Week 9 - Mistakes
The most valuable lessons I've learnt have come in the form of mistakes. In no particular order of priority, here are 29 of my biggest mistakes and some of the lifelong values I've learned from them.
1. Sending promotional material worth $1.7k out for printing with a glaring typo in them. I learned to not only double- but triple-check every single piece of material that I send out to improve my ability to catch typos quickly. It also taught me how fortunate I was to have such a good and understanding first boss.
2. Crashing my car. This obviously taught me the importance of safety and not multitasking when driving, and also how much I value my life.
3. Leaving my phone in a taxi. Twice. It taught me to be more responsible for my belongings, that there are kindhearted strangers everywhere, and that women really deserve dresses with pockets.
4. Taking a job for the money and an impressive title. I left in less than a year. Lesson learnt: No amount of money is worth doing a job in which you cannot see your purpose and value.
5. Spilling coffee on my laptop. Holding coffee and a laptop at the same time is not a good idea.
6. Missing a connecting flight home. I learned that every airport has different systems and to always be alert to my surroundings when traveling.
7. Getting married at the age of 25 and getting divorced two years later. It taught me never to rush into big life decisions and never to let society's expectations dictate what your intuition is telling you.
8. Blaming my upbringing and childhood limitations for far too long instead of growing up and owning my present. Realizing I had the power to make fresh and different decisions as an adult taught me that I could have done this earlier.
9. Taking my "natural leadership qualities" as an excuse to be bossy, and my language skills as an excuse for attempting to win verbal wars. I learned that being firm doesn't have to mean being aggressive, and that empathy and understanding can bring results quicker than persuasion and trying to win through rationally superior arguments.
10. Actually caring what people think of me, whether they will judge me for being Asian, a divorcee, a banana, a native English speaker without a native English accent, a woman, a pastor's daughter. I learned that people are often too busy worrying about other things to have the time to judge me, and that those who do are not worth the energy anyway.
11. Trying to solve problems on my own before asking for help. I learned that personality is quite malleable and that quite unconsciously my personality can shift from introvert to borderline extrovert tending towards introversion, and from being individualistic to being communal.
12. Thinking I can "save" or "fix" people I care about. My energy is far more useful spent on improving myself instead of trying to influence those who don't take responsibility for themselves.
13. Always waiting for the guy to make the first move thinking this was the "right" way. If I hadn't asked Alan out for coffee I might not have met the love of my life.
14. Believing that humans could interpret the "divine will" of God and being so small-minded to think that God can be put in a box of our rational human understanding and that his principles can be generalized into a one-size-fits-all template for how every human should live their life. I have not learned the answers to God and spirituality but I have learned that I have so much more peace and lightness in my heart when instead of focusing on the dos and don'ts I focus on simply being more loving: towards myself, towards others, towards the things placed within my care and control.
15. Being too embarrassed as a teenager to use contraception. This point is important because breaking the stigma we still face in Asia about contraception is important. I was lucky I swallowed my pride and embarrassment and got the morning after pill, but many who don't because of shame live with the consequences for a lifetime. I've learned that we can bring progress by talking about things people don't talk about, by bringing things from the shadows into the light.
16. Being so focused on maintaining my scholarship grades in university (in the UK) and having such an inferiority complex that I believed the editorial team did not accept my application because I was not white. I spent an entire year studying abroad and did not push harder to get involved in more clubs and extracurricular activities. I learned that some experiences really are once-in-a-lifetime, and that trying once, receiving a rejection, and not trying at least a few more times is really lazy. Most things worth achieving have been achieved through several tries.
17. Leaving my laptop in the toilet once and a restaurant twice. Each time kind strangers returned it. In Malaysia. I learned Malaysians are kinder that I thought when every day you read news about snatch thefts and scammers.
18. Wearing heels to walk down dodgy makeshift concrete stairs. I still have the scars today. Lesson well learnt to wear sensible footwear.
19. Missing my train from Newcastle back to Middlesbrough. I ended up staying overnight at a 24 hour kebab shop and meeting lots of interesting characters. I'm lucky the waiter looked out for me and didn't let drunk men walking in bother me.
20. Coming in 1 hour late for a management meeting because I broke up the day before and spent the night crying and woke up late. It would take me a few more relationships to figure out if I didn't get my relationship and career in sync, I was always going to feel pulled between the two. For the first time in my life I find myself now with someone who understands my goals, champions my successes, who support me wholeheartedly, and who isn't intimidated by a woman pursuing a career nor by piles of laundry and dishes.
21. Waiting till my divorce to tell my parents what my values really were. It took everything falling apart for me to be able to face my parents and say, hey, there are certain values I grew up with that aren't really what I believe anymore. I believe they understand me better than all the teenage years and early 20s I spent covering parts of who I am up so I wouldn't hurt them.
22. Losing my house keys while running.
23. Forgetting to buy a new metro ticket. I was fined EUR80 but more embarassingly I was now disruptor of public order in my new country of residence.
24. Getting speeding tickets and tickets for using my phone while driving. I know. Clear sign I was doing too much and rushing everywhere. Never again.
25. Staying silent too many times to maintain the status quo.
26. Looking for escapism from all the above mistakes in unhealthy forms of addictions and entanglements. And worse, hurting others in the process.
27. Waiting to go to therapy. It was the best decision of my life. Yeah, it wasn't robotically repeating the structured "sinner's prayer" at 8 and many times again after that in my teens in church camps. It was deciding as an adult to own my decisions, take responsibility for my own life, truly understand what drives me, what is holding me back, and what I need to let go of that has transformed everything, including how I relate to the idea of a divine being or beings.
28. Swallowing the lump in my throat and blinking away tears every time I said goodbye to a dear friend or a pet because I wasn't used to showing raw emotion in front of others. I've learned to let the tears fall, because they are a sign something was very important and precious to us.
29. Waiting for a better day, more money, someone else to come along, my mood to change... Instead of realizing that I have everything I need to be at peace, content, and happy in the present moment.
I'm looking forward to 30. ✌️