Sometimes I’m so afraid of making mistakes I become paralyzed, and I don’t make any decisions at all, or at least not any that can’t be taken back. This isn’t just in one realm of my life, but in pretty much all of them. It even affects this blog!
I’m branching out. I started training for a volunteer position earlier this week. It’s waaaaayyy outside of my comfort zone, but I really think it will be “a good stretch” as some academics I know would say. A very good stretch. It’s going to require a lot of learning, and not the read-and-respond, cram-for-the-test kind of learning I’ve proven pretty adept at. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to learn from them, though, and it’s going to be good — for me, and I hope for the people I’ll help.
Tonight I was sitting outside reading Infinite Jest (which I’m about 1/5 through, and am enjoying, by the way), and I saw an earwig* crawling on one of the plants potted in front of my building. It was on a spider-plant-like thing, and would crawl up a leaf until the leaf bent over to touch another, crawl on that leaf, and maybe turn around and crawl back, frantically trying dozens of leaves. Until finally it found just the right leaf that bent over onto another plant, one with flowers (maybe a petunia?), and camped out there for a while.
One of the “mistakes” I’m afraid of making is getting on a wrong track. I think my idea of life and its paths is a little too linear. There are milestones and checklists, of course, and being goal-directed isn’t a bad thing by any means. But sometimes to get to where we want to go, we have to backtrack, try something new, and hope for the best. And changing one’s mind or doing something different isn’t a “mistake.” To switch up the metaphor here, there’s nothing wrong with a little out-and-back hike every now and then, right? We age linearly, but that doesn’t need to dictate our expectations for everything else we do (more and more, bigger and bigger, closer and closer, higher and higher, happier and happier).
A friend posted this quote earlier in the week, and it struck a chord for me: “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.” — William James, Principles of Psychology (1890). I don’t want to be that person. It’s exhausting to be that person. So here’s to deciding, to trying even if it means not instantly excelling, to recognizing opportunities for learning and growth.