“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein
I’ve been thinking lately about the way we as humans interact with one another and the world around us and I have come to this conclusion: being human is ridiculous. It’s incredibly silly and confusing and full of all sorts of contradictions.
Despite this, or perhaps because of this, most of us spend our time trying NOT to be ridiculous, when in fact, that is exactly what we are. At some point, it became popular to pretend like we’ve got it all figured out, to act like we are somehow above all the common struggles and complexities of being a human being on this earth. But the truth is that nobody is – we are all just ridiculous animals that happen to have big brains, which makes us both very intelligent and very dumb at the same time – we are walking contradictions.
When we take ourselves too seriously and try to rid ourselves of our innate ridiculousness, we forget to play, to love, to explore, to grow, to learn, to be silly, and to make mistakes. If we already think we are perfect, what sense would there be in trying something new, in learning new information, in expanding our world view? None of us is perfect and there is no sense in pretending that we are!
You are going to make mistakes
We’re all just on this earth with no clue how we got here or why, or if there is any other life like us out there. For all we know, we are completely alone on this blue speck in the universe. Through some crazy random miracle, each of us came to exist and we only get one shot to get the most out of our time here. Why waste our time trying to cover up the fact that none of us really knows for sure what is going on?
Let’s face it – life is crazy! It’s this completely crazy, overwhelming thing where we get weird and unexpected events, people, and situations thrown at us every day. How can we possibly expect to know exactly the right way to handle every single little thing we experience?
We are all just doing the best we can to make sense of the life that has been handed to us. Sometimes we are going to get it right, and sometimes we are going to get it wrong. It doesn’t matter how long you have been on this planet or how much experience you have gained, you are still going to make mistakes. And every time you think you’ve finally got it all figured out, something totally new is going to come along and knock you right off your feet again.
The key is to learn from these experiences, to stop and consider how you could have improved your actions, and then move on. Was there something you could have done differently to lead to a better outcome, or what it a situation that was totally out of your control? It doesn’t do any good to dwell on mistakes and beat yourself up over them, but it does do good to think about what went wrong, or what could have gone better, and then try to incorporate those changes the next time you encounter a similar situation.
It’s not just you
The world of social media has a way of making us feel like we alone do not have it “figured out”. Everyone else we know is constantly sunbathing with their lovers, going snowboarding with their friends, or traveling the globe in cute clothes they bought in Thailand. Everyone else is constantly doing cool things and we are just stuck at home browsing through endless photos of all the cool things everyone else is doing.
Of course, deep down we all know that this isn’t true, that we are just as capable of appearing “together” on social media as the next person, yet somehow we still feel alone. When everyone is able to pick and choose what the world sees, it’s easy to edit out the mistakes, the bad photos, the boring times where we sat at home eating ice cream and re-watching The Office for the third time. It’s easy to not seem like the crazy mess that most humans are (unless of course that is the look you are going for, in which case that’s also easy to curate!)
That is both the beauty and the curse of social media – we get to curate the vision we want everyone else to see of us, but we can also convince ourselves that we are the only human who is confused about life, or suffering, or unsure of what to do or say next.
Fortunately, social media can also help us find others to connect with and there are also plenty of folks who are open and honest about their struggles on social media, and for that I am grateful. I think it’s important to remember that it’s ok to be ridiculous, it’s ok to be confused and not have all the answers, and it’s ok to share those feelings with others. We’re all in this together and the more we admit and share the things we’re going through, the more we can all feel a sense of belonging and community, rather than feeling isolated and alone.
We are all just experimenting
Nobody handed the first human a pamphlet and said “Here is everything you need to know about being a perfect human being: here is how to never mess up, this chapter talks about how to create and maintain healthy relationships, and in the appendix you will find translations for what people really mean when they say things you don’t fully understand – have fun being human!” Even God didn’t tell Adam and Eve how to live their lives – he let them loose in the Garden of Eden and they had to learn from their own mistakes.
So how do we learn how to be human? We experiment. When in life do we ever look back on something we did and think “You know what? I did everything absolutely right and wouldn’t change a single thing I did!” RARELY. I mean, hopefully we all have a few of those moments in our lives, but they are few and far between.
And that’s ok! Because we are all just experimenting and trying to get things right. Sometimes we fail, we say the wrong thing, we hurt someone’s feelings, we misunderstand, we jump to conclusions. Our brains are these big, huge, messy, complicated things that we don’t even fully understand! We’re not going to get everything right all the time, that would be insane! Hopefully we improve throughout our lives, we learn how to be kind and empathetic, how to say things in a clear and gentle manner, how to take care of ourselves and build meaningful relationships, but we don’t start off with this knowledge ingrained in us.
So we experiment.
This is how we learned as kids – we tried moving our arms and legs to see what would happen and eventually we learned to crawl and then walk and run and climb and swim. We touched something that was hot and learned not to do that again, we grabbed the tail of a cat and learned that it would scratch us. We built empathy by pushing other kids on the playground and learning that it makes them cry.
Our whole developmental lives were one big experiment, so why shouldn’t that experiment continue as adults? The stakes are certainly different, but we are no more equipped at birth to handle social situations than we are to feed ourselves or climb a mountain. We learn these skills through trial and error, we keep what works and we throw out what doesn’t. Hopefully, we also learn to say we are sorry, to own up when we make a mistake, to take responsibility for our actions and to admit we were wrong when we have hurt someone.
To sum it all up…
I don’t know if this post makes sense or resonates with anyone else, but who cares? It’s an experiment! This entire blog is an experiment – when I feel inspired, I write some stuff down and put it online and hope that it will somehow enhance the day of the five friends and family of mine who regularly read it. Life is crazy and this blog is just one way in which I try to sort through my own thoughts and figure a few things out.
Stop trying to be perfect, because nobody is. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes, and forgive others too. Learn from your experiences and know that you will continue to mess up and be confused and it is ok to share those feelings with others. Know that you are not alone in this journey and that we are all just trying to get by sometimes. Because life is random and precious and ridiculous, and you know what? So are you.
p.s. I swear I’m not naked in the cover photo for this post, I’m just wearing a strapless dress. Actually, you know what? Maybe I am naked! Maybe I’m dancing naked in a field in a park, would that really be so bad? I mean, I guess if there were kids around it might be kind of weird, but whatever…anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not naked, at least not in that picture, so there.