in Narrative

On Failure

I’m sorry your website wasn’t a success,” She wrote.

I can understand why you’d think that.  I stopped writing for Panama After Dark and Google clubbed it down like a baby seal. Now it just lays there twitching, bloody and skinless. But it’s cool. In fact, it’s something of a relief to write in silence.

I know people have strong opinions about what it takes to be successful. I heard from them when I was young. I still read some of them now. I know they will consider me a failure if I don’t make bank.

I’m good with that. Money or fame is not something I’ve prioritized. No doubt that’s counter-intuitive. Money’s survival and freedom. What kind of idiot doesn’t value survival and freedom?

That idiot would appear to be me. I’ve been called worse: hippie, commie, socialist, loser. All because I have my own ideas on success. I assure you, I want to live and be free.

But if the focus of what I’m doing is money or fame, I’m going to do and write some shitty things. You only have to look around at the behavior of others to know that’s true. If I have to, I’ll debase myself climbing to the top. ( Seriously, whose dick do I have to suck to get a book deal? )

Could I create a million dollar website? Could I write the next great American novel? Perhaps, if the circumstances of my life were different. But these aren’t my ideas of success.

I’d like to avoid the shitty things you have to do to be successful in this world. I don’t like the attention. I don’t like lying and hurting people. I’ve always been unwilling to sell Panama, Costa Rica, or myself.

Real estate in Panama and Costa Rica is priced too high given the climate of corruption, the serious street crime, the absence of a truly free press, the weak judiciary, the lack of infrastructure, the damage that gets done to the wild. The “life” you find there is not in any way worth the risk cost.

The people who live there know this. There is a reason so many dream of life in the north. Not everyone of course. The people who benefit, who are at the top, have little reason to change.

You could avoid these people, their half empty high-rises and gated communities. You could live with the natives. You could seek out a simpler, more natural life.

But I’d still avoid buying property. I’d leave my assets at home. I’d buy a machete, and I’d watch my back.

Especially when dating. You can find love (and sex) with these beautiful people. It’s easy. Just don’t be surprised when you always have to pick up the check.

You see? These are not the kind of answers advertisers are paying for. Sure, I could have more money, more success, and own more things. But I believe in honesty and traveling light.

I just don’t think feeding into consumer culture is a good thing in the long run. At least not for me. I own a few things. I would like to own less. I’ve given away most of my money. I never had very much.

I understand this is perceived as a failing of mine. It marks me as an outsider. Women in particular dislike my simplified, frugal, non-consuming lifestyle. I don’t blame them.

The other problem with this dream of success, of wealth or fame, is that you are always striving. It’s a future event that never comes. And if by some miracle you do get it. You live in fear that you will lose it.

It’s probably more pathology than philosophy. A drive that burns within. Free will is an open question.

Perhaps this is why you see so many fucked-up people become rich and famous. Their inner torment motivates them. They can’t stop. They will never have enough.

The fight never ends. The desire to remain blind to our fate never ends. We can’t stop lying to ourselves; We can’t throw in the towel. Quitting goes against everything we are taught to believe in -even when we are desperate for relief.

When I started traveling to Panama and Costa Rica (’03), I was desperate for relief. I’d been betrayed. I was divorced, in pain, depressed, and alone. I needed a reason to go on.

So I created this website. It’s made money (over 10k) and achieved some kind of infamy. I don’t think it’s a failure. I don’t think it’s made me a success. At the time, success meant being able to live life in my own way.

In Panama, I wrote for Panama After Dark, renovated and flipped an apartment, learned Spanish, fell in love, and maybe saved a girl’s life. At the very least, I made her life better. Here, I am writing, creating, and extending a life.

I don’t think anyone would call me successful. But success or failure can’t come from a distant goal I might never reach. I can’t wait for the universe’s gentle nod of approbation.

Success comes from me taking a risk and doing something right now. Even if it ends in failure. Indeed, that may be the only success any of us will ever know.

-Cojito @ Panama After Dark

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  1. Thank you. I find your words in a time not unfamiliar of your own pre-’03 insofar as I too have been researching my “break away” from the States. Somehow and in some odd way, you just may have saved more than a precious Colombian jewel.