Make mistakes. Make more mistakes! You might find or do something great by mistake…
By Luis Augusto Nobre
Although I have a good memory for places, faces, dates, numbers and facts, I keep forgetting the topics and ideas I would like to write about or even talk about with a friend in a warm conversation. My mistake, but I am not usually sorry at all. Despite missing some great ideas, this lack of memory could be helpful. Revolving my thoughts works as a brainstorming session and gives me possible new ideas.
My solution is not perfect, but here and there, I take vague notes on my phone for future opportunities to explore them. It could be a word, a sentence, a quote from a book or some movie dialogue. However, I have difficulty figuring out which topic they are related to from my previous thoughts. Another mistake. My notes are just a compilation of words waiting to be placed together in a puzzle and make sense. In the case of this piece, the last sentence was the inspiration. So I hope you can hold your anxiety until the end, or you will read it with a spoiler and a lesson.
Being anxious or afraid can lead us to commit errors. How often have we put our future on hold, waiting for the right moment? We will eventually miss the timing when the chance is in front of us, punishing ourselves later on with thoughts like “I should have done differently.” More mistakes to add to our growing list, and we will never know if the missed step would have been the perfect solution or a total disaster.
I am trying to create an analogy about mistakes, extending to attitudes and decisions. Time and my (past) behaviour has given me some expertise, as my regret list always grows when I reflect on my past and missing opportunities. I do acknowledge that all my mistakes have been changed into learned lessons, taking me to this particular moment in life. My tendency is to hold as many of my thoughts and reactions as possible, slowly digesting them for the perfect moments or the right reasons, but they don’t always come true. In the end, we will interpret it as the right move or a big mistake.
Despite the interpretation, you and I should use our wisdom to take risks in a time frame benefiting us and our journey so that it won’t become another regret. Be aware that I am not suggesting anything against the law or that could hurt someone – just pushing ourselves to try and grab that experience.
Here is an example of a huge mistake that gave me one of the biggest lessons in my life. I kind of knew that I wouldn’t be a full-time straight person, and I tried to live a life being afraid of my authentic self. It wasn’t directly forced, but the cultural and familiar context imposed and led me to swallow my desires, not living them in fullness.
Because I was so afraid of facing who I was, I created boundaries and barriers to build healthy relationships with people who could have become great friends or mentors. One was an extraordinary and openly gay professor in my undergrad program. I could never become close enough to him because of my panic that he would see my true self. Instead of having an excellent professor-student relationship, I avoided him as much as possible, and the fantastic professor adored by everyone was never a reality to me.
Some bad decisions will taste bitter, and the bitterness in my mouth from this episode is a constant reminder to me of learning the hard way. At that time, I wasn’t as confident as I am now. Many more mistakes happened, and they will continue happening, but I want to have them writing my path and working as stepping stones.
Now as a very proud queer person, I don’t hide who I am despite the challenges of always coming out. Sometimes, those situations are just a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves. In the book Love in the Time of Cholera (which I highly recommend), the Colombian writer and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Gabriel García Márquez wrote that “human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mother gives birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” This process is to overcome our mistakes and improve from there, being the gas we need as a kind of internal combustion to move us forward.
It is how we see things. We can even use someone else’s bad decisions to make changes because they impact our lives directly. Social movements see the inequities and fight for a more inclusive society. Members of our 2SLGBTQIA+ communities are also aligned, demanding respect for who we are and working on our rights. The changes have already been happening over the years: civil marriage, adoption, employment and protection rights, conversion therapy ban, blood donation, and more. Let’s update inadequate and obsolete practices we see, to benefit ourselves and the people around us.
Too naive? I believe in the goodness inside us despite being a witness to and knowing all the atrocities committed by some human beings. We can do more and better for ourselves, even when it is a reasonable mistake. History has several examples that make science and technology advance, for example. Those “issues” became the solution to a problem unexpectedly. Coincidence or not, we could see them as simple doses of serendipity.
That may be why serendipity is one of my favourite words – I even have a tattoo of it using my handwriting. Finding or doing something great by mistake is fascinating and intimidating too. Steps need to be taken. Courage and boldness to try a new thing for the first time are the keys to transforming the situation in favour of the majority, benefiting more people and doing a good change. It is not easy to overcome our fears and be in the spotlight; however, it is rewarding to imagine that people in the future will have a better life because of our simple acts in the present. A classic butterfly effect, sending the winds of change.
For those who have stayed with me until now and want to take risks: Make mistakes. Make more mistakes. Make better and better mistakes! You never know: you might find or do something great by mistake.
LUIS AUGUSTO NOBRE is the senior communications coordinator of Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada, a leading national non-profit organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit prideatwork.ca.