new year new mistakes

At some point last year I came to the realization that I was playing it pretty safe, and that I’d been playing it pretty safe for a long time. I’d gotten pretty good at avoiding trouble and not causing too much of a scene. I had a comfortable job and a comfortable apartment, in a comfortable city not too far from my parents. I didn’t post selfies and I didn’t cuss around “adults.” I’d do things like agree with someone falsely just to avoid an argument, volunteer to do something that I didn’t want to do, drink too much just because I was at a bar, attach too quickly to someone who wasn’t a good fit, etc. These were all patterns that I kept repeating even though I wanted to quit them. And while changing these patterns wouldn’t require anything huge, I knew that it would require me to be more daring. Not in a crazy way, but in a normal-human-on-a-Tuesday-afternoon kind of a way. And I wanted to be more daring, to feel more excitement, more thrill, to express the parts of me that weren’t just socially appeasing. So I made the decision to make new mistakes.

Yep, new mistakes. Getting it perfect wasn’t an option, but making a different mistake seemed doable. I didn’t necessarily have to get it right the next time, but I at least had to do something different. It’s like correcting your course when learning how to drive… you steer a little too far to the left, so you turn the wheel back to center, maybe overcorrect and wind up heading too far to the right, so then you turn the wheel back to center, head left again, and eventually you’ll learn how to steer the car in the direction you truly want it to go. I’d been making mistakes for too long in the same direction. If nothing else, an overshoot the opposite way would give me a better idea of where my center of balance was.

So I started doing things a little differently. I argued, intentionally, when I didn’t agree with someone (I kind of liked it, too). I stopped drinking for months at a time (most people didn’t notice, and if they did they just worried that I was judging them). I didn’t forge relationships just to pass the time (silence can be wonderful, even in social situations). When I didn’t want to do something, I said no; when I wanted to post a picture of myself, I did; when I wanted to share something weird, I did. I had uncomfortable conversations, was called into scary meetings with management, missed out on some parties, apologized a lot, and hurt some feelings in the process. I also started feeling more like myself, a little better expressed, and a lot closer to the people in my life.

Making new mistakes might sound a little under-ambitious, because it is, but that also makes it doable. And I don’t see the point of making grand resolutions that aren’t going to stick. So if you want to shake shit up a little bit in your life, put more you out on the table, and see how the world responds, give this practice a shot: make new mistakes.

Maddie Wise