In July of 2007 I was lucky enough to be given a job living with and helping a man with a developmental disability as a part of a shared living program. He has taught me many valuable lessons, shown me unconditional admiration, and helped me come to a life shaping realization –success lies not in perfection, but in erring with grace. Despite having in him a role model who continuously lives in concert with this belief, I did not come to it gracefully; I stumbled upon it clumsily and, and, of course, by mistake.
The two of us have birthdays that are 2 days apart. We celebrated by buying an air popper to better enjoy a shared favorite – popcorn. The day of the popper’s maiden voyage, I had cleaned – the burners were free of debris, the floor clean of sauce spatters, the sink sparkling. The air popper sat smack in the middle of the freshly buffed counter, a wooden salad bowl in front of it. My roommate measured the popcorn, I poured it in, and he flipped the switch. We watched the popper, waiting for the spout to produce a flow of corn. And suddenly it was raining popcorn. Cracks and crevices that I had so painstakingly cleaned of crumbs were home to flying popcorn pieces. The floor was littered with fluffy pieces, crunching under my roommate’s feet. I took a deep breath, ready to let loose my frustration with the popper and my own inadequacy – I mean, what kind of moron was I not to know how to pop popcorn? Before I exploded, I looked over at my roommate, who was standing calmly in front of the popper, reaching out to pluck one kernel at a time off the counter and eat it.
“I love it,” he exclaimed, and then added “It’s the best popcorn ever!”
There was nothing else to do. I reached out for a kernel of my own.
In that moment I realized that mistakes is the stuff my life is made of. Rather than regretting the mistakes I have made, whether not covering the popcorn popper or crashing the car, I can own those blunders honestly, looking in them for the kernels of humor and the possibility of growth. Living each day with the knowledge that I will make mistakes and the belief that erring gracefully will move me, and help me become better at being human has changed me – where once I chased the perfect illusion, I now make it my goal to leap fluidly, into the messy, lovely, and delicious mistakes that make me real.
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