Missing Sucks

Life lessons from failure in the field

By Allen Bolen

I can’t think of anything I hate more than missing. Well, maybe losing, but that’s just another type of missing. 

Some misses I can still envision in slow motion. Years later, I can still see my arrow fletchings spinning over the back of a giant coastal black bear–and so much work down the drain. If I could only purge those disgusting images … but they linger in the shadows, threatening my manhood. 

When my friend Beto returned from a mountain goat hunt with my hunting outfit in B.C., I dreaded the call that I knew would come. His guide had prepared me for the worst: Beto had missed with his recurve at under 20 yards. Twice.

A couple of weeks later, I was getting ready for work when my phone rang. It was Beto.

“Allen, I had the most amazing trip.”

“Beto, um … I’m happy to hear that.”

He continued, “Your guide was amazing, and the country is beautiful.”

I sighed quietly. I’d heard this tactic before. And I’d even employed it myself from time to time. If you can delude yourself–and pretend that the experience itself was more impactful than the fact that you blew a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity–it might ease the pain, just a little. 

I was in a bit of a rush to get to work and decided to accelerate the conversation. “Buddy, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. I heard about the misses. That’s really tough. Sorry man.”

“Oh, but you don’t understand. That was the best part of the whole trip.”

This was a level of self-delusion I had never personally attained. He had it bad. I played along. “Really? Why would you say that?”

He continued in an upbeat tone, “Since I got home, I’ve never spent so much quality time with my kids. I usually work late–six days a week–and then I’m self-absorbed on my day off. I’ve been home with them every night now for two weeks straight.”

I was having a hard time following his logic as he went on for several minutes about his improved family life. Blah blah blah. Frankly, I started to check out. I had no idea how it related. 

I just kept getting dressed for work, feigning attention, “Yeah, uh-huh. Uh-huh, yeah.”

Then he started to get crazy. He went on, “And this last Sunday my kids and I made 200 sandwiches and drove across the border to old Mexico to give them away to poor people.” 

I grimaced, shaking my head in confusion. This had gone too far. 

“Beto. Bro, slow down. I have no idea what you’re talking about. What does all of this have to do with you missing a billy goat?”

He paused for emphasis, and said, “Allen, this is the whole point. I thought I was an amazing bowhunter and traditional archer. I thought I was among the best in the world. I thought I would never miss a shot like that. But after I missed, I had a lot of time to reflect up there in those mountains. And I started to wonder: What else in my life do I think I’m good at, but I’m actually missing?”

Incredible words, charged with life-changing humility. 

He certainly made me think a little differently. But in the end, I still hate missing.