Heather Havrilesky on mistakes

“It’s strange how we blame ourselves for everything. Even though we all lose the thread and break things and change our minds and foul everything up, most of us take it all so personally. We treat mistakes like avoidable anomalies, but mistakes are the main event, the meat of life. Our lives are just a long a series of screw ups.

Last year, I reached a peak state of ‘I am messing everything up.’ And then I just decided that it didn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, it couldn’t matter. As long as I kept showing up and doing my best, as long as I kept forgiving myself for being a human – see also: a fuck up, irredeemable and lost – I would at least resist taking my self-blame and turning it into punitive words or dismissive actions. It was time to give up on getting everything right once and for all. I’d never pulled it off before, why would I start now?

The real challenge of being alive isn’t making sure you never mess up, making sure you get everything right, making sure that everything looks and feels and sounds perfect – or else you’re a loser, or else you’re an idiot, or else you’re doomed to fail and be miserable. The real challenge of being alive is to savor the moment and give your love freely in spite of the clown show unfolding around you.

It’s hard to learn this. It’s also hard to teach kids this, because their educations are so focused on obedience and perfection and competitive supremacy, and their social media diets are a scroll of fifteen clever seconds or five flawless photos or twenty eloquent words. They grow up believing that life is about rendering yourself shiny and triumphant, smooth and funny and bulletproof.

But that’s not how real life feels at all, and blaming ourselves for that fact is like blaming ourselves for reality itself. Because real life is dominated by fumbling words and awkwardness, smudged windows and missed deadlines. Every day, you’re asked to tolerate your endless mistakes and stubborn inadequacies on the fly in order to let the world in, and love it for exactly what it is: a beautiful mess.”

— Heather Havrilesky