Ah yes, the first time you buy your own furniture, the day you finally make a real paycheck, or when you start living on your own: all these are little markers of adulthood. They have their charm to them, supposed checkmarks on the journey to being an “adult.” There are, however, less pleasant checkmarks as well.
The first time you have to deal with the IRS, paying insurance, and all sorts of these kinds of things are on a less fun list of inevitables. But there are the failures that are checkmarks as well. Like the first time you get into a sort of car accident. Or when you lose your keys and have to get new ones. Even that moment you realize you’ve forgotten something of legitime importance, like a deadline for work or something. These kinds of mistakes will almost certainly happen to you. But it’s ok.
We are all so tremendously afraid of failure, or doing any wrong, or making even small mistakes. This is understandable, but sort of silly when you think about it. You cannot avoid every mistake, you just can’t. You will, at some point, mess up. But these things are not just inevitable, they’re important. Learning how to fail is a skill, and one we all eventually must work on.
This weekend, I experienced one of these failings. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was the first ever sort of “adult oops” I’d really had. I felt like I went through stages of panic in a minute– hyperventilating, attempting not to cry, rationalizing with myself, getting angry, and then letting my heart rate slow down. It was a very bizarre minute. The first thirty seconds I just didn’t feel ready for this. But I think the reason I calmed down so quickly was that I realized that this was just another adult thing. I realized that this would have happened at one point or another, and it mattered, but it wasn’t a failure of my character; rather it was a reality of life. And I would never be ready for it, just like most things in life. For the rest of the day, I was still shaken and I wanted to stay home and wallow in my own screw-ups. I sucked it up though, and went on with my day. It was the grown-up thing to do.
You’re never really going to like failing. But it’s never going to stop happening. Failure feels worse when we think it’s only happening to us, but that’s never true. It only feels that way because we broadcast success and hush failure. Most people don’t Instagram a picture of their bumper after they backed into a tree. So rather than compare yourself to others, think about these adult failings as check marks like the others, things to cross off to become an “adult”. Because, unlike the more fun check marks, you will have to learn adult lessons here, like taking responsibility and learning to be okay with your own screw ups.