Mistakes Were Made.


“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

We have always been taught to seek happiness through an optimistic future plan. You should not dwell on the past you can’t change because your future is an open book. There are endless possibilities for what lies ahead, that much I can’t contest.

But my future will be molded by the actions of my present and my actions are influenced by the mistakes in my past.

When you’ve made as many bad choices as I have, it’s difficult to pretend that they haven’t impacted your life so far. As a teenager, I was a tearaway with a chip on my shoulder and a fondness for vodka in dangerous quantities.

The intervention came when I was arrested, reprimanded and promptly sent to a far-off boarding school. Which worked well enough. I went on to earn a degree I hated which I used to land a couple of jobs I hated, even more, to save for a backpacking trip around the southern hemisphere.

I stayed in the latest job I didn’t like for a lot longer than I should have done. Really, the job wasn’t for me right from the beginning but I told myself it would be a mistake to give it up.

When I finally quit I didn’t leave my bed for a month. I went on a downward spiral, dwelling on every mistake I’d ever made. I was unemployed, depressed, and still living with my Mum. The possibility of a happy future was hidden from me by a smog of self-hatred. I figured, why should I bother brushing my teeth when I don’t even want to exist?

Then, just as I thought I’d never shower again, I had a revelation. I realized that, instead of beating myself up over the mistakes I’d made, I could look at what they taught me.

Skipping that much school taught me that I have a lot left to learn. Getting arrested taught me that I am not invincible. Earning an (unnecessary) degree taught me that there’s more to success than just a good job. Drinking that much vodka taught me that I don’t like vodka and neither do my kidneys.

Leaving my job and following my passion taught me that it’s OK not have a plan. Sometimes you just have to see what happens next.

It has taken until my mid-twenties to understand that each mistake I made has guided my experience. I am a direct result of the mistakes I made, but I should not be ruled by them. They were lessons learned from the misguided notion that I ought to do what everyone else is doing to be successful.

Just because you have made mistakes in the past, that doesn’t mean they have to hinder your future. I am now writing for a living, surrounding myself with people who make me feel alive, and will, finally, be going backpacking this year.

13 thoughts on “Mistakes Were Made.”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Josie! It’s unfortunate the relationship we develop with failure and mistakes. Even more so is the misfortune of how most of us didn’t have control over how this relationship manifested itself.

    Speaking from my experience in the American education system, I was in constant pursuit of getting “straight A’s.” Anything less was considered a failure. I was taught that an 80% meant I failed on 20% of the work and that should be where my attention is paid. Rather the celebrating and advancing the strengths I had shown, I was supposed to focus on the weaknesses and make sure they don’t stay that way.

    It’s a system built on constant angst toward imperfection. As if that isn’t bad enough, everyone was expected to learn the same information, at the same pace, and without the context of real world application. So, relating back to your experience with using vodka as a crutch, whenever we had bigger problems to deal with outside of school, we never developed the knowledge, skills, or fortitude to handle them properly.

    I find it incredibly important for us to know where our relationship or association with different abstract components in our life truly come from. When we are able to pull back the curtain and reveal the true identity of our past, the future can indeed be approached with a mindset of limitlessly possibility.

    1. The education system in the first world has a lot to answer for I think. It’s breeding an entire generation of kids that are terrified of failure compounded by the influence of social media accounts displaying only their best moments.

      Failure and mistakes are a natural course of life and unfortunately we’re only taught to strive for better. Bettering yourself, of course, should be a lifelong project but not at the risk of your mental wellbeing.

      My own happiness is now my core ambition, everything else is an after thought.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s very useful , when you can see how all “life stuff” works to another people. I am sure that experience is the most important thing in life. Wish you all the best!

    1. Gosh I just saw all these comments and never replied to any of them! Yes this “life” lark can incredibly intimidating, I think it’s important in this day and age to understand that what you see of people isn’t necessarily what you get, no-one is perfect after all…

  3. I’m in the midst of a very confusing part of my life right now. I’ve just quit college twice, and I’m kind of lost. Your story gives me hope. Things will work out soon… Right?

    1. Yes. Keep your focus on the thing that your heart desires and not the thing that you or others have told you that you desire. As you do this, you will see that the world, as if by magic, will align to see your desires fulfilled. The struggle will be difficult but that is half the fun. Don’t lose sight of this and you’ll be fine.

    2. I’m so sorry I never replied to these comments! Oh my darling, I have a degree and I’m telling you it’s not the be all and end all. My brother in fact, runs a very successful business with no formal education whatsoever. Sometimes it takes us longer than others to realise what we were meant to do and we won’t know what’s a mistake or an opportunity until we try it.

      It will all work out in the end and if it hasn’t worked out yet, it’s not the end.

    1. Absolutely! Say I’ve always heard, “do what you love and the money will come”.

      Although, binging on Netflix and irritating my cat isn’t earning me much just yet 😉

  4. Hi Josie,
    Thank you for sharing your story. We are today, what happened to us and what we learned in the past. I absolutely loved the line “My future will be molded by the actions of my present and my actions are influenced by the mistakes in my past”.
    Each mistake is a learning experience. As Albert Einstein rightly said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”. All the best.

    1. I spend most of my life trying one new thing after the other, if we don’t try everything we won’t know what we’re good at!

      I’m glad you appreciated that line, it’s one of my more poetic statements.

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