Once you get past a certain age, you tend to think that you have pretty much completed the “School of Hard Knocks” curriculum. The difficult lessons that made adolescence and young adulthood so tumultuous seem a part of the distant past, and your strides start to become a little big bolder now that your confidence has leveled up.
This is all great, until you take one of those bold steps right into thin air and find yourself flailing like a startled chicken all the way onto the cold, hard ground of reality.
This week, I learned one of those hard lessons. Since starting the interview process, I’ve switched over to using my blog e-mail. I was proud that I had a real, professional-looking e-mail attached to my very own website. I credited myself as the author of the site in my e-mail signature. And with those two deft yet devastating choices, I wrote myself out of a potential job offer.
You see, the last blog post I wrote was by far my most popular post. It received over 150 views, and it reached over 1,000 people on my Facebook page, garnering several positive comments along the way.
That last blog post was also about sex. It clearly lived up to the stereotype that sex sells. And even though the message upheld the position that sex is to be respected, the content was deemed controversial enough that a scheduled observation was canceled.
I was devastated.
Being told that my blog was something that made me unworthy of a certain position felt like a slap in the face. The few people that I told at my school site expressed shock and sympathy. And eventually, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t the best fit for that site.
But this whole experience taught me some fucking valuable lessons:
- Know your audience. Just because you are involved with/proud of something does not mean that everyone you interact with needs to know about it. I have been writing my blog for five months now, and it has become something that I look forward to writing every week. I am proud of my fledgling writing abilities, and I revel in the positive feedback that I get from others. However, there is a place to share my pet project, and there are definitely places to keep it separate.
- Be discreet when needed. Don’t give others any information that could potentially be used against you. If I had not been prompted by my ego to use my blog e-mail to apply for jobs, no one would have been able to find my blog, and my future job site could have remained in blissful ignorance. If I had thought about it for longer than .2 seconds, I would have realized that I should probably reserve this part of myself for non-professional settings.
- Everything worth doing in life has a price. I refuse to censor my writing in order to appease the great swathes of faceless people I MIGHT meet who could POTENTIALLY have a problem with what I’m saying. One of my fellow blogger friends told me “I take it as a badge of honor when people are haters based on my writing. It means I’ve done something right.” While I am cut from a slightly softer cloth and would rather everyone love everything that I do, I am realistic enough to know that this is not the case. If you never receive any push-back, you simply haven’t taken a stand for anything.
- People will rally around you. This was a positive lesson that I learned; so many of my friends gave me support through their words and actions, and I received an overwhelming feeling of simply being loved by the people who matter. When the shit hits the fan, those people around you who truly care about you will be there to help you along the tough times. And those are the people whose opinions REALLY matter.
Looking back, it’s clear that the choice that I made was dumb. Like, really dumb. Like, why-on-earth-would-you-do-that-that’s-so-obvious-it-hurts dumb. But it was invaluable because it taught me that I am still learning. I don’t know everything yet. I still have the potential to make massive mistakes. I hate admitting these things to myself, but I have to bandage my pride and stride on a little wounded for a while. It means that I have to carefully consider my actions without blithely assuming that I’m going to choose the right course. And it means that sometimes, I might have to change.
As much as it sucks to have lost a potential job, the very fact that the stakes were so high makes it a lesson that will not be easily forgotten. Just like a baby touching a hot stove VERY quickly learns that hands and flames do not mix, the lessons later in life that burn us are the ones that stick with us and fuel our moves to avoid that feeling in the future at all costs.
And so, we must embrace the times when we fall. Children receive scraped knees only when they are daring to move beyond their limits. And yet they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep running simply for the pure joy of running.
Dare to admit when your misstep has caused something to shatter. Dare to push back the flap of skin to examine the shard of glass resting in your flesh, and allow yourself to fully feel the pain as it is pulled out and slowly heals. Most of all, dare to use that scar as a badge of living and a reminder that you WILL pick yourself up and keep going.
Because after all, life is a series of mistakes for everyone. The hard lessons are only given to those brave enough to step outside their comfort zone. So boldly step, thoughtfully reflect, and through it all cling to the realization that bone is stronger after it is broken.