Yesterday I moved into a new apartment and started writing in a new notebook. Both beginnings were equally unnerving. Each rent check, each pen stroke, each gesture toward planting roots feels so direly permanent. And, like all humans, I am prone to mistakes. So how do I know if this move will be the right one? How do I know the words on this page will ever become meaningful enough to warrant the ink spent on them?
I’ve noticed this train of thought appear in many aspects of my life. Whether I’m telling my friends a funny story or preparing a rebuttal in a class discussion, I don’t like to open my mouth until I’m sure whatever comes out will be bulletproof. In general, I don’t like taking a first step until I have the next six or seven planned out.
Perks: well, I think I’m really funny–because I don’t talk unless I have something really good to say. I’m also objectively good at (CW: RESUME SKILLS‼️🚨😱) project management and planning ahead.
Drawbacks: conversations don’t wait for perfect comebacks. And more often than not, there’s absolutely no way to know where a choice will lead you. You simply can’t plan ahead all the time, and that shouldn’t hold you back from making a start.
My brand of perfectionism even has layers to it: I’m reluctant to even call myself a perfectionist because I’m not THE perfect example of one. You hear that word and think of surgeons and drill sergeants. Not unemployed college grads.
Needless to say, perfectionism hasn’t gotten me where I want to be in life. So I think that means it’s time to start making some mistakes. Get scammed* by a summer sublet. Write something frivolous in permanent ink. Put all my faults and anxieties on a blog for twelve people to read. I can’t know for sure that they’ll all be mistakes. But surely doing something is better than doing nothing.
So, the advice of the day is to embark on a path of mistakes, because it’s always prudent to choose movement over stagnancy. Even if you don’t know where you’re going or if you’re headed in the right direction. If you fall, you’ll fall forward. And you never know–you might benefit from seeing things from the ground. It’s a new vantage point.
Okay so I realize that up until now, this post has all been about reframing bad decisions and mistakes. I think that’s helpful because they are prevalent in this time of our lives, and that’s okay. We’re young, and there’s no better time for them. But it’s worth noting that this line of thought only makes sense if you’re betting on your own failure. How can you be so certain that each move is a mistake?
It probably has to do with what I talked about in my first post, about adjusting to life without a curriculum. But remember, there’s no reason to believe you can’t do it. You literally haven’t had the opportunity to suck at life after college because it just ended like a month ago?!!! There’s no record of failure.
Besides, even if there were, there’s a whole laundry list of things that I’ve failed at that I would try again. I once had to visit the ER after jumping on my bed (my life is a string of cautionary tales, if you couldn’t already tell). But after the stitches healed, I went back to jumping. I eventually went on to tackle the daunting terrors of bounce castles, trampolines, zip lining, ice skating (literally walking on knives!!! because it looks pretty???), and rollercoasters. Any one of those things could have gone majorly wrong but I did them anyway. So why should transitions in life be any different?
This comparison is, without a doubt, imperfect: situations of perceived physical risk are not really on par with decisions that may shape the rest of your life. But I’m glad it’s here because inside this mistake, there lies a really interesting truth. Roller coasters are easy and new apartments are hard for the same reason. We’re still young and dumb enough to think that we’ll live forever. Probability is no match for a young person’s belief in their own invincibility. Just last week, I looked at a roller coaster and thought,
There’s no way that a mechanical failure will claim my life on this Spongebob ride; I’m too young AND too old for that sh*t.
I think most recent grads apply the same reasoning to the decisions we’re faced with now. We’re too young to decorate our lives with something that looks permanent, and too old to move back into our dorm rooms. (Insert nostalgic interlude here). But behind every mistake is a person with a lot to learn, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
*Note: I did NOT get scammed! The move was a success, and I love my new apartment!