Editor’s Note: I first wrote the following post in September 2009. I’d only been blogging for a little while and The Women at Forty Project was brand new. One of the things I was struggling with was regret. I regretted some of the choices I’d made that lead me to where I was in my life in September 2009 and I’d regretted many of my mistakes. Fast-forward to 2011 and I’m still (shockingly to no one at all) making mistakes. So when a WAF community member posted this as her status updated last week, “There is such joy in turning a mistake into something beautiful” I looked up this old blog post and used it to remind myself why mistakes aren’t always such a bad thing…
I remember when correcting mistakes wasn’t as easy as tapping a couple of keys on a keyboard. Today, hitting the backspace or delete key can save the day by pulling you over before you shoot off that irate email you’ll regret later, create a seemingly flawless page of text and undo that thing you just did that’s the exact opposite of what you meant to do.
If you’re a member of the Women at Forty club, then you remember correcting tape (vaguely?), white out and trashcans full of crumpled paper. You remember a time when you’d have to think things over a hundred times before committing them to paper once. As a rule, we spent more time developing and preparing everything prior to putting it out there because it was hard to correct our mistakes and harder still to live with them once they’d been made.
I think the same holds true in other areas of our lives as well. Relationships, career choices, family. As we get older, we tend to make choices and decisions at a different pace. Today, women in their twenties start dating and break up in a matter of weeks, all by text message, tweets or status updates. They’re making major decisions and mistakes quicker than ever.
When it comes to mistakes, I’ve made some big ones (one was 6’2 ”.) And none of them, sadly, came with a backspace button or delete key. I had to live through the consequences of making every one of my bad decisions – big and small. And while it’s really Zen to say we wouldn’t change a thing about our past, given the opportunity I would gladly delete and backspace some of mine with a vengeance. 6’2″ for one, burning my eyebrows off in a tragic but comical barbeque grill lighting fiasco for another, and remind me to tell you about “The Catfish” someday. In fact, I’d much rather have learned many of my life lessons the easy way, less intent on trying to thwart the “I told you so’s” and more interested in paying attention to the voices of the women who’d been there, done that, and saw the likely outcome from a mile away.
I’m grateful for backspace and delete keys. God knows I use them both every day. But while even I would call a do-over on some of my stupider younger woman moves, I think that just as in writing, overusing the backspace key can stifle us, causing us to constantly edit and over-analyze ourselves – preventing us from living full, authentic lives, mistakes and all.
Would you call a do-over if you could?