Why We’re Incapable Of Making Mistakes

Of late, it seems that many of my friends have become bogged down by the fear of making mistakes. Perhaps it is because we are coming to the end of another year. This always seems to give us reflection, doesn’t it? What did I do this year? What did I not do this year? How can I improve next year?

Frankly, I love dispensing advice. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a mother, because I can just see how that would play out. It’s far better to share my thoughts with those who will actually appreciate it.

Here’s my honest belief – we don’t make mistakes.

Allow me to get freaky for a second as I delve a bit deeper.

I think that every person comes into this world with a list of lessons that they are to learn. Every incident that they encounter, every “mistake” or “misstep” pushes them toward a deeper self-awareness.

I also believe that because we have these lessons to learn, the “end” of our lives comes once we’ve learned those lessons. So we can float along in life taking it as it comes, or we can have a crazy, wonderful time – but at the end of it, we’ll somehow have learned the same things, made peace with the same conclusions. We’ll have the same wishes and regrets, the same joys and sorrows. You’ll wonder about the life you didn’t live – but don’t lose faith, my friends, for it was not the life meant for your journey this time around.

People ask me how this can be. After all, children leave this earth often, don’t they? Babies, even. People are raped, murdered, live in horrible poverty, lose both parents at too young an age, there’s cancer and AIDS and hepatitis and mental illness and a slew of other things that can go wrong. People are shot or killed in car accidents or freak accidents and it seems as if they leave us so suddenly. How did they earn such fates, such…lessons, as I call them?

I don’t know. I’m not saying my view is right. For some people it’s probably naïve – stupid, even.

That’s okay.

I just know that since I’ve adopted this viewpoint, I’ve flung myself into life whereas before, I was pretty damn cautious. I find that I’m living, not in fear of screwing up but in the joy of learning and pushing boundaries. It’s almost like I gave myself permission to stop being such a priss.

And it’s wonderful.

Do you have a view on life that others might find weird? Share it in the comments below.

Online Dating (And How I Became Awesome)

I tried that whole online dating thing once upon a time. In real life, it was about 4 years ago.

I’ll never do it again.

But it’s probably not for the reasons you’re thinking. Sure, I discovered my fair share of assholes. I found the men who were just lonely or needed someone to fill a void. The men who were tired of the bar scene. Granted, I also found some people I had chemistry with.

The whole rainbow of online dating personalities, really.

I was fairly lonely myself at the time, so I’m not passing judgement.

I recall a particular time, in the throes of it all, when I was looking for someone who set the world on fire – someone to rub off on my rather vanilla lifestyle of get up, go to work, come home, go to bed routine. After all, I was boring – the only thing that made me interesting were my aspirations. Then again, we all have them – how many of us do nothing with them? I wasn’t.

I decided that this man who set the world on fire – my ideal match – the one that would be the caramel syrup to my vanilla ice cream – did not live within my zip code. Granted, men in other states would never be a dating opportunity, but what did it hurt to see what existed outside my fishbowl?

Plus, I was sick of reading the same profiles month after month. That’s the other thing about dating sites. It’s always the same pool of people in your area. Anyone new that joins is immediately inundated with flirtatious requests and not even worth the ask for about a month.

I found what I was looking for about 600 miles away. Yes, that’s right.

And let me tell you – he was perfection in a profile. A world traveler, a runner, a dog owner and, of course, he was gorgeous.

I totally dug that online persona. But something else struck me – it was just that: a persona. We can be whatever we want to be online. We can be beautiful or popular or funny or wise. But what are we really?

Was HE really?

Probably not.

That’s about the time I realized that I didn’t want to be an online datable persona.

I don’t want to be judged by a photograph. I don’t want to be picked because my hobbies match someone else’s. I want to be awesome. And I want to be someone’s partner not because my online self was up to snuff, but because I was doing awesome things and because I was an awesome person in real life.

If I wasn’t setting the world on fire, I would at least fan a few embers.

This isn’t to say that people don’t find perfectly fulfilling relationships online. I’m aware of a several online relationships that have blossomed.

But it’s not for me.

The funny thing is, that I still consider myself rather vanilla. However, the life that I have built for myself these last four years is anything but. I’ve written four books in one year. Three of them have been published. I’ve built a business from nothing. I’ve adopted not one, but two crazy dogs. I’ve traveled. I AM.

It’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s something – it’s fulfilling dreams instead of just dreaming them.

And I got all that from dating online.

Who’d have guessed?

Tweaking Versus Big Change

It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern. In fact, I find that one of the hardest things in life to break is a routine. Think about it. Routine is the order in which you get ready in the morning. The route you take to work. The way you walk through the grocery store.

