It’s Okay to Screw Up, Just Don’t Give Up

Funny the things that can bring back memories. There is a store in the Promenade that sells niku-pan. If you don’t know what that is, you’ve never lived in Japan. Imagine a cheap biscuit filled with gravy and a tiny amount of some meat-like substance and you have the idea. It’s cheaper than ramen noodles, even in Japan.

biscuit with meat inside

When I was a foreign exchange student, 18 years old and living off of my scholarship and what I could make teaching English, I ate a lot of niku-pan. It was all I could afford near the end of the month. It’s even less appetizing than it looks and I doubt it delivers a blast of nutrition. All I can say in its favor is that it was filling, cheap and hot – warm clothes being another thing I could not afford, having something hot in my hands to warm them up, even temporarily, was appreciated.  I was training judo every day, sometimes twice a day, going to class and teaching English. It used up a lot of calories. I was always hungry.

I was thinking how far I have come since then.

Because I had been arguing with The Spoiled One about her grades and studying lately, this also reminded me of another event from several years ago, when one of her sisters was not doing the best in school. This came up in a conversation with someone and I had said I saw no excuse for my daughter not making A’s, that when I was her age, I was living on my own, supporting myself and still attending college and doing well. The other mother replied,

“Blah, blah, blah, well look at you. I am woman, hear me roar. Just because you did those things doesn’t mean your daughter can. Not everyone is able to be an overachiever like you.”

This gave me pause for a minute until I responded,

“How fucking dare you imply that my daughter is capable of less than me! You don’t know anything about me OR my children!”

I’ve gotten this reaction many times in my life, though seldom as blatant. There is the assumption that sure *I* left home at 15, earned a PhD, started a business, etc. but person X can’t do it because — because — because why?

Maybe this misconception comes about because I don’t mention how much I have truly screwed up in my life – failed classes, quit jobs, hurt my career by pissing off people for no better reason than my own arrogance and stupidity at the time. Believe me, there is a long list, and I haven’t even mentioned some of the guys I dated – stupid boyfriend choices could be a couple of lists all by itself.

I had my years of being broke, hungry and working the night shift at minimum wage jobs. The secret to getting ahead isn’t never screwing up. It isn’t even to stop screwing up. Once I got an education, got a good job, bought a house, had a baby – then I got divorced. It’s easy looking back to see a trajectory that looked like this, if I charted from when I was born to how good life was:

Chart with peaks and valleysDepending on what point in time you checked in, it might have seemed that my life was getting worse or going nowhere. The secret is to just keep going. That work I put in during my teens, twenties and thirties paid off. Even when things looked really bleak, when my husband passed away, I still had the option to pick myself up and keep on going.

The biggest screw up a person can make is to just give up and accept that they can’t succeed because, “I’m not like you.”

How can you possibly say that? You don’t even know me, and if you did, you’d know better.

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One Comment

  1. Dwelling over rejection is a waste of time. We have a lot of responsibilities and important things to do with our lives. Getting another date with that hot man you hardly know is not one of those things.

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