It’s strange how we always put the blame on ourselves. Even though we all make mistakes, break things, change our minds, and lose the message, most people take everything so personally. Mistakes are the integral event and the substance of life, yet we treat them like preventable mistakes. Our lives are basically a never-ending string of mistakes.
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?
Making sure you never make a mistake, getting everything right, and making sure everything looks, feels, and sounds great – or else you’re a loser, an idiot, or else you’re doomed to failure and misery – is not the real challenges of living. The true test of life is learning to fully appreciate each moment and freely give love when a clown act is going on all 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, broken 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 and colorful mess.
I visited an older friend last weekend, I made her one of my favorite African cuisine, Egusi. She announced to me that she was leaving Lagos for Abuja the next day. I told her she was wrong, she still has a whole week to plan for the trip. She said no, she had changed her departure time inside her head and told me the wrong time by accident. She had only a few hours to pack. And I was slightly irritated that she should have let me know before I became a chef in her kitchen.
“Ugh, I’m sorry,” I said.
“I’m such an idiot,” she said.
“We do things like this all the time,” I said. I wanted to adjust her expectations because there was no way she would have forgotten the date. But I didn’t want to impose my strategies on her at a moment when she probably wanted to curse out.
So my friend sat on her phone, listening to music while I wonder how I’d preserve the Egusi while she’s off. I sat there thinking about how often humans screw things up over the course of their adult lives. I thought about the countless things I’ve botched over time, the dumb things I’ve said, the bad decisions I’ve made, the foolish emails I’ve sent, the short-sighted paths I’ve taken. In that moment, all of those blunders looked not just forgivable but inevitable. Suddenly it seemed obvious to me that all lives are just a series of absurdly poor choices, punctuated only occasionally by wisdom.
Real life is just mistakes and filth and chaos. It’s a really good party. Don’t miss it.
AGUNBIADE OLUWABISOLA says
Thanks just what I needed this morning,I had a misunderstanding with a patient at the center today which however led to a big mess…. After been resolved I got home thinking of how I could have avoided my wrong and stop the mistake from happening…But after reading this I learnt some mistake are to happen anyways and learn from it….Thank you
Nice write up.. it much educative.. and the fact that it is personal makes it more relatable..