In September, I got into my first car accident. I wasn’t distracted when it happened, but it was my fault. I was coming out of a jughandle, looking into oncoming traffic, and smacked the bumper of the car in front of me. I tried to approach the owner of the vehicle, but it seemed she was uninterested in my apologies. So, I went back to my car and hysterically cried until the police came.
No one had died. No one was even injured. There was little damage to either car and that woman wasn’t angry or upset at me, just shaken up. She ended up hugging me before she left too. But despite the big picture, I treated it like I had taken a sledgehammer to someone’s life. I sat there going over all the possibilities, thinking my license was going to get taken away. I warped reality in my mind while I buried my head into my mother’s living room couch until I fell asleep and forgot about the whole thing. When I look back, I can see how silly I looked freaking out over something so underwhelming. I thought my world was coming down over a scratch in a bumper.
Now now, none of that was a big deal. In fact, many people have been in the same predicament. That moment doesn’t even come close to putting a dent in the things I’ve done in the past. It wasn’t the first fuck up and definitely wasn’t the last. As much as I try to prevent these things from happening, they never stop. A secret will slip out of my mouth and I’ll break someone’s trust or I’ll do something against my own morals. A lot of the time I feel like I’m just barely holding my head above water, trying to propel myself to the next destination without getting my own feelings hurt or hurting someone in my wake. Even when I feel like I’m doing well and acting right, I slip up and am back underwater again.
So you’re in a pickle. You broke a glass. You broke someone’s heart. You touched something you weren’t supposed to. You have a big mouth. You lied, everyone found out, and now you’re in trouble. And on top of that, you’re disappointed, upset, hopeless, troubled, stressed, etc. What now?
It’s hard in the moment, but the first thing you need to do is take a giant step back. Freak out a little bit. Have your moment to scream or cry. Feel it. When you’re done, take a long, deep breath. The inside of your head probably looks like a mushroom cloud of smoke. You can’t think clearly or see everything for what it is when your view is blurred. You might be angry or upset and say something you don’t mean. It’s a bad time to speak and start assembling broken pieces. You’ll hurt yourself trying. And hovering over the situation will only fuel the fire.
The first few days are always the worst. When you’re not feeling so good, especially if you’re alone, it’s hard to get out of your head. Let yourself grieve, but be gentle. Sometimes when I feel confused or powerless about a problem at hand, I tell myself that my tomorrow self, my future self, can handle it and fix it. This way I can feel what I must in the moment without worrying too much. A little distraction can help stop you from overthinking too. Do something pleasurable. Get a hobby and turn it into your safe space. When you come back, you can reflect. You’re not the only one in the world to have messed up. There is no sense in hating yourself over something that is going to be very minor in due time. Know that better days ALWAYS come.
Try talking to someone who doesn’t hold judgement. They could be an acquaintance, a best friend, a teacher, a parent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone running back to my mother for advice or because I needed someone to hear me out. Or just to have her tuck my hair behind my ear while I go through it. It’s nice to have a shoulder to cry on. The comfort is healing. A fresh pair of eyes can provide insight. And the person you turn to might end up saying something you really need to hear.
There have been many instances where I’ve messed up and I’ve had no one to turn to. Maybe because I didn’t want to tell anyone about what was going on. I felt embarrassed. These ended up being the best lessons because I not only had to single-handedly conquer the situation, but also my fear of isolation and the pain of being alone. I learned to find comfort and solace in my own company. I looked for advice from myself because I had to trust I knew what was best. I tried to see things in a more positive way. These trials are difficult, but they are for the benefit of us, as well as the other party. Life has a funny way of removing what doesn’t belong and isolating you, so you can take a good look at yourself. Ask yourself how you can be a better person, where you went wrong, and how the future can be different. Maybe it’s simple and you just need to start loving yourself.
It’s time to own whatever you did. Let go of the fear of consequence and what will happen when you are honest. It will be worse if you aren’t. Forgive and make peace with yourself first. Don’t let anyone else’s perception of you get in the way. There may be an image of you existing right now, maybe it’s not your own, but every second you are changing. You are not the same person you were yesterday. And you always have the option to change, to rise, and to learn.
This may take a really long time, but when you’ve collected yourself and the matter has cooled down, it’s okay to approach or speak to whoever you hurt. Come from a loving place, but understand that no one in this life owes you anything. Try to see it from their perspective too and offer understanding, as should they. You might not be able to get back into that friendship or relationship. People are allowed to feel the way they do. They are allowed to leave you in the past. You cannot expect immediate forgiveness or sympathy, but you may find harmony in knowing you gave yourself a voice and communicated. Don’t hold onto it anymore. Let go for your own good. Move forward.
A lot of the time, when we think of fucking up, we think of it in a way where we have messed up something with someone else. But sometimes it can be in a way where we mess up with ourselves and it is solely in our own world.
A few weeks ago, I did something that hurt my own feelings. I got lost with an image of someone I had in my head. After months of not feeling like me, I realized I was living in the past. All that time, I was consumed with creating this whole other reality…somewhere else. I chose not to realize the truth because my creation was much more ideal. I let myself down because I made an old mistake, even embarrassing myself by thinking my delusion was real. I was upset because I hold my growth so highly. I was mad because I went back on my own word and broke a promise to myself. And how could I ever be an example, how could anyone take my word for advice, when I can’t take my own? I felt my heart sink until my chest was empty. Being half on Earth and half in the clouds is uncomfortable.
I kind of beat myself up over it. I felt stupid, but shortly after that realization, I had a talk with a good friend. I wasn’t looking for anything out of her, but I felt like if I said it out loud I would feel more honest with myself about it. I told her I felt like I hadn’t grown or changed at all, like I was just the same person I’d always been.
She looked at me very calmly and said, “Don’t ever say that to me again. You’ve come a long way from where you were. You have learned and that’s why you can speak of it right now and recognize it. That’s why you’re not letting yourself continue down this path. That’s why you’re stopping it in its course. And besides that, you honored what your heart was feeling. You were true to yourself and your word at every moment. You were honest with your emotions, even if you stepped out of bounds for a bit.”
Over the summer, I went on a roadtrip to New Mexico. The desert is home to many armadillos because they tend to prefer warmer climates. They are kind of silly looking mammals that scurry around with a really cool shell made of bone and tissue on their back. Hence the origin of their name, which is Spanish for “little armored one”. I have a habit of looking up the spiritual meanings of animals on spirit-animals.com when they cross my path. And of course, the deeper meaning of an armadillo has a lot to do with protection against physical obstacles. But thanks to modern technology, most people live so fully in their emotional bodies that they will forget survival and shielding themselves from physical harm.
We overthink. Yes, we have to look inside ourselves to change and grow, but we also need to come out of our shells to actually live. Some of us live in fear of heartbreak and of change, so we avoid being vulnerable and stay in our comfort zone. The armadillo tells us that there are different paths with different trials. There are endless opportunities to move forward.
There is no question, you will fall and fail dozens of times. Life gets the best of us now and then. But we have to plan ahead. Be smart and know you will fuck up and get hurt. That’s out of your control. But it is in your power to choose and minimize the damage. Don’t fixate your growth on never failing because you’ll end up in the same spot where you started, trying to protect your heart, but never exercising your feet. The only way to get stronger is to face it. We cannot roll up and run away to protect ourselves all the time because if we do, we will never get ahead of the obstacles. If you stand behind the mountain, if you never summit, you won’t ever get to see the view.