How We Keep Making Mistakes and Why it Doesn’t Matter
There’s no way to predict whether or not you’ll survive adulthood. Or, in the least, get through it with minimal psychological damage and self-loathing.
Through our adult lives, we move through a cycle of making mistakes, fixing them, and learning our lesson before making new mistakes. But it turns out that all of these lessons wear out faster than Danny DeVito competing in the Hurdles. Once you learn something new with which to defend yourself against the next challenge, you find out that everything is different, the rules have changed, and the tidbits you’ve learned no longer apply. Life is transient and so are its lessons.
Fortunately, this isn’t all bad news. And you will still be able to swaddle yourself in a plush blanket of every-mistake-I-make-is-justifyable-because-it-will-arm-me-for-the-next-situation. The only way in which you can learn from your, or others’, mistakes is to eventually build those experiences into a compass that will alert you when you start to spiral south. While lessons are transient, experience is not, so it’s never a bad idea to expand your reservoir of knowledge with folks who have lived through Smallpox and war-with-bayonets. Of course, despite what many people think, good advice is not an inoculation against mistakes. You’ll still make them. But your compass will start to form, and in the future your worldly experience will keep you from traveling down detrimental roads, like deciding to bring fannie-packs and mismatched socks back into style.
Yet alas, even experience only goes so far, and our compasses can only point us in the right director for so long (aka: if you find yourself having a conversation about Xenu with Tom Cruise, you need to realign your needle). I’ve never known any adults who have woken up one morning and thought: gee, now I know the secret to life. There is no secret. So for those of us just beginning adulthood and eager for the day when life is normal or steady or no longer a rollercoaster ride: save your eagerness for the Spice Girls revival tour, because a normal life is never going to happen. No one holds the key to life and everyone just pretends to know what the heck their supposed to do—which basically means you can (re)invent yourself as many times as you want. As long as you, too, slap on a little confidence and poise. There isn’t a right way, there isn’t a wrong way…there’s just the way you choose to make it through, with relative sanity and a whole lot of the happiness that most adults forget to hang onto along the journey.
It’s Monday night and you’re showering your friends with a torrential downpour of the frustrations about your adult life, which week-after-week fails to appear as glamorous as Paula Abdul’s sequined bras. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s never easy—it won’t get easier and it won’t get less chaotic. But it will get more fun, more exhilarating, and way wilder than you could have imagined.
There may not be a manual for surviving adulthood—but there is a lot of wine and a whole world full of adults who will polish off the bottle with you.