Oops. My Mistake.

12:03 PM

Three things that used to be true about me:

1) I rarely made mistakes

2) because I was super-ultra-obsessively circumspect, quiet and cautious. And obsessive over being right. In this case, the obsessive part is worth mentioning twice

3) because I beat myself up whenever I did goof up.

In the past two weeks, I have perpetrated more humiliating mistakes than in my entire career of existing. Some of them I even more or less knowingly blundered into. The list includes

- emailing a low-on-the-totem-pole English professor instead of the head of the Christian Studies department

- almost opening the bathroom door on my suitemate (people, I'm a diehard community bathroom fan for a reason)

- writing down the wrong classroom number and playing run-through-ever-single-level-of-every-single-building-until-you-arrive-five-minutes-late-to-your-most-important-class

- simultaneously breaking guy dorm visitation hours and missing a meeting because a nonexistant alarm that I had not set failed to go off

The rest I blocked from memory.

In any case, looking stupid, incompetent and rebellious freaks me out more than actually committing a petty crime. When I purposefully sin, I can atone for it in some way. I deserve punishment. And as a girl with a very strong sense of justice, I'm ok with taking my punishment and facing the consequences, no matter how miserable.

But accidents? Forgetfulness? Sure, I can take a (usually self-inflicted) punishment for that, but that fails to take away the shame and the stigma of looking like an idiot. That stresses me out. It also stresses me out because there's not really any way I can prevent said accidents from happening again -- how can you plan for a lapse of memory? How can you train yourself to doubt the registrar's secretary when she tells you to email Prof So-and-So? How can you prevent writing down the wrong room number when you triple-checked several times throughout the entire summer?

I can't. Which means I'm going to make more mistakes. Maybe repeat some of the same mistakes. Definitely look like a careless student.

But you know what? Those three things mentioned above? They're not true anymore. I do make mistakes, and the reason I make mistakes is because I'm not trapped in fear of making mistakes. I'm still careful; I still check to make sure I'm right; I still try to prevent embarrassing things from happening; but when I'm 99% sure of something, I don't let that 1% hold me back. Because what's the worst that can happen if I email the English professor instead of the chair of the Christian Studies department? I'll look silly -- but so what? Looking silly isn't a sin. A death blow to pride, certainly -- which probably says all that needs to be said about why I feel humiliated in the first.

Feeling free to make mistakes -- not to make them purposefully, mind, in a "bend the rules" attitude -- is I think a form of humility. It recognizes that you're human, you're flawed, you're like other people -- who make mistakes. My roommate's English prof started lecturing in the wrong room the same day I couldn't find my room -- even great professors get classrooms wrong. On my walk of shame back from the guys' dorm, I bumped into a guy who was mistaken about visitation hours too. And I'm just waiting for someone to open the door on me while in that sad little suite-style bathroom. Did I mention I prefer community bathrooms?

Being able to apologize for, try harder about, and eventually have a good laugh over human stupidity and forgetfulness makes me more accessible to other people. It relieves me so much to commit some sort of accident that feels like a felony only to hear a more confident friend say, "Oh, I did that too" followed by the side-splitting story. You wonder why you ever freaked out about that silly little mistake.

And really, unless you live in a community of humbugs, who's really going to hold mistakes, accidents and lapses of memory against you? Yes, there may be consequences even for perfectly innocent accidents, but people understand. They're not going to hate you. They're not going to malign your character because of one small incident. One accident does not an irresponsible, stupid or sinful person make.

It's so much simpler to just blow off mistakes and move on with life. It's more humble, it's more real, and it makes for great late-night entertainment for your friends.

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2 impressions

  1. ha! sounds like you've had an eventful week. ;) love this post though. i really tend to beat myself up over mistakes out of my control, and i'm trying to work on that!

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  2. You have no idea how much I needed to read that today...I made some MAJOR mistakes last week...and if I can't put them all behind me and move completely on, I know I will make more this week...(at which point I'm not sure if they will be mistakes...) so thank you for the perfectly timed reminder. :)

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