The Art of Making Mistakes

“As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” - Steve Maraboli


It’s early morning. As I sit on my front porch, with hot coffee warming my hands, I know.


I know that once again I’ve made a mistake.


Another one. 


If I could, I would yell and scream at myself in frustration.


Why do I keep doing this? Why can’t I seem to figure it out? Why don’t I ever learn?


I close my eyes shut with frustration.


Another mistake - another lesson learned.


Why can’t I just get this right?


I mean my career - my purpose - have always been in the forefront of my mind. Dominating my decisions, my activities, where I go and what I do. It’s not like this is something I take lightly. Rather I take this rather seriously. So why do I keep screwing it up?!


An exasperated gasp escapes my lips. 


At least I’m willing to recognize the mistake, I tell myself.


This offers little consolation.


I can think of a number of reasons for this latest mistake; expectations, fear, desire for stability, along with others…


But why does it keep happening? Why does it feel like I’m just bumping along from mistake to mistake?


Well it turns out, I soon realize, that I’m just looking at it all wrong. Rather than consider every mistake a problem, I should alter my perspective.


Mistakes are learning opportunities. A chance to redefine yourself and discover what it is that makes you, you - and to create the life you want.


A chance to cut off the pieces that you know don’t work and cultivate the pieces you’ve discovered that do - and focus on those.


As H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah said, “Making mistakes is the art of discovery!”


So although it may seem like I’m just bumping along, I may have it all wrong. Rather, it turns out that these mistakes might just be what is directing me towards that “thing” that is right. That will make me come alive, in all the best ways.


In fact, when thinking back, that is exactly how a number of positive experiences have happened - as a result of mistakes.


I wouldn’t have ended up working at a hostel if I hadn’t left my job just a few months before and was looking for a creative way to cut down my living costs in Cape Town. And if I didn’t apply to that job, I would never have discovered my fiery passion for the youth tourism industry and seen first hand how it can positively change the lives of both staff and visitors.


So ultimately, it was a positive mistake. It was a step forward, not a step back.


Yes it was painful. Yes the transition was hard. And yes, I had absolutely no idea I would fall so hard - especially because I thought that I had found the job position of my dreams. 


Turned out I was wrong - and what I thought I wanted, wasn’t actually the best thing for me.


I would have never known that had I not tried to give it a shot. And I could possibly still be working towards that now if I hadn’t jumped in with both feet forward.


So in hindsight, the full committal to nearly a complete failure was a good thing, and it directed me towards where I want to go now.


So now that I find myself, once again, in a place where things aren't quite right, at least I know that I gave this particular lifestyle and job (different from what I have done previously) a shot - and in the process have discovered new aspects of what I like and what I do not.


Which ultimately directs my next steps.


So in the end, I guess I should look at making mistakes as an art, because that is really all it is.


Mistakes are failing forward and onwards to better things.


Because ultimately life is not without mistakes and failure. Rather it is full of it. Both large and small. So what you do with it is what matters - more than anything else.


So what is it for you? How have your mistakes allowed you to fall forward? 



Remaining Authentic

I am sitting. Arms wrapped around my sandy knees. The smell of salt, sunscreen and ocean tingle my nose. I can feel my body press into the beach towel below me, and the sand below that. 


I’m taking a break from the heat, sitting under the shade of an umbrella, watching friends play beach volleyball on the two courts in front of me.


There are people all around us. I can hear music playing from at least three different directions, including from one of our courts.


Everywhere I look there are tanned bodies standing at the ready waiting for another chance to hit the volleyball as it flies over the net and gets returned, to eventually hit the sand to shouts of both glee and dismay.


Its another Saturday afternoon and I am once again at my normal stomping grounds - the beach volleyball courts.


It’s amazing to think back and realize I only just joined this group a few months ago and many of my now friends were strangers just a few weeks ago.


I’m sitting in what I would call “my happy place”. I’m doing something I love and I know it. When I am at the courts I feel like I belong, like this is where I should be spending my Saturday.


I am outside, on the beach, with friends, laughing and talking in the sun, getting a tan and getting exercise (which I barely notice most days). This is my heaven. This is me being authentic to who I am, what I want and what makes me happy.


So when I walk away, saying my goodbyes, as the sun dips below the horizon, I glance behind me at the now empty nets standing in silent tribute to the chaos earlier in the day and I know that something is wrong.


The way I feel about volleyball is not the way I feel about the rest of my life. 


Something is off, and I know it.


It’s a gut feeling. A tug. A sense of unbalance. A sense of discontentment.


Remaining authentic to myself is hard.


To the outsider, my life looks great. I’m living in what has to be one of the most beautiful towns in the States, in a cute house, with an awesome roommate. I have a busy social life and active church life. I’m even working a full time job with cushy benefits.


Nothing is wrong with it. In fact, all of it is good, if not very good.


Yet something is amiss. At the gut level I know this without a shadow of a doubt.


So what is going on?


