Creative Juice: In Which Imperfection No Longer Haunts Me

September 8, 2014

You know, I have made more mistakes than I can count.

When I was a young student in school, I believed that the mistakes I made on my math homework were a big deal. I kept hunting for an elusive “100%.” Every once in a while, I achieved perfection. But not very often.

Then I grew up a little bit and went to high school. I made plenty of mistakes there too, but the ones I cared about most had to do with girls, not math problems. There were all the times I put my foot in my mouth, or misjudged a situation, or just had something blow up in my face.

But I grew up some more, and wouldn’t you know it, I did not care so much about my high school mistakes anymore, mostly because I was busy making new mistakes. I felt I had made a mistake in my choice of school. Then I feared I had made a terrible mistake in my choice of college major. A few years later, I seriously wondered if I had made the worst mistake of my life with my career choice, which was not panning out so well.

Over the last eight years, my happy married life has supplanted my formerly single life. But marriage has not been all bliss. There have been days when I have felt the burden of making huge mistakes in my marriage, actions which I wish I could take back. And just over the last few weeks, I have realized some glaring mistakes I have made in my work life.

You know, this is the funny thing that no one tells you while you are growing up. The mistakes that consumes your mind today will not look so bad later…because you’ll be busy making new mistakes!

I grew up thinking there would come a day when I would be past making mistakes, a time when I would achieve a “100%,” when I would be able to do everything right.

Yeah, right.

It seems to me more and more that while life is hopefully a process of becoming wiser, it is never a process of achieving perfection. If it is perfection we are striving for, we will never reach it.

Cheri and I got a cool old typewriter over the weekend, so I spent a good amount of time playing with it. The thing about an old typewriter is that it is very easy to make mistakes. And once your mistake is on the page, it is on the page. A typewriter is a really good tool for learning to deal with our imperfection. In fact, it took me three tries to get this little paragraph exactly right.

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I think the trick is to learn, not to fear making mistakes, but to learn how to let them go and not let them haunt us. Fortunately, most of our mistakes do not exist, imprinted forever in ink on paper.