“If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down but the staying down.” ~Mary Pickford
Well, the little blue line was undeniable, and the circumstances unforgettable.
It was Black Friday 2007, after a full day of work during which my nausea rendered me so useless that my coworkers insisted I buy a pregnancy test on my way home.
And there was a line.
But no spouse. No ring. No house. Just a freshly-issued Master’s Degree and the gamut of emotions that come with an unexpected pregnancy.
Surprisingly, I felt excited to be a mother.
But I feared what others would think. I was not convinced I could manage on my own. And I questioned how this choice would impact my child for the rest of his life.
Two potential life paths loomed in my mind’s eye, possibilities for my future after this momentous event:
Path A projected a life of pain and struggle, feeling ostracized from society and working tirelessly to make ends meet while my child fended for himself and fell in with the wrong crowd as a substitute for his overwhelmed and unavailable mother.
Path B presented the option of a life where “mistakes” are blessings, and my son and I could grow close together with the support of a village of loving friends and family while I focused on our bond and our health, using all of the resources available to me and constantly bettering our lives.
Clearly, “Path A” came from a place of fear and shame. Until this event, I didn’t make mistakes. I was always the one who was steadfast and predictable, cautious and planned.
So this rocked my world.
Because that vision of Path A had haunted me and inhibited me for my entire life, in different ways. Path A was always the worst-case scenario of what might happen if I veered off the beaten path, whether intentionally or by “mistake.” The possibility of Path A prevented me from actually living my life.
I was so paralyzed by the fear of that path that I couldn’t even take a step.
Until I stumbled.
And found that I could still keep going. That stumble was life-changing, but it was not life-ending.
In fact, one might even argue that my life began with that stumble.
It helped me realize that mistakes are manageable and often very valuable. It helped me realize that my worst fears (i.e.: an unexpected pregnancy) might come true, but that they may not always be as dreadful as I had imagined. It helped me realize that a life-changing mistake may actually be a surprise blessing.
It’s easier now for me to take risks.
It’s easier now to go boldly in the direction of my dreams, as Thoreau implored.
Because I know now that if I stumble, I can re-orient myself and move in another direction, if need be.
It’s all about attitude and adaptability. It’s about faith. It’s about owning your mistakes and using them to your advantage.
I believe firmly that there is freedom in the stumble.
Life feels so open without the paralyzing fear of messing up. And if you could have even a taste of that freedom, it would open your life up to endless possibilities.
- What would you do differently if you knew you could handle a mistake?
- How would you live if you transformed your fears into enthusiasm?
- What if fear of failure is actually the biggest mistake in life?
Don’t just stand there. Take the first step. And proceed with the confidence of knowing that if you stumble, you can just brush yourself off, re-orient yourself, and keep moving in a new direction.
Photo by flickoholic