The Grace To Make Mistakes
...one life decision, and iced chocolate, at a time (#1000wordsofsummer day 6)
i used to be so hard on myself whenever i made mistakes. but if you never push your boundaries every once in a while, those very boundaries might turn out to be a cage, instead.
i’m sitting in a café, Avril Lavigne blaring on the speakers, a tall cup of iced chocolate sweating on the table beside me. i’d asked the cashier, before, if it contained cow’s milk. she said yes. i’ve been lactose intolerant all my adult life, and cut off dairy last October. my skin cleared up. i stopped having daily, debilitating stomachaches. yet, for some unidentifiable reason, i felt like tempting fate today. my craving felt too insurmountable to let go of.
i caved. i ordered it. i took two, three sips. and now, my tummy hurts.
why do we engage in self destructive behavior? what’s the line between testing limits, and sheer stupidity? am i still young enough to qualify for the excuse of “young and dumb”? i turned 28 a few months ago. it may be young in most people’s books, but in my world, i’m ancient. most of my peers in the startup / entrepreneurship world are either expanding, exiting, or billionaires — in that exact order.
i would deny it if you asked me, but one of my big secret dreams was to get into the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. every year, no less than 5 of my friends and acquaintances would be awarded the honor; and every year, i’d be besieged with a FOMO so intense i would need to step away from my computer and take deep ujjayi breaths. 😮💨 it just felt like the pinnacle of achievement, you know? the ultimate F-U to everyone who’d ever doubted, questioned or misjudged my worth. the more rational part of my brain knew that it wouldn’t rock my world if i ever got it; i’d ride the high on social media for a couple of days before promptly forgetting all about it, zeroing in on the next goal.
that was the Way of the Overachiever; never “resting on your laurels”, always on to the Next Big Thing. and i have the gall to wonder why i was stressed and burnt out all those years.
was it dumb, or smart, to push myself so hard in my youth? a question i’ve never had the space or time to reckon with until recently. i’m firmly of the belief that we should never regret the things we did. yet, my neural pathways seem to think otherwise — if my regular bouts of self flagellation are any indication. perhaps, as with anything in life, there is a Happy Medium. maybe there’s a world out there where Wong Gwen Yi is fulfilled, both in her professional and spiritual life, and actually making a difference. maybe i’ll actually get there someday. but for now, i’m just trying my hardest to make my way back to the middle.
i read this quote by Jennifer Magnano a few days ago, and felt so incredibly *seen*. those few words sum up the journey i’m currently on: undoing years of overdoing. it didn’t feel like it, at the time. overdoing. it felt necessary; like the norm. “i wasn’t over performing, everyone else just wasn’t pushing themselves hard enough” type thing. but now, five years later, i look back on my old schedule and blanch. so much running around, not enough sitting still. is it any wonder i need to go all the way to the other extreme now?
i’m on a sabbatical of sorts, i would say. after six years of building my company Tribeless from the ground up, i’ve finally done the unthinkable: i’ve separated my identity from it. i no longer feel like committing seppuku on myself whenever i receive a nasty comment or things in the business go awry. in fact, there were so few occurrences of that because i tried so very, very hard to mitigate all of them. to be perfect. to do things RIGHT. (hello, further adult trauma.)
that burned me out even faster than the Forbes-FOMO, i think. always trying to avoid every possible permutation of a mistake before they even happen. do you do this too, fellow entrepreneurs? Brené Brown calls it “dress-rehearsing tragedy”. i called it “being prepared”.
that’s why only one of us is a best-selling author/speaker/guru, and the other is a burnt out 28-year-old trying to figure out what she *really* wants to do with her life.
can i tell you a secret? i’m tired of the hustle. i’m tired of waking up and having my business be the first thing on my mind, and the last thing i think of before bed — like i’m in some sort of twisted love affair. i’m sick of having my worth wrapped up in rev streams and customer bases and conversion rates. some huge changes have been brewing on the horizon, and i’ve let them. i let them burn my world as i know it to the ground. i’m still standing in the fire, now. i’m excited to see what remains.
i don’t feel scared. not really. sure, there are times doubt flits into my mind, like a cloud on a windy day, and i wonder: “am i throwing my Life away?”. and then the thought passes, and the Truth sinks in, quiet and sure: “you didn’t have much of one to begin with.” i’m grateful to have the space to explore the different sides to Life, now. walks. nature. quiet. slow. solo café dates on a Friday afternoon. iced chocolate and questionable decisions.
i’m learning most of the time, there are no major repercussions. we f*ck up, we make mistakes, and we try again. again. and again. until someday, we get it right.
i stand. i stretch. outside, rain has started to fall. the rest of my iced chocolate sits, untouched. let it be known that i can learn from my mistakes.
no matter what comes next, i know that i have everything i need. just me, my words, and this big, beautiful, crazy world at my feet.
it feels good to be alive.