he worst part of life on earth, other than millions of horrifying things, is that you have to fuck up in order to mature. What a disaster. What a horrible reality for the risk-averse. Why can’t thoughtfulness and an earnest desire to do the right thing pay off in the form of mistake-free living? Why must we evolve only by way of our own stupidity? How deeply disappointing.
At least, that’s how I feel most of the time. And then, every once in a while, something unpredictable happens—like I discover, by accident, that all my summer clothes look better with black tube socks, or I move in with someone who seems lame in his roommate application and then proceed to fall in love with him, or I eat roasted broccoli out of politeness at a dinner party and realize that not only do I not hate it, but I love it—and suddenly I remember that my best laid plans will always pale in comparison to the delightful and serendipitous fruits of chaos. But then, I guess that’s disappointing too. Because what hope do we have to wield control?
Mistakes are a tricky business. The good ones are utterly random, and we’re not supposed to regret the bad ones because they teach us something, but isn’t regret supposed to be its own kind of lesson? And shouldn’t we try to avoid fucking up, even if we know we need to sometimes? Or is there really no difference between the careful and the careless because both are their own form of didacticism? The first a lesson in letting go, the second a lesson in paying attention?
I was recently invited, along with another writer, to do a Q&A with a group of students studying journalism. Both the other writer and I had circuitous paths into media, but hers was much more perilous. Whereas mine was dotted by cushy, unfulfilling jobs and gently anxious blogging, hers was marked by drug addiction and a total disregard for her future. In the end, we were in the same place, and one of us with a book deal (not-a-me). This isn’t an anecdote about tragedy capital, it’s merely proof that there is no correct way to learn. And that sometimes, 100 mistakes can teach you faster than one.
This month on Man Repeller, we’ll be exploring the life-on-earth vertical known as MISTAKES. The horrifying ones, the helpful ones, the pointless ones. Whether related to love or clothes or work or life, we’ll be analyzing in real-time and in hindsight, hopefully for the benefit of us all. If there’s something you’re interested in reading this month, please place it in the suggestion box known as the comments section below. And leave the typos, if you don’t mind. They’ll get our juices flowing.
Feature photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.