A Bit About the Past: Blake Lively’s “Preserve Failure” and What It Means to Me

I’m reaching a bit far into the past with this one (4+ years), so if you’re looking for something trendy, please heed this warning that there will be nothing timely about this post. It’s just something I think about often, built by someone I look up to greatly, that I want to talk about. So here’s my old news for the day. Grab a coffee, a little sunshine soaked disposition, and lets dive in.

Blake Lively is, by far, one of my favorite actresses. Not only a force of fashion, she’s the biggest reason I want to pursue acting again, something I once wrote off as impractical and out of my reach. In high school, I LOVED theatre. Although I wasn’t the most practiced or the most talented, it made me happy, so happy that I honestly can’t remember a moment in that theatre I didn’t completely accept. I WANTED to be there. At one point, my friends and I even stopped eating in the cafeteria to have our lunch at the back entrance of the theatre we loved it that much. It was our open field of freedom and creativity at the edges of a crazy kingdom called “high school.”

Wanting, wholeheartedly, to be somewhere is something that has escaped me lately. These days, every fiber in my being desires to be elsewhere: on my grandma’s deck in mid-July, in a New York City hotel with my boyfriend, in California for the first time, in my old car, in my best friend’s pool when we were kids, in a brand new dress on a yacht in Europe (specific 🤨), backstage whispering on that small stage, and sometimes even on a red carpet (a bit far-fetched, I KNOW OKAY).

Wanting to be elsewhere, and going there in my mind more often than I’d like to admit, has changed me. It has shifted my focus from “me” and “what actually makes me happy” to “who I think I am” and “what I think will make me happy” (which inevitably, is never what’s in front of me).

You see, I have been trying desperately to figure out what I was “born to do.” Hands outstretched in the dark, I have grasped at pretty much everything. I have seen myself in every role, have held careers in my head in nearly every industry, have tried on a million hats, have built businesses in my dreams, and yet, I’m still the same. I haven’t moved. I see other people accomplishing things, finding happiness, and figuring out who they are and I get nervous.

I’m so terrified of living a life that lacks fulfillment, that I’m building… a life that lacks fulfillment. Instead of going out there, appreciating the process, being present with myself, ENJOYING LIFE, and finding that special something I do without fault just because it feels good, I worry. I push it all aside… to worry. How terrible is that?

I keep holding things up to the light thinking, “maybe this will make me happy” and “maybe this will make me successful,” instead of just doing things I enjoy (like acting) and being happy about it. I fast forward through the trials and the tribulations (the real life part, the part that makes accomplishments worth it in the first place DUH), to worry about the success part. Talk about a lack of fulfillment.

But where does all this blah, blah, blah tie into Blake Lively anyway?

In 2014, Blake launched a lifestyle website called Preserve. I never actually saw this website with my own eyes but I’m haunted by it frequently. To give you some context, it was Goop-esque but more Blake and less Gwyneth (obviously) and a whole lot more fascinating to me, despite it closing only a year later.

Source: Preserve via The Cut

Before I go any further into what Blake Lively’s “Preserve Failure” means to me, I’d like to fill you in on my experience with Blake. I first saw her as Bridget in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a movie I don’t remember well outside of watching it with my grandma, the pants, and Blake’s gorgeous long blonde hair.

In that moment, she was (and still is, in many ways) everything I wanted to be: a golden girl with an everlasting smile and a radiating demeanor. To this day, I wonder how she can exude such happiness and warmth in both her work and what we see of her personal life. I look up to Blake, not only for her accomplishments, but also and more so for her personality and her authenticity. It’s refreshing.

I always kept Blake at the back of my mind, not quite keeping up with her achievements but never truly losing sight of my respect for her. Since Blake wasn’t totally on my radar, I heard about Preserve in hindsight, after the site had already closed (and after I finally watched Gossip Girl in its entirety on Netflix… AKA I was late to that party too).

Since I never visited the site, I want to leave explaining Preserve’s purpose up to Blake so click HERE to read what I could find of her Editor’s Letter. Aside from being disappointed I never got to experience Preserve, reading this letter made me realize two things: 1) I saw a lot more of myself in Blake than I expected and 2) I felt A LOT less concerned with my failures and finding success than I did before I read the letter.

Source: Preserve via Popsugar

Earlier I mentioned attributes of Blake I’m inspired by, qualities I don’t find in myself but wish I could. Smiling more often and exuding warmth is something I could do better and in my experience, when we look up to celebrities who are people we wish we could be, we forget the ways in which they are already just like us. This letter changed that for me. Blake’s enthusiasm for her website and her zest for experience in all areas of her life, even those she hasn’t quite mastered yet, brought me closer to the type of person she is. She made me see something in her I already saw in myself: passion for life and ambition in spite of inexperience. Consider this:

I am hungry, though…and not just for enchiladas. I’m hungry for experience. I’m comfortable with the knowledge that I’m not a teacher, but rather, a student. I don’t do any one thing perfectly. I do a lot of things, though. Some well, some poorly.

– Blake Lively (Preserve Editor’s Letter via Popsugar)

To see that sense of vulnerability and humility in her writing made me feel better about my failures and, ultimately, better about myself. It occurred to me that 1) it’s not so bad I desire experience over mastery, 2) I’m not alone in having wild and ambitious dreams even when I haven’t quite caught up with myself and finally, 3) I’m not a freak for wanting to wear a million different hats. Because if Blake can try on a hat she’s not used to wearing and fail at it, so can I and still kill it at something else.

This failure, in my eyes, made me realize that maybe doing what we love is not about how successful we are but how authentically we live, how happy we are from having done it. That the passion we have for something and the ambition we apply to it, even when we don’t have ANY idea what it is we’re doing, is far more valuable than the success we yield from it.

For me, maybe holding things up to the light doesn’t have to be about having life figured out but about seeing that something more clearly and enjoying it the best I can while I have it in my hands. Thank you for being an inspiration, Blake.

Love,

shawna.

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While the whole world races to keep up with technology, we may tighten our laces and join the race, but our end goal is to preserve what’s already there.

Blake Lively (Preserve Editor’s Letter via Popsugar)
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