Some people may consider me to be the type that is too sensitive or too pensive. The kind of person who spends too much time in her head. A dreamer…


But is that a bad thing?


See the way I look at it is, we have one shot at life. Everyday is one day less. Every hour is an hour spent of this precious life. Personally, I want to use it to my utmost best ability. I want to take risks and live a life free of regrets. I want to follow my heart and calling.


And I know that where I am now is not it. I can feel my soul crying out to me to take a step, to make a change, to do something different - and I’m frustrated because I feel stuck. Stuck where I am. Stuck among the expectations of friends and family. And stuck in a spot that no one seems to really understand, no matter how hard I try to explain.


This struggle to be authentic remains.


And it’s hard.


Do I know what to do? Not really.


Right now I feel like I am waiting for something to change. For God to meet me and make those next steps clear. For some plan to materialize for the foreseeable future. 


But as of now, it remains a hazy picture.


So I continue. I press on with the feelings of discontent. Exploring different options but not making any decisions yet.


I know I won’t last much longer without something changing, but at the same time I don’t know what to do next. So I wait.


And waiting is hard.


I’m searching for that sense of purpose and belonging in my entire life, not just one aspect of it. This is something I continue to seek with full honesty and heart.


When I find it, I will know.


I found it last year when I worked alongside the Once in Cape Town team in South Africa, until my visa pulled me away.


So I know what it should feel like - and it's just not here in this current moment yet.


So while I wait, I continue to search, read, discover, dream and press on through the day to day.


Because I know that to remain authentic to myself is one of the most important things I am striving for and I will continue to fight for it no longer how long it takes to find again.


Have you struggled with remaining authentic? What did you do? Have you had seasons of waiting? How did you get through it?

Eating Alone

There I sat. Toes digging into the sand, the skirt of my dress still damp from the waves that had taken me by surprise earlier that day.


The sun sank lower and lower against the horizon as it slowly descended to the ocean and below.


I was hungry and I could smell food.


I was in the center of hundreds of tourists swirling around - conversations blending into a mass of sound. 


The sound of people enjoying time together, yelling in excitement, kids squeals, lovers calm and kind tones, parents trying to keep their kids from running away in excitement and much more.


A saxophone played some classic jazz tunes in the background, hustling for the wrinkled dollar bills in the pockets of those who walked past.


It was sunset. Prime time for people to be out searching for food and the beautiful sunset views along the coastline.


I was in the right place to get dinner. 


There were multiple restaurants merely steps from where I sat. 


Yet something caused me to hesitate…


I was alone.


I was traveling alone. I was at the beach alone. I had spent the day mostly alone.


Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that traveling solo is difficult, rather it is quite the contrary - traveling by myself comes easily. I am not one to shy away from spending time or exploring new places by myself. In fact, I quite enjoy it.


However, in my past I’ve either traveled between hostels or traveled with other people. In the case of solo travel, hostels happen to be set up for solo travelers - with shared dining areas - making it easy to start conversation with other travelers or even the staff. 


On this particular weekend, however I was not staying in a hostel and had no access to a common dining/kitchen set up. So I found myself in this specific situation.


Debating whether to venture into a normal restaurant alone.


While sitting there watching the sunset and debating whether I felt confident enough to venture in and eat at the bar alone in a packed restaurant I decided to google it.


Turns out, eating alone is not an uncommon insecurity or concern.


From what I found, many people struggle with it, and many people have had a variety of experiences while trying it on for size.


It turns out, restaurants are built for groups of people - or couples at least. Not those of us looking to grab a bite at a nice restaurant in a pretty setting, who happen to be alone.


And I happen to think this is rather unfortunate.


I enjoy pretty views and nice food as much as the next person and can only take so much cafe food and fast food before I want a “real meal” - which is what led me to this moment.


I could have walked back to my car and driven back into town to grab something from Subway or the local grocery store - but I was at the beach and I wanted to soak in the beautiful setting that was surrounding me - as well as the delicious chowder I had read about on Yelp. I wasn't about to just get up and step away because of this one problem.


So…what did I do?


I decided to venture in.


And after doing a full loop around the bar and noticing some other people grabbing food there - I decided to take the one available seat.


And you know what?


It was fine.


In fact, I met a few interesting people while sitting there enjoying my beer and chowder while watching the last rays of sunlight disappear over the ocean.


And, when I walked out, I felt accomplished.


Like I had done something outside of my comfort zone - and had succeeded.


Sure it felt awkward, especially when I decided not to stare at my cellphone the entire time. I consciously put the phone away and decided to just sit and enjoy and see what happened.


And what happened was great.


I enjoyed my delicious food, a yummy brew and some interesting company.


I walked out feeling accomplished.


So, if you ever find yourself on your own and feeling shy about going to a restaurant in a new city or even in your own city I would highly recommend that you take the step to try it - and have dinner at the bar - you never know what may happen.


Do you have any interesting stories of going to a restaurant alone? If so, share them!