You Can’t Erase, But You Can Still Revise

2009 November 30

Sometimes, I will outline or partially write pieces and then just let them sit for a while until I feel the timing is appropriate to post them. Such is the case with this one. It’s been in the queue for ages, but has recently been on my mind again, as I’ve been reminding both myself and others of the idea that there is precious little in this life that is truly permanent. Sure, we might not get to rewind, but we can most certainly mitigate/retrace our steps and/or course correct as needed.

This is a distillation of the perspective of a very good friend of mine, T. She’s one of the most interpersonally insightful and grounded people I have the pleasure of knowing.  During one of our afternoon-long lunches, I vividly remember her declaring that, according to her personal philosophy, there are no “mistakes” or off-track decisions that one can make (save for murder and ridiculously-expensive-to-remove tattoos, I suppose) that can’t be undone. You can always quit your job and find another, go back to school or drop out, sell the house, break up or reunite, move across the country (and back if you don’t like it) for the price of a moving van. And she’s not wrong.


Photo by sunflower_gal

There are two  keys to mastering this outlook:

Look at these course-correcting decisions within the context of your life’s big picture. In the course of an 80+ year-long life, does a four-month period of unemployment after you quit the job from hell really even merit a second though? It’s a blip on the radar. If you need fortification, hearken to the late John Maynard Keynes, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” So true. And from an economist no less.

Be willing to humble yourself. How often do we doggedly stick to a method that isn’t working for us, a job that drains us, a relationship that doesn’t fulfill us because we’re too prideful to admit that things aren’t working? Heaven forbid that we admit that we made a less than ideal choice, that we’re not 100% content, that we’re fallible. But you know what? Clinging to something dysfunctional speaks volumes more about our lack of judgment than does cutting our losses and moving on. Failure (even public failure) is not the enemy. Myopia and masochism are. Are you really so beholden to what others think of your life that you’d suffer in quiet unhappiness and discomfort instead of risking the possibility of confounding their expectation or their back-of-a-cocktail napkin character sketch of who you are and who you should be. Really? Really? Good luck with that.

I’m not championing commitment phobia or the notions that personal relationships are disposable or decisions consequence-free, but rather encouraging you to realize that what we often see as make or break moments aren’t really so monumental at all. Save the resignation for your deathbed, ‘kay?

Majors are made to be switched. Pride is made to be swallowed and amends tentatively offered and even more tentatively accepted. Hearts are made to be duct-taped back together and to spontaneously regenerate their damaged parts. Jobs get lost and opportunities get found. Give it time, a good cry or a stiff drink and brace yourself for the next wave that will feel equally tidal.

And keep kicking that can as many damn times as you want. Screw that one turn per customer edict.

This post was originally twice as long, but I thought it worked better as two individual posts. The other half focuses on seizing our chances as they come. Don’t fear mistakes, fear missing out on opportunities. Stay tuned for that one later this week.

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