‘A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.’
– George Bernard Shaw
Mistakes…we all make them.
Life doesn’t come with instructions, and even if it did, there are some things we just have to get out of our system and learn on our own (case in point). I used to be filled with regret over my own mistakes, and lament over them almost obsessively. In my mind, mistakes were unacceptable and shameful, something that proved my failure. After years of working with a therapist, I’ve come to realize that mistakes are not an indication of failure at all, but a part of the long and sometimes painful journey that has made me who I am; a (slightly) wiser, kinder, more compassionate person.
That being said, I think it’s important that we distinguish how we classify ‘mistakes’, because sometimes what you think may have been the wrong decision can actually be the course of action that inspires you to find your calling, put yourself out there, and get what you want. Outlined below are seven ‘mistakes’ that I see being made by numerous young men and women as they begin their adult lives. Of course, I’m not advocating that everyone date someone wrong for them, or that everyone should put themselves in debt with foolish purchases, but I do think that the following experiences are things that no one should beat themselves up for, and instead learn and grow from.
1. Take the so-so job
You just spent a fortune on secondary education in anthropology and social sciences and the only job response you got was from a fast food restaurant…trust me, I know the frustration. The truth is, however, that a job really is just a job, and, at this stage in your career, any job is an excellent learning experience. Plus, you have bills to pay. It’s a lot easier to apply for (and be choosy about) a new job with a paycheck coming in, even if that paycheck is from doing something that has absolutely no place in your overall life plan. Not to mention, working in an area that’s not your first choice can help you identify what you definitely don’t want to do with your life, and, on the flip side, may open a door you had never considered if all had gone according to plan.
2. Date the wrong guy/girl
We all know that person. Very attractive, but maybe not so smart? Or perhaps extremely intelligent, but kind of a jerk? Your gut has an innate way of telling you right off the bat when someone is not right for you, but sometimes being open in your dating life can change it forever. Similar to taking the ‘wrong’ job, dating a someone totally different than who you imagine yourself ending up with can be eye-opening. Seeing how someone else perceives you gives can give you a new perspective and even appreciation of what you have to offer, and can help you gain the confidence to talk to that guy or girl you really like but are too shy to approach.
3. Splurge on something totally frivolous
Obviously, I’m not talking about a major purchase like a car, house, horse, or anything like that.When you are at a point in your life where you have fewer responsibilities and less money, sometimes it can be so luxurious to treat yourself to something you’d never normally buy. I’m talking a box of fancy chocolates, a massage, a dinner out, or those boots you don’t really need but just love. A special ‘reward’ always motivates me to work hard and continue to pursue my goals. Of course, these rewards should be sporadic and based on merit, but, once in a while, a good bottle of wine (perhaps one over $10?!) can be the perfect pick-me-up.
4. Stay out too late
I’m sure everyone has had those nights – you know, the ones where going to bed didn’t really happen because you were having too much fun? If not, I suggest you get busy! Sure, 8 hours of sleep should be your usual M.O., but what good stories will you have to share when you’re old and wrinkled if you never had at least one crazy night out with too little sleep? Those are always my favorite stories to tell, and definitely my favorite ones to hear.
5. Fall in love too hard, too fast.
Yes, in an ideal world, it would be better if we could all just be logical and practical when it comes to our love lives. For example: he lives in Abu Dhabi, I live in London = this probably won’t work. However, we all know that love doesn’t follow any rules. My advice? Go with it! Go with the crazy and just experience the butterflies, the lightning bolts, the broken heart, all of that stuff. In doing so, you’ll grow, heal, get stronger, and have the scars to prove it. Just don’t let the bad stuff close you off…every person, every experience, and every relationship is different and deserves a chance.
6. Hit ‘reply all’ and other f*ck ups
How many of you have done this one? *meekly raises hand* Yeah, I’ve effed up. I’ve done it in front of bosses, clients, students, my family, my friends, strangers, you name it. But stupid mistakes just HAPPEN. Everyone does them, and, yes, you may annoy or anger someone when you do, but it’s temporary. A silly mistake like hitting ‘reply all’ or walking into a street pole (yep, done both of those) is honestly not the end of the world! It will not define you forever. Accept the mistake, apologize to the affected parties, make a mental note to try harder next time, and boom! Moving on.
7. Totally botch an interview
You know what they say: practice makes perfect. There is NO WAY you are going to be an amazing interviewee without a few test runs in the real world. Fun fact: for phone interview practice, my mom used to call me and pretend to interview me. Yeah, worst experience ever (but thank you so much mom for trying!). The reason it didn’t work is because I knew it wasn’t real, and couldn’t take it seriously. Of course, my lack of experience did mean a few bad interviews over the years, especially the first few! But you know what? Each one got better. After a goof, I made a mental note of what to say if that sort of question was asked in the next interview, and I got down a few go-to answers for common questions that I can practically recite in my sleep. There’s no guarantee that I’ll be free of a bad interview for the rest of my life, but at least I know I can still continue to learn from the bad ones.
So there you have it! My seven ‘mistakes-that-might-not-actually-be-mistakes’. In essence, this is sort of what I wish someone had told me as I was starting out in the adult world. Maybe if they had, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself for being human. But then again, maybe I also had to make them myself and learn afterwards.Who knows?
What do you think? Do you have any to add? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!