This I Believe

Julia - South Burlington, Vermont
Entered on January 19, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

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.