by Stephanie Hoffmeyer
Three things quickly come to mind as I think about “Starting from Scratch:”
Henry Ford - “Failure is an opportunity to start over, this time more intelligently.”
Apollo 13 - “Failure is not an option.”
Biscuits & Gravy – and my family’s tradition attached to it.
I’d like to explore these points as their own entities.
First, Henry Ford - “Failure is an opportunity to start over, this time more intelligently.”
Henry Ford captured, even helped define, the American Dream. In retrospect, he started from scratch when starting from scratch was the only way. He spent his early years on his family’s farm. Upon his mother’s death, he left the farm to become an apprentice machinist in Detroit. Farming being the only thing he knew at the time, I’d wager this was quite a departure.
Given the timeframe, a machinist’s life vs. a farmer’s life are at exact opposite ends of the spectrum. No better definition of starting from scratch.
History lesson aside, it seems Henry Ford knew and experienced starting from scratch early on in life. Further, that failure is inevitable. He let his opportunistic attitude drive his success, however, rather than let it crush him. He embodied - attitude is everything, there are no failures, only lessons and every failure is a new goal.
I think starting from scratch means one must adopt a consistent attitude of learning; whether you are at the beginning or at the beginning again. It is a way to surrender to the process, to say, “Welp, I have no idea what I’m doing. Let’s do this anyway.”
AND/OR, it is an opportunity to shrug your shoulders and say “Welp, that didn’t work. Let’s do this another way.”
Second, Apollo 13 - “Failure is not an option.”
This to me at first glance feels resistant – walls up – very “NO!”
If failure is not an option, it could be concluded that it is something to avoid at all costs. One must be perfectly perfect, no exceptions. One must have thought of and thought through all possible scenarios.
I think there’s a nuance easily missed here. If you have ever watched the movie Apollo 13, you know that mission was one f*ck up after another. Failure was the main character of that mission. Playing supporting roles were perseverance, resiliency, adaptation and big ol’ brass balls. Failure was not an option because the ground and sky crews worked only to find solutions.
Failure was never a viable solution.
They never gave up because giving up wasn't in the cards. They started from scratch over and over and over again to get that crew home.
I think starting from scratch means giving yourself the permission to f*ck it up, then fix it. Then, f*ck it up again and find a different solution – lather, rinse, repeat, if you will. Whether by NASA, friends or family it is essential to position yourself with a crew to help you find those solutions and adapt accordingly.
Third, Biscuits & Gravy
Commonly in my house growing up, as a family we would make Biscuits & Gravy for Sunday morning breakfast. The recipe is derived from my father’s days in the military - it feeds a lot of people with very simple and very hearty ingredients. More importantly, it’s a stick-to-your-ribs type of meal, meaning you probably won’t eat again until dinner. We made it from scratch-ish (we use Bisquick).
Gravy was Dad’s job since it involved operating the stove. Mom’s role was to set the table, since she had cooked all our other meals during the week (we were giving her the day off - wink, wink).
My sister and I would fight over who got to make the biscuits. Being older and having more dexterity (in our adolescent years), I would win 9 times out of 10. My sister, however, would masterfully cut the biscuits from the dough I had rolled out and place them on the cookie sheet for baking. She would watch at the oven door to make sure they were perfectly golden-brown. This role switched as I ventured into my teen years where realized I was actually doing more more work (sorry Sis!).
This tradition still stands in my family.
Since we don’t live together any longer, it’s typically reserved for the Holidays. There was one time in particular we made our traditional breakfast outside of the Holidays. It was when my sister, her husband and their brand new baby girl had come home from being overseas for a little over a year. Their daughter had been born overseas, so we hadn’t met her yet. Needless to say, it was quite a homecoming.
During this time, my relationship with my sister was strained. Knowing she was coming home, I wanted to make sure we at least got on the path to healing, to extend an olive branch. Given the strain between us, I had my mom communicate with her that if she wanted, we would make biscuits & gravy for her when she got home. That first Sunday she was home, we did so. We all assumed our roles – Dad on gravy, Mom set the table, me on the dough and my sister on baking. It was the first and tiniest step in healing my relationship with my sister.
The symbolism here is that while we were making breakfast from scratch, my sister and I were also starting our relationship from scratch. We had moments of peace in that breakfast where we both respected the tradition. We got to eliminate the distance between us and look at each other face-to-face instead of over Skype or email and get re-acquainted with each other’s human side.
We softened to the situation.
I think starting from scratch means starting all over. Not necessarily forgetting the mistakes you’ve made, but learning and moving on from them. It means giving someone or yourself another chance or the benefit of the doubt. It means recognizing our imperfections and deciding to work with them.