I remember my first heartbreak like it was yesterday.

I was 17, and it happened at school on a remarkably sunny day that would have otherwise been quite enjoyable. I planned to meet up with my boyfriend later, but the thought of seeing him had my stomach so tightly knotted I almost chickened out.

I didn’t break up with him. This isn’t one of those stories. In fact, today we are very happily married.

But my heart was broken that day. Broken by a list posted on a wall, naming the few lucky applicants who would be receiving full scholarships to a university far away. A university I so desperately wanted to attend and had worked over a year trying to prove I was worthy of.

My name wasn’t on that list.

That was the first time I felt the stinging grip of failure pull me to my knees. And with it came the shame. The shame of having to tell my family, friends, and boyfriend that I failed. Even my greatest effort wasn’t enough.

Today, when I look back on that failure, I can only thank God, for it truly was one of my biggest blessings. I didn’t know it then, and it would take the next 10 years for me to finally “get it”, but that failure set me off on a path that was greater than anything my teenage self could have imagined.

I ended up accepting a full scholarship to an in-state university. I’d been so eager to leave the place I was raised, only to discover it was where I always belonged. I was happy.

Until my heart was broken again. This time by a job.

I studied marketing, but it didn’t take long for my passion to shift when I took on an assistantship working with students. The job was exciting; the people wonderful. This was it, this was where I belonged. When I found out the assistantship was going to be made into a permanent position, I went through the long, arduous application process, certain the job was mine.

I didn’t get it. Failure grabbed onto me once more.

I cried for days. I moped for months. So angry that my life was off track once more. 

When I landed my first big girl job, once again, life made sense. Each day passed with ease as I made my way up in the company. The pay was fantastic, the travel was fun, and the location was spectacular. Again, I was happy.

Then I became a mom.

Few things in this life are more challenging than balancing motherhood and a career. Each day at work I would count down the hours until I could see my baby, only to spend every minute at home checking emails, making phone calls, and stressing over what I had to do the next day. I was failing at both, but maybe, just maybe, I could succeed at one.

So I quit my job. But this time, something was different. This time, I greeted failure like an old friend, rather than a mortal enemy.

The moment I shifted my perspective on what it meant to fail, every heartbreak, every rejection, and every disappointment in my life suddenly made perfect sense. Stop signs became detours, potholes became stepping stones. Now, I strive to seek failure in everything that I do, knowing I will still reach my destination even if it takes me many routes to get there.

The truth is, there is no tougher critic than the person in the mirror. It’s a mom thing. It’s a woman thing. It’s there when we get up in the morning and when we lay our head down at night. Always watching, always waiting to remind us of just how far we fall short. I want you to know that failure—however bad it may feel—is a very good thing, because it pushes us where we need to go. Embrace it. Love it. And most importantly, be thankful for it.

I thank God for failure, because it just may be His greatest blessing.

I hope you will, too.

You may also like:

I Don’t Deserve This

To the Mama Who Feels Like a Failure

Show Me Your Failures, Friend—I Have Them Too

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Kayla Runkel

Kayla is a former marketer turned stay-at-home-mom to two sweet boys. You can follow her blog, The Rustic Hideaway, or her writing page, K.C. Runkel. When she is not writing, Kayla loves teaching fitness classes, reading books, and spending time with her husband and sons exploring her favorite place in the world, Wyoming. Or as she simply calls it: home.