These are little things that almost never change – and they make up a lifetime.

That’s because, the older we get the harder it becomes to break routine.

Did you know that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is continuous change?

I find that it is when we get stuck in the day-to-day way of doing things that we start to feel like our lives are mundane or they’re simply passing us by. Be it due to fear or an unwillingness to change, or some other big reason – we become a spectator in our own life.

And yet, we’re still hoping that something extraordinary will happen to us.

Will happen. TO us.

We’re passive. Accommodating. Floating along, and believing that things will play out how they’re supposed to.

We wish it – but what do we do during our life to accommodate that wish?

The answer? Not much. We’re too stuck in our routines. We’re overly distracted by what we need to do to survive. How much we need to work to pay the bills. How many social activities we have this week. How we can’t miss practice.

Before we know it, we’re sixty, watching our kids graduate, wondering where the hell the time has gone.

But being sixty or seventy or eighty doesn’t mean it’s too late to shake up your life.

It’s just a change in routine.

And it’s that change of routine – that big, scary change of which you don’t know the outcome – that feeds us. Sure you can make little tweaks in your existing routine. Cram in a yoga class or a vacation into your life where it fits. But those small tweaks won’t result in big changes. They won’t bring about that big experience or event – at least, not in a timely manner.

What will allow you to make the great strides is big change.

Quit trying to stuff small changes into your current routine.

Shake up your routine. Change it. Try it out. Change it again.

Or be on your deathbed, at any age, and wishing you hadn’t wasted life waiting for permission to live how you want.

It isn’t about luck. It’s about working and changing and growing and connecting.

It’s about trying one thing every day that scares you.

And it feels good.

The Idea Of

I’m unusually fascinated by the idea of relationships today. The marriage culture, without a doubt, is alive and well, especially in the Midwest, where I’ve lived my entire life.

I realize that writing this as an unmarried, near thirty, entrepreneurial woman, may lead some to believe my opinions are skewed. Perhaps they are.

I’m not entirely sure how my path diverged so much from the path of so many of my peers. A psychologist, I’m sure, would be able to unwrap many warning flags that I’ve long since forgotten about.

For instance, I was never popular. I was always a little bit bigger than the other girls my age. Often a little quieter. I didn’t drink or party in high school. I didn’t really participate in those activities in college once I came to discover that I had poor self-control. Wise for a twenty-one year old, I’d thought, even then.

Is that where it started? Should I have cut loose more often? Depended more heavily upon others for my well-being rather than solving everything myself?

There is something to be said for people’s ability to let someone in to their entire life. I’ve never been able to tolerate it much beyond a few months. After all, isn’t the idea of marriage – of forever – hard enough without coming into it with problems?

I wasn’t always like this, of course. There was a time I desperately wanted a relationship. I wanted to feel complete. I wanted to know that there was someone out there who wanted me exactly as I was.

He has never come along. And eventually, it began to sink in, that he might never come along. At first it was hard. Now it’s almost comforting – knowing that if he doesn’t come along, I’m still perfectly capable of living a full life.

In the last few years, I’ve come to understand that relationships – romantic, that is – come in all shapes and sizes. I was so preoccupied in my younger years by the idea of forever that I perhaps forgot or didn’t even know the beauty of the abbreviated love.

Abbreviated love, also known to some as “soul mate” is when you meet a person that you’re only with for a short time, but it changes you in ways that it would take years for another to achieve. Perhaps it is this person’s philosophies or their belief in your abilities. The way they look at you when you’re naked or the way they push you to your brink. In one way or another, they rip you open, the light shines in, and nothing about you is ever the same.

That’s not a way to live, though, some have said to me. Being constantly ripped open, constantly growing and changing. It leaves you breathless, sometimes incapable of living for days, weeks, months at a time, doesn’t it?

On the contrary. I find that I’m forever in and out of these abbreviated loves between which I take months, years to myself before finding the next.

And that’s what got me thinking. Some people find this existence frustrating, painful, and downright illogical. After all, don’t I want to stop being pulled apart only to have to piece myself back together?

Not right now. Maybe not ever.

And just because someone feels it’s wrong, doesn’t make it so.

That’s the beauty of love – its lessons are never complete. And abbreviated love is no less dazzling, no less of an education, than marriage in my opinion.

Perhaps not everything has to be about ending in marriage – in long-term commitment where we are forced to grow and change and love and hurt with the same person day after day. Not that, that way of living is wrong. In fact, it’s beautiful.

It’s just not for everybody.

What do you think?

Lining Up Stars

Do you ever feel like the universe is just lining up your stars?

