The name we give our mistakes

This just proves my theory that there really is a Carrie Underwood song for every situation.

Today I had a reminder about how far I’ve come since I got my first job (almost 7 years ago!).

I got a call from my supervisor that revealed that I had made a mistake on several of the e-mails I’ve sent in the last week. I realized that I did not have a firm understanding of the task that I had been assigned and I cringed at the mistake.

Fortunately, my supervisor was very nice about it and apologized herself for not explaining it to me better. Despite this, I knew that it had been my responsibility to clarify the task and I spent the next 45 minutes fixing my mistake.

Not to long ago, a mistake like this would have bothered me for the whole day. I would have tripped over myself to apologize and then become highly paranoid that everything else I was doing was incorrect.

Example: Last summer I got a warning from the system administrator that I had been using an unusually high amount of data, and that my internet use would be investigated if I did not clarify that the use was in support of departmental work. I panicked, hard-core. I was SO worried that if I were investigated, the department would find a way to make a problem out of the fact that I left my Facebook open in the background and listened to YouTube videos while I was working.

My supervisor was in Paris at the time, so I fretted in silence for several hours before I finally responded to the e-mail and told them I would keep my usage down. When my supervisor returned, I told her what happened, terrified that I would be admonished for not working hard enough. She just laughed and turned her screen to show me she was listening to YouTube videos as well.

All of this is to say that you can’t be perfect all the time, especially when you are learning. This is something I have to remind myself of all. the. time. Today I apologized, fixed my mistake, and got on with my day.

As I work my way through my 3rd student job in two years, it can feel as though I am moving laterally along, rather than up, the career ladder. It’s moments like these that remind me that every experience is worth something. I am getting prepared for larger responsibilities, which will come with the potential for larger mistakes. Big or small, it’s important to be able to correct and move on—otherwise those mistakes remain errors, rather than lessons.


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