For The Real LJ Idol, Round Three:: Topic: “My Biggest Mistake and What I Hope I Have Learned From It”
What a horribly cliched and overwrought topic this can be. Did you know that tutorials about how to make a corporate newsletter successful often suggest that you start a regular guest column called “My Worst Mistake–and What I Learned From It,” and ask for submissions from readers/clients? That makes them invested in your newsletter and gets them feeling part of your “team.” Manipulation wins the square again.
But anyhow, we’re not going to do a newsletter with these. I’ve read a few of y’all’s entries, and may I say how depressing and upsetting some of the life experiences described were (although the entries themselves were great). I’m trying to be LESS self-revealing, so I’m not going to try to think of some awful fell-down-went-boom scenario from my past (though I could probably fill a book with them.) But I’m not really up to writing a funny response to the topic, either.*
* [Oops, I lied on both counts. See second half of post.]
A few points:
* Unless you believe in free will, you can’t believe in mistakes
* Look at the word: sometimes all it may be is a mis-*take* on the situation. Other times it’s a major malfunction.
* Perhaps nothing can really qualify as a mistake, seen from a distance; it was a separate path on which you have learned something valuable that you might otherwise have missed [Please, Lord, not another Learning Experience!]
* I wish I could say with Timmy Tyler, “No regrets, so no mistakes.” But regrets I gots by the bucketful. However, which will it be: “forgive and forget,” or “resent and remember”?
* Given enough time (so that the pain and humiliation recede and you have time to stand back up), you can usually see that what we perceive as mistakes turn out to be life lessons. All those so-called mistakes contribute to who we are. The only lasting mistake is to refuse to “learn” the lesson, and therefore we’re doomed to continue making the same “mistake.” The film “Groundhog Day” hammers this point home.
* The Butthole Surfers said it best: “It’s better to regret something you HAVE done than to regret something you HAVEN’T done.” I can live with the “dang, I wish I hadn’t done that,” a LOT better than the, “If only I HAD done that!”
* Learning something is ALWAYS good, even (and especially) when it hurts. At least that’s what Sister Mary Discipline always said.
“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes–it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold onto the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you, when a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thick or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”–Dr. Maya Angelou, past Poet Laureate of the United States
All right, all right, I’ll toss you a tidbit about one of my past mistRakes. Some years ago when I was in my senior year of college, I got dumped by this guy I was crazy about and had been going with for about a year. The way I met him was, he was stalking my best friend/worshiping the ground upon which she walked. She saw him as a neat way to get her homework in Assembly Language class double-checked. She took me along as a “beard” when he had her meet him to go over an assignment, because otherwise he kept trying to scoot over close to her and so forth. Of course she didn’t tell me this–she merely said, “I’m going to exchange homework with Sir BuckTeeth. Wanna come along?”
He started calling me for advice about how to interest her, and then used that as a pretext to start coming to my place to “talk” and actually do homework. He (seemingly) fell in love for the first time–I was the first girl he’d ever gone out with (I told you this guy was . . . um, un-pretty, though not disfigured or anything.) He said, “I love you,” first.
We became an item. I fell really hard. For a while, so did he. But over the next year, I became more and more emotional and all nutty-like, and probably somewhat tough to deal with. I hated having to major in subjects I didn’t have a passion for (whereas those were the passions of his life, and he was the star of every class.) My mother and I had Issues, and she was even nuttier then than she is now. I didn’t lose that fifteen pounds that he kept trying to starve off of me. I sometimes threw fits when things didn’t go right (such as he kept beating me at Go and chess). The doctors later told me that this era probably marked the beginning of my endocrine malfunction, so that had something to do with my turning into* an irrational crazy be-yotch. Anyway, it wasn’t something I had conscious control over.
* [Shut up–I mean an even WORSE crazy be-yotch than my baseline personality. Trust me, this was PMS Woman Every Day.]
So eventually, he decided I just wasn’t good enough, and he deserved better. He said so. (Being a borderline Aspie, he often said stuff like that.) I told him fine, just go out there and see if you can find someone better. Bad move on my part, because after a couple of false tries he ran across a girl who wanted to hook up with a guy who had a good income potential and who wore a size smaller than I did. Bingo!
So what was my mistake? Well, he used to break up with me regularly (every few weeks) and then come back (within a couple of days), and I always welcomed him back. (Wait, that’s not the mistake I was talking about, though it’s arguable that I’m focusing on the wrong segment of this worm.) So I kept hearing he was going out with her and they’d been seen together here or there, and I finally decided I would find out if this was a platonic thing or if he was Truly In Lurrrve. So I called her, asked if I could come by her place (she still lived with her parents) to talk, and then did so. I just wanted to ask if they were serious and I had lost him 4Ever.
Yeah, I know. I was only asking because all my friends thought he was a troll, and they said, “We can’t believe he found someone else willing to go out with him.” They certainly wouldn’t have. But then they didn’t admire his mind. And I was hung up on smart guys/geniuses because of having lost my dad so recently. But it did seem unlikely that she would take up with him. I stand by my statement.
Nobody else would be as stupid as I was then.
“Those who control their passions do so because their passions are weak enough to be controlled.” – William Blake
So. She said they were so serious, and they were in love, and she felt like she’d known him forever, yadda yadda. Okay, I asked for that. Then I asked if she would do me the courtesy of not telling him about this . . . she said they kept no secrets from one another. Okay, I was their little running joke for who knows how long. But anyway, at least I knew for sure. I ended up leaving the church we all three attended (a church I loved and where I made a bigger contribution in terms of participation than he did, by the way) because I couldn’t stand to think of the laughter that had to be going on behind my back, and I didn’t want to have to see him escorting her around the place all kissy-kissy. Ugh.
So what did I learn . . . don’t have anything to do with people, because they suck.
[EDIT: I made misjudgments similar to those made by riayn (taking a degree in subjects that OTHER PEOPLE want you to do, not in the subjects you’re great at and that are your passion–although it was family pressure that caused me to do it) and nuhism (about letting things go when it’s their time to go–actually, the story about the blouse is the SAME mistake I made about the guy above.) And wow, autumn-lyric chose the SAME quotation from Maya Angelou that I had pulled out of my vast “quotations” files–cosmic, but logical, because the sentiments apply so strongly to this topic.]
At least this chick lived nearby. No, I didn’t wear a diaper and drive 900 miles like the crazy astronaut wench. I didn’t even have my Mace on me. And for years, I sincerely did wish them well and hoped he had a good life. Only recently have I come around to the realization that he deserves to have an eternal earworm of the song he most hates in the world, and the itch to boot.
Wasn’t that astro-nut deal something, though? (In case you haven’t seen this story–and how did you NOT?–“CNN Breaking News: NASA reviews psych tests after love triangle scandal.” A day late and $4 billion short.)
* * *
“General Turgidson, when you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no chance of such a thing happening!”
“Uh, Mr. President, I don’t think it’s fair to condemn an entire program because of a single slip-up.”
–Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
* * *
Life is certainly like . . . an analogy.
I’d better win the damn lottery tonight. And I need chocolate.
Next time, pick a topic that doesn’t enrage half of us and send the other half into the abyss to visit the Black Dog, all right? *gloom*