a great slice of pizza. When she's not answering emails, she's editing pieces for Pass/Fail, hosting networking events, and shooting photographs for incredible companies both in Austin and elsewhere.

Chelsea Francis