I have always had an interesting relationship with mistakes. A lot of the good things that have happened in my life have been a byproduct of my mistakes. The same can be said about the bad things. Sometimes I’ll picture my life without the mistakes I’ve made and genuinely wonder how I would have turned out.
Would I still be a patient husband if my problems with anger management had not cost me so dearly at work? It was only after I realised a problem with my professional life that I made a change in my personal life.
Would I still be so loyal to my best friend, if I hadn’t come so close to loosing him? We’d still be great friends, but I don’t know if we’d be as intentional about it.
Maybe mistakes weren’t the only reason for my personal growth, but they definitely had a part to play. So why is it that when I flip the coin to the other side, mistakes fill me with fear and anxiety. Why have I grown to look at them as things to avoid? Why have I drilled in myself a desire to design a life free of mistakes? Why do I hate people for making them? Why don’t I have a better appreciation for the contribution that mistakes have made in my society? Why am I so paralysed by thought of making them?
Why do I associate mistakes with evil?
Surely there’s a difference between failing despite having the right intention and meaning to cause harm. Mistakes are not evil, they are human. I want to learn how to make them again. I want lift the fog of fear that surrounds me as soon as I have to make a decision. To approach life like a child again; immune to judgement but filled with excitement for the future. Something took that virtue away from me at an early age and now I realise that my happiness depends on getting it back.
That something is fear.
I want to focus on doing things the right way without fear being the driving force. Fear is crippling. Fear has made me do great things, but I never enjoyed a single one of them. Fear itself is not bad. It’s necessary sometimes. I am instead challenging the idea that I have to live in constant fear in order to achieve great things…
“If you fail your K.C.S.E you will never amount to anything!”
I did fail, and I’m still here. Amounting to so much.
So that was obviously a lie, but it was said to me so many times that even long after it turned out to be false, I still wear it like a scar. I think part of the reason I worked so hard in film school was because I felt like I had cheated life by winning a scholarship. I felt like I wasn’t worthy to be part of a world in which you amount to nothing if you fail your national exams. Sooner or later someone was going to find out that I’m a fraud and put me in the streets where I belong. I lived most of my young adult life anxiously waiting for the consequences of my failure. They never came and I missed out on being young because I was too busy worrying.
Please don’t use fear to raise children. Eventually, it has the complete opposite effect you are trying to have on them. Fear is crippling.
Surely we can do great things just out of pure excitement. We can make taking risks the new normal. The options when you take a risk is winning or losing. The options when you do nothing is nothing. We can also do a better job of how we see mistakes. Don’t fear the mistake, fear not tying at all. Fear not giving your best. Fear living in fear.
I have a right to live and I am ferociously going to exercise that right.
I’m starting by going back to my childhood and telling younger Ernest that his best will be enough. That a failure in his result slip doesn’t have to amount to a failure in his life. I want him to start challenging the people around him who are trying to teach him a contempt for mistakes. Even if its his own parents, I want him to be able to tell them that all he has to do is be faithful to himself. His only job is to keep searching for the best version of himself; no matter how many mistakes he bumps into on his way. Most of those mistakes will be clues to who he really is.
Then I’m going to find my young adult version and slap him out of his sleep. This is because he has only been dreaming of a good life instead of living the one that is right in front of him. I am going to tell him that no one he looks up to has never made a mistake. I’ll tell him that if he is afraid of making mistakes, then he should see what happens when he doesn’t try at all. It’s not just worse, its sad. I’ll tell him to stop crying after his first day at Film School. I’ll tell him that he will graduate top of his class only because he made more mistakes than anyone else. I will tell him that he has the right to exist. The right to take up space.
He has the right to do well for himself, and so do you!