by Michael King
Well, friends, it has been some time. Just shy of five months, actually. In the space since I wrote last, life has unfolded and moved along in a speedy, unpredictable manner. Brayton/Clevenger Hall opened its doors, ushered in a new community of vibrant human beings, and I had the honor of bearing witness to the early moments of some pretty remarkable students’ college stories. My first semester as a full-time professional was a bit chaotic at times, but it’s been tremendously fun and rewarding as well. I’m growing, and I find that reality motivating. There is plenty of room to grow in every direction.
The same is true for my holistic self. Life over the past five months has had its share of twists, and I’ve had to shine a light on aspects of myself I didn’t realize were there. Brené Brown hails the importance of vulnerability to living a meaningful life, yes, but she also acknowledges how incredibly difficult that can be. No matter how far I go, I always marvel at how much remains to be learned, to be discovered. But I’m growing, and I’ve learned a few things over the past five months.
1. Put a period at the end of your decisions.
I’ve blogged about this very concept before. The sentence was spoken by a dear friend in the midst of a deeply ridiculous Skype conversation, but the truth of it rung through the air and hung in my head for weeks. Fellow Millennials: We have been conditioned to avoid taking excessive risks. We have been conditioned to avoid making mistakes. While there are certainly pros to analyzing all aspects of a decision — projected outcomes, opportunity costs, the like — the reality is that so many of us are champions at hovering in the middle lane. Put a period at the end of your decisions. Assess the results. Let that inform future decisions. This is the way of making it through this world as an adult human being.
2. Put a period at the end of forgiveness.
It’s an off-shoot, yes, but it’s a concept worthy of standing on its own. Whether you are forgiving yourself or someone you love, the reality is that there can be no forward motion without marking a conclusion. Human beings are flawed, complex, and prone to making mistakes. We are all on the journey of getting to know ourselves. Keep this in mind when holding yourself accountable for your mistakes. Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to extend the grace of forgiveness to others.
3. Own your mistakes and take responsibility for their aftermath.
It’s a crucial aspect of forgiving yourself through the mistake-making process: Own your mistakes. Seek to understand the process that led to the mistakes, but accept and acknowledge that the tumbles and pitfalls from your growing process can leave scars and bruises on others, too. Express the remorse you feel. Be honest, be clear, be authentic. Take responsibility, but don’t throw yourself into a pit in the process. Own your mistakes so that they may not own you instead.
4. Be honest.
This semester, a friend said this to me: “The truth can only offend so much. Once it is spoken, other people may not like it, but they will accept it as the truth. A lie is much different.” Perhaps it a simple notion, but the idea resonated in my head for some time. Setting the truth on the table can feel incredibly vulnerable. It is sometimes a harrowing, nerve-wracking process. But, once it is there, the truth sits and stands for itself. It requires no further invention, no machinations or deeper digging. Whether with yourself or with the people you love, it is vital that you be honest. Let your honest truth be your guide. As promised, it shall set you free.
5. Be vulnerable.
We have mastered the art of concealing our weaknesses from one another. That thing you’re protecting within you, deep below the smile you present or the confidence your project — your life will not implode when you finally set it free. Brené laments that human beings long for vulnerability from one another, but that we also work hard to conceal our own. Vulnerability makes us feel fragile, but to share it with one another is a tremendous sign of strength. You will never grow more than when you step into a moment of vulnerability with another human being. It is tremendously beautiful, rewarding, even transformative.
And yes. Being vulnerable means you will sometimes fall. You will sometimes get hurt. (And, exciting news: You will sometimes hurt others. Even people you deeply love.) In the words of Pink: “But just because it hurts doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. You’ve gotta get up and try, try, try.”
6. Seek the lesson in the storm.
Let’s be honest about something: Mistakes have gotten pretty good PR for quite a while. We know that we are supposed to make mistakes. We know that we are going to. We know that “that’s just how humans learn.” Every after-school special since 1971 (year chosen at random; no need to Google) has featured some variation of the theme. But it’s not a simple matter of just making a series of mistakes. We have to be willing to look back at the damage, sift through the aftermath, and find the tiny glass shard of truth we needed to find. The process can be painful, but it can save you from future stumbles. That way, you can trip and collide in a different direction. The beautiful process of life.
So that’s what you’re getting, blog followers. That’s what I’ve been able to truly sift from the past five months. I am still tremendously imperfect — room to grow in every direction, and miles and miles to learn — but I am becoming braver, more honest, wiser, and more gracious to this process in others. I wish us all well as we keep up the journey.