I’ve always thought that there is something bigger at work. I’ve never believed that Earth is the only life-sustaining planet. I’ve always believed in coincidences. There just seem to be too many of them in my life.

A few months ago, I decided to begin journaling again. Frankly, it goes better some weeks than others. I write so often in other ways that sometimes, when sitting in front of a journal, my mind is blank. I try to accept this as part of my offering to the world – that there are days I have nothing to offer my journal thought-wise. If I’m at a total loss, I do always try to write down what I’m grateful for. I often forget to write things down because I’m grateful for so many of them.

I think that when you’re grateful for things, more things that you can be grateful for start to come along. Here’s the thing: I try to always be grateful, even for the bad stuff. I get into a fender-bender: I’m grateful it wasn’t worse. I get stopped at every single red light: I’m grateful for more time listening to my favorite band. I injure myself when running, I’m grateful that I have the ability to run again after I’ve healed.

When I was younger, it was harder. There were days I didn’t have enough money to buy more for groceries than three packs of Ramen for a dollar which had to last me a week. I was grateful that I at least had enough to cover rent and gas to my low wage job.

When I do this, I feel as though the universe is more inclined to line up better opportunities for me. Crazy?

What do you believe?

Leaders are Born…or Made?

The old saying goes that great leaders are born, not made.

What. A. Crock.

Needless to say, I completely disagree.

See, I was not born a leader. There was not, for nearly 29 years, a single bone in my body that ached – even a little – to lead others.

Not that I wanted to follow, per se. Though that’s often what we find to be the easiest path, isn’t it?

You follow. You work for others. You concede to your friends and family. You smile. You hide your quirks.

I was a follower for many years. This included the first two years of running my own business. I allowed my ideas to be stolen and steamrolled, my schedule to be determined by the client, my limitations to be tugged and poked and prodded until I stepped into unfamiliar, unwelcome territories.

That last one was when I finally said “enough is enough.” Not that I’m against learning or change. I’m all for being shoved out of the nest. I’m not a fan of being shoved off the cliff.

Something occurred to me: I work for no one but myself.

Suddenly, it was like all of these doors swung wide open. I don’t rely on my clients, my clients rely on me. Sure the money that they send me is great. It pays my bills. But no invoice amount is worth my sanity. I can find another client. I can find another job. I can do something that makes me happy, not crazy.

So I fired a bunch of people. I’d never fired anyone in my life. I didn’t know how. I poured over books and blogs and how to manuals. Nothing I read made me less uncomfortable about what I had to do.

That’s the thing I’m realizing about being a leader as I find myself warming to the role.

I might be uncomfortable firing people or interviewing potential clients or asking for someone to pay their damn invoice, but at the end of the day, I’m all I’ve got. I am…a leader. And I wasn’t born this way. I made myself.

Appreciating the Moment

I’d always found it easy to revel in the past. Memories of success, memories of failure – of joy, of laughter, of sadness of happiness. In retrospect, everything just seems – better, I suppose? Even the tough lessons I was forced to learn seem to have such glaringly obvious outcomes. How easy I could have made my life if I just hadn’t been so wide-eyed and naive.

I also have a much younger sibling and, at nearly 30 years of age, I find myself pushing advice on her. There are so many things I wish I had known as a high school senior! How important it was to have relationships with your siblings, for example. How significant all of those little details of last dances, last plays, last football games are when you no longer have more of them to look forward to. I try to warn her about the challenges she’ll face in college – peer pressure like she’s never known.

Sometimes, I even find myself wishing that I could go back and do it all over. If I could there are so many things I would change, so many different routes I would take…

But then I have to stop.

I take a breath.

Because right now, this moment, is going to be one that I remember in ten, twenty, thirty years. I’ll remember when I was on the cusp of something amazing. When I had my own business and was working like crazy to write and publish my books. I was planning a move to Portland. When I take my dog on long walks and we enjoy the autumn leaves together because we are both huge fans of fall – all of these things, I’ll look back on when I’m older and perhaps a bit wiser, and feel wistful of course. For my youth. For my energy. For my efforts. For the love I’m surrounded by on a daily basis but sometimes totally am unaware of. But there will be something else. Unlike when I was younger – before I knew better – I’ll have enjoyed every moment IN the moment. I’ll have grasped what that saying means and I’ll have lived it.

That’s something my sister doesn’t have just yet. And it’s okay. She’s young. I know I remember being a teenager romantically. It was NOT that great. But parts of it were. Parts of being a twenty-something and eventually a thirty-something will be great, too. Other parts not so great. But I suppose that’s the ultimate value of appreciating the moments that life throws at you.

Enjoy them, love them, then set them free…