How Mistakes Can Set You Free

“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

About Angela Marchesani

Angela Marchesani is a psychotherapist and Holistic Health Coach practicing in Wayne, Pennslyvania. Her website is

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  • Dear Angela,

    I find your story intriguing, because for whatever reasons, you had no Path C, which would have been Plan A for other women – aborting the pregnancy.

    Now I’m not making a value judgment one way or the other, but it seems to me that once a person decides on a path, and only ONE path, and COMMITS to that path, the journey is easier. The trick is, as you know, to fully commit, without looking back, because doubt and indecision will always block your steps.

    I’ve never been faced with personal parenting or help to make that happen with a woman, (not that I know of) so the closest I’ve come to situations like yours, was:

    A. deciding to break up with a girl, and…

    B. deciding to break up with a job. Actually, it was my entire career.

    In each case, I could have stayed and struggled with a path that wasn’t working. They were both bad, but they were MY bad. I owned them, and I knew their boundaries. The pain was tolerable but predictable.

    There’s security in that, as dysfunctional as it is, and I think a lot of people stay in bad relationships and jobs of because the variables are familiar. And so they feel safe, even if they’re miserable.

    But for me, I’ve never been able to tolerate unbalances for too long. So leaving my nests for the unknown has always been a door that would open. Sure, uncertainly is scary. But a slow death is worse. Once I figured that out and realized leaving a bad scene was NOT A CHOICE, but a necessity, I could rationalized that FEAR wasn’t an option either.

    Worry? Okay, I had that, and more than I wanted. But as long as I kept moving, I maintained real HOPE because I was generating CHANGE. And with changes, came eventual success and growth. All because I focused my attention on the goal without doubting my decision.

    In those times when I WAS conflicted and thinking about why I should be doing something else, I stalled. Desire #1 always cancelled out desire #2, as in… “I want this, BUT…”

    That “but”, that contradiction, that belief that I wanted something I didn’t deserve it, or it was too far a reach, or that it wasn’t what I wanted to begin with; any of those I-want-it-but’s always ground my gears to a stop. 

    So I don’t throw myself into conflict that much anymore. Sure, I still have doubts and insecurities from time to time, but thankfully it’s a lot less in my life. If two opportunities come to me about the same time, I always choose number one, assuming it presented itself to me first for a reason. I don’t dwell on what would have happened IF…

    THAT’S A CONTRADICTION TOO! And a mind game…

    Thanks for presenting this topic, Angela. It’s important food for thought.


  • “Because that vision of Path A had haunted me and inhibited me for my entire life” That line resonated with me. I have lived my adult life in fear of taking risks, always thinking that the worst would happen. So the worst did happen, my daughter got cancer and I had no control over it and nothing I could have done would have prevented it. And like you I realised I had the strength to put one foot in front of the other and carry on. I feel a much freer person now and much more able to see the joy in every day, as my daugther did every day in the face of her treatment. 

  • Nikkijerkins


  • What’s weird is that we almost always fear the worst case scenario, but being humans – being so adaptable and clever and desperate survive – the very worst almost never comes to pass.  Because we don’t let it.  We immediately make it something better.  Sweet post.

  • Irv-

    Great points, all of them. Yes, for me option C didn’t even cross my mind. I knew I’d be a mother…. I just had to decide HOW I wanted to live going forward.

    This line of yours, “Worry? Okay, I had that, and more than I wanted. But as long as I kept moving, I maintained real HOPE because I was generating CHANGE. And with changes, came eventual success and growth. All because I focused my attention on the goal without doubting my decision,” resonates very deeply with me.

    I’ve found that once I make up my mind and continue to move forward, things happen however I decide they will. It’s that initial ambivalence or doubt that can really keep us in a holding pattern in life.

    Here’s some more thoughts on that exact thing:

    Thanks for reading and thanks for the thoughtful feedback!


  • Adam,

    So true! But it’s so scary to have faith in that adaptability until you’ve stumbled a few times and survived… or even THRIVED as a result. Thanks for sharing!


  • Thank you Nikki!


  • Kiri,This is the paradox of fear: Sometimes the worst DOES happen. But no amount of fear or planning can prevent it sometimes.I am sad to hear of your daughter’s illness. I am not surprised that you found the inner strength needed to not only carry on in life but to embrace life.I am wishing you and she health and happiness!-Angela

  • LadyTamborine

    In many cases when one stumbles..they lurch forward.

  • LadyTamborine,

    Awesome point! I love the visual image it conjures, too… a little “whoops” that lands us a few feet further than we might have stepped, if carefully.



  • That reminds me, pain isinevitable, but suffering is by choice, a saying from Buddha
    Embrace the pain,and get up