From the Blog

I’m Afraid Of Making Mistakes

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I’ve heard a couple stories lately about people who seem to be suffering the ill effects of questionable choices earlier in their lives. I’ve heard about someone with continuous medical issues because of heavy drug use earlier in her life. Or someone else who is frequently in and out of jail for failure to pay child support. Or a former coworker who still has bill collectors calling, though she hasn’t worked at the company in over a year. I’ve heard a few of these stories recently.

I’ve heard other people talk about identity theft and having to quickly batten down all their financial hatches before being gutted by thieves. Or someone stuck on the wrong end of the housing bubble and nearly losing her house. And all day long, I hear about small businesses struggling to make payroll and keep the lights on.

I mention these people and their situations without judgment. Sometimes, people make it happen. And sometimes, shit happens to you. I have come to understand that one person’s turmoil and chaos would seem like a relaxing vacation for someone else. But we probably all know someone who, given a predicament, always seems to pick the exact wrong choice. Some people feel lost without some sort of Drama! in their lives, and will make sure, through their choices, they have a constant supply of it. And I think we all know someone who seems to thrive on the chaos, and will gleefully and frequently relate what current Tremendous Misfortune they are experiencing.

It’s remarkable to me to see how some people handle their crazyass situations so easily. Like it’s just another log on the fire. No big deal. It’s what they are used to. It’s not chaos or drama, it’s just life.

I have had my own occasional share of chaos, both internally and externally induced, but mine would seem rather tame in comparison. Given the moving around I’ve done through the years, it could seem like I might be reckless or some crazy risk taker. But someone else might sniff at my various cross-state relocations and think, “That ain’t nothing. I moved to Siberia and ate muskrats.”

All my moves took months or years of planning. And lots of saved money. I’ve moved a few times to places where I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t have a job, but I had money in the bank, and I had a plan. So, exciting, but “tame” compared to a lot of people. A vast majority of my life has been run with heavy amounts of deliberation.

The majority of my past drama usually involved some slow-build battle of personalities, either at home or at work. I avoid confrontation, and perhaps I am too generous in giving people the benefit of the doubt. Those little personality situations intensified to sickly and near unbearable levels, little passive aggressive snipes, thinly veiled insults, outright hostility. All with a veneer of friendly faux camaraderie. These instances were a slow, but constant, erosion of my sanity. So not chaos, but drama and helplessness.

So eh, we’ve all been through those. Part of growing up. But I’ve never needed to have a limb amputated because of something stupid I did. I’ve never been in jail for, well, anything. I’ve never gotten a traffic ticket. I’ve never even been pulled over. Have you heard how I drive? No tickets in my life is nothing short of astounding.

No broken bones. No surgeries. Ever, in my life. Not even a damn cavity. I had three stitches once, not from an injury or accident, but from a mole removed from my lily white leg. The most traumatic thing I’ve gone through in my adult life was getting my wisdom teeth taken out. And at the time, it freaked me out. But it was so easy and painless, I was able to give my Vicodin away.

Some of this is luck. Some of this is from being whatever the opposite of reckless is. Reckful. But really, it boils down to being terrified of making mistakes. Big mistakes. I can’t help it if my wisdom teeth need to be taken out. But I’ve been fairly successful at keeping myself out of jail. Or not addicted to drugs. Or not suffering from financial ruin, though I felt like I came pretty close a couple times.

I know everybody is inherently afraid of making mistakes. It’s as old as the first childhood inklings of self awareness. Personal preservation is a fundamental human characteristic. But for me, when it comes to bad choices, I just can’t imagine dealing with the fallout. The worry about what to do next. How to fix the mistake I made. How to get my arm out of the microwave. My brain is just too fricken delicate. I mean, I worry, like, middle-of-the-night worry, if I forget to water my plants.

I’m not saying it’s normal. I’m very thankful that I can identify those silly worries and put them in proper perspective. Yes, I may need to water the plants. But am I in jail? No. Go back to sleep.

I am not unaware of how lucky I am. Food, shelter, family, health, employment, money…everything is in good working order. Everything is really, really, good. It’s almost freaky. I realize this isn’t the case for everyone. These basic things are increasingly more precious. It’s a shit storm out there.

So who’s got it better? Ones who worry about everything? Or ones with so much to worry about?


  1. I’m pretty much in the same boat as you. I’ve pushed the envelope more than once in my life and had some narrow escapes a few times, but have also managed to avoid anything major – no jail, no broken bones, no living on the streets, no addictions, no surgery, etc…I’m a lot more reckful (love the new word) now than I was when I was young. And I worry about a lot more now, too, but not to a crippling extent. I stil push the envelope every once in a while and do something daring — but not without some careful planning and thought. So overall I think we’ve got it right. I don’t want to spend my life digging myself out of poo.

  2. @XUP I’m hoping we can still be writers or artists without tragedy and self-made chaos. And without cutting off our ears.

  3. hey!! you mentioned my chaos in your blog… excellent!!
    Just for the record, I would really love it if chaos forgot my existence for a while. I think I have had enough chaos for the new millenia. I would dearly love some peace and quiet for oh, say, the next 7 years?
    I think I’m a planner, I like things organized, I like to think things through, make pro/con lists regarding decisions… it just seems that some of those decisions don’t pan out so well in the actuality of them. Not for not trying!! (is that acceptable grammar?)
    So, to recap: done with chaos… nice boring life head for seven years.
    sounds blissful.

  4. @Kelli, we should point out that you haven’t been arrested, or thrown in jail for lack of child support, or had your arm stuck in the microwave. Or at least not any time recently, anyway.

    Here’s to wishing you a happy and restful holiday in your home that is still yours.

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