In my teaching days, I'd say to students, "No one's perfect. Why do you think pencils have erasers?" I'd remind them the only true failure was refusal to learn from mistakes. I'd chant that old chestnut, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again."
Obnoxious, huh? Yet, I spoke from the heart. I believe many of the lessons we're meant to learn appear in the form of mistakes.
But how I hate to make them.
Last weekend, I wildly underestimated the time it would take to prepare for a baby shower and greeted the mother-to-be, her mother, and the first few guests with rollers in my hair. (What woman uses rollers in this day and age? The kind who fried the innards of her hair dryer. Yup, another mistake.)
Although I correctly read the train schedules for an upcoming trip, I failed to notice that fares varied according to time of day, with the cheapest for departures at half past dawn or arrivals at the stroke of midnight. Sadly, I'm a cheap-fare gal who'll be traveling with at least two people who hate mornings. I guess I'll be buying the to-go coffee.
One of my cats recently had teeth extracted and required an antibiotic. Per the directions on the box, I diluted the medicine, only to discover later the vet tech had already done so. (I should have known this as the vet's office handed me three clipped pages of instructions.) Rather than waste the twice-diluted stuff, I doubled every dose. The cat's misery quadrupled, and he's still giving me the stink eye.
"Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." - Sophia Loren
My life's full.
Many, many years ago, I invited a brand-new boyfriend to dinner. To impress him, I made moussaka. My boyfriend ate heartily—and then threw up. (Reader, I married him—and not just to ensure his silence.)
My cooking's improved since then. In fact, many praise it. What if I'd given up after my disastrous Greek dinner?
One day, when I was still learning to drive, my dad warned me the driver ahead was going to turn even though that driver hadn't slowed and certainly hadn't signaled. Sure enough, the guy hung a left, and I decided my father must possess psychic powers. "How did you know?"
My dad probably shrugged and said something like, "After a while, you get a feel for what the other guy's doing to do."
I didn't believe him then, but he was right. With experience, we develop a sixth sense for what other drivers are apt to do. In time, we become competent behind the wheel—even if we failed parallel parking our first try at the test..
A would-be writer may attend conferences, take online classes, and read dozens of how-to books, but nothing of significance happens until he or she begins typing, backs the story into a corner, self-corrects, and learns from that false start.
"Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts." - Nikki Giovanni
I know better but am avoiding work on a project because I'm paralyzed with fear--of failure. This, despite the fact I learned to cook, drive, and give a cat many eyedroppers full of medicine.
It's time for me to step up the positive affirmations and pull out the schoolteacher's all-important question: Why do you think pencils have erasers?
What do you avoid because you're afraid of failure?