Mistake is a four-letter word

I caught up with a friend recently, who had some news to share. She told her story with eagerness, explaining how great she felt, how much fun she was having, how she was learning so much about herself. I could see it in her: she was happy. Naturally, I joined in on her enthusiasm; I supported her and this evolution. I loved seeing her so exuberant. Trouble is, my friend might be making a big "mistake."

As I sat and listened to her latest developments, I considered pointing out to her the potential pitfalls of the decisions she was making, but I held my tongue. I realized there was no use in stating the obvious – this is a smart and savvy woman, in a pretty clear situation, she knows there are consequences to her actions. It didn’t matter what I had to say, she’s gonna do what she’s gonna do. Besides, she wasn’t asking for my opinion. And lucky her for, I don’t believe in mistakes.

My friend could be walking directly towards a shitstorm of her own making, but it is clearly a path she has to go down, a curtain she needs to peek behind. And while I hope the skies remain clear for her, she will find whatever lesson she needs no matter the weather. It will bring her to her next chapter, one way or another.

I used to seek council on every last little decision I ever had to make. I’d call my Mom from Target while trying to choose new bed sheets (seriously, this happened); I’d chat to every friend, neighbor, and coworker when deliberating a breakup; and I’d lie awake at night contemplating the details in my calendar. After years of this exhausting chatter, I finally realized that, just like my friend, I was gonna do what I was gonna do.

Once an idea creeps into my head, there’s no turning back. The question is no longer “am I gonna do it,” it becomes, “am I gonna not do it?” Even if I know there’s a risk involved, that it might not be the “right” thing, it becomes inevitable. Because what’s the alternative: to just sit here, on the edge of my seat, wondering what if? I’d rather go for it and have it blow up in my face than sit around wondering.

Even those decisions I’ve made that now make me shake my head, roll my eyes, and plant my face in my palm, I don’t regret. Because at the time, it was exactly what I wanted to do, and it was what I needed to do. It was not an error; it is simply what happened. In the end my curiosity was satisfied; I had an experience that I wanted to have; and I learned a lesson, even if shit hit the fan. So where’s the mistake? Sounds kinda just like… life.

As we caught up, my friend and I discussed a decision I’d made, one that I could easily label a “mistake," but to me it just looks like a big fat lesson. One I’ve probably had shoved in my face time and time again, but that I kept ignoring. That’s how these things work, you see, if we ignore them, the lessons get louder, more aggressive, with bigger consequences. Until we finally get it. Ever wonder why you keep repeating the same patterns? This is why.

So how do we know what’s right and what’s wrong when making a tough decision? We don’t. There’s nobody calling the shots on this; one path is not marked “mistake” and the other marked “definitely the way to go.” How could things ever be this black and white? All we can do is go with our gut. Because there is never any way to know that the path you didn’t choose would have been better.

Besides, I always wonder – if you skipped one shitty experience and didn’t learn the lesson from it, would you find yourself in a different-but-even-worse one, lacking the knowledge you’d need? Well good thing we don’t have the option to skip out on shitty experiences. All we can do is own our decisions, learn what we can from them, and try not to hurt anybody along the way.

So, how would your life change if you believed that there is no such thing as a “mistake?”

What if you became a little less afraid of the possible shitstorms that lie ahead, and tiptoed down the path anyway?

What if, instead of asking yourself, “Am I really gonna do this?” you ask yourself, “Am I really gonna not do this?”