The tiniest mistake

I had a profound revelation today which created one of those Aha moments people talk about right before they change their life.

Here’s what happened:

I took a blank sheet of lined paper which I had placed in a soft-cover binder and began to write a list of all my ongoing projects that are either incomplete, on hold, or held back from public consumption for reasons that are neither here nor there at the moment.

My intention was clear: write down everything I’m working on and pick one project to work on until it is complete before moving on to the next one.

So, I picked up a pen and wrote the first line.

  • Understand google docs

As I wrote the words I spelled google wrong. I only wrote one ‘o’.

Before I could think about this mistake like a rational person, I ripped the page out and walked it over to the recycling bin. Then, I switched my pen to a pencil, and began anew.

This time, I spelled google correctly, but my hand slipped a little and the letters went below the line. I could still read it, but it looked crooked.

Don’t worry, there’s an eraser on the end of the pencil, I told myself. Just erase it and re-write it nice and neat.

The eraser however was hard, not soft and spongy, and it smeared the page.

It bothered me, this smear, so I ripped the page out and got up again to place the crumbled up piece of paper into the bin, all the while feeling guilty for wasting a tree.

Then I made coffee. Clearly, I needed a break from all this strenuous list writing, right? πŸ˜‚

While making coffee, I pondered what was wrong with me. Why was I like this? Why did I stop not just the list-writing but also the work I was to tackle after I wrote the list?

I stirred some table cream into my coffee and that’s when it happened. I traveled down memory lane back to my formative years, which landed me in my fourth grade classroom in Switzerland. It was the mid-1970s.

Let me explain to you how my Swiss teacher taught fourth grade math:

First, there was a blue booklet with graph paper, taking up two thirds of the page. It had a blank margin along the edge. In this booklet we were to copy down the math problems and answers. The problems came from either the blackboard or a textbook shared with the student sitting next to me (we were two to a desk).

The writing in the graph paper booklet was to be made by fountain pen. The ink in the fountain pen had to be blue. The graph paper side was for the math work. The margin was for notes. If you could not do arithmetic in your head, or weren’t fast enough (because often, we were timed), then you were allowed to make notes in the margin with your fountain pen.

Mistakes were frowned upon. One was to think before writing on the graph paper or the margin. Notes were also frowned upon but to a lesser extent. There was, after all, a designated spot in the math booklet for notes. As long as the notes were in the margin, and not somewhere else, such as on the graph paper side of the booklet, the math teacher accepted the notes.

If you made a mistake, either with spelling or math, you were to cross out in a neat, straight line, preferably aided by a ruler, the offending letter, word or number, and the correct letter, word or number would be repeated on a space next to the mistake, or on a new line below.

Yes, the Swiss teachers were a little anal back in those days. And I was a very literal girl. I obeyed without question and aimed for perfection. But math was not my strong suit so I focused heavily on display, hoping for praise and approval: See how neat she wrote her letters and numbers? They’re all lined up perfectly and fit on the line neatly. Turns out, teachers wanted perfection on outcomes of math problems in addition to organized, legible printing on the graph paper.

As I stirred my coffee and reminisced this ridiculous habit I have learned and taken as gospel truth during my formative years, I suddenly understood why I was so discombobulated when it came to my work life today. I can’t even finish a list due to a spelling error, or a smudge. πŸ™„

Isn’t it possible to accept something as good enough at least some of the time in the interest of forward propulsion?

Recognizing where this came from is the first step to forging ahead. Which is why, as soon as I hit publish here, I’m going to take my pen, and my lined-paper filled binder, and write a new list. If I make a mistake, I will accept this imperfection as acceptable and continue on with the work I chose to complete today.

Childhood memories are weird. 😎

Thank you for reading my post.

9 thoughts on “The tiniest mistake

  1. “The best is the enemy of the good.” I don’t remember who said that, but it’s true. We can’t all be perfect all the time so it’s far better to accept our flaws and strive to be good enough.

    On a side note, I had a “rough book” when I was at school. This was, as the name implies, for making rough notes before copying them into the exercise book that the teacher actually sees.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good enough is definitely forward motion! Especially with something like a list that will have items crossed off or otherwise marked as “completed”

    You’re doing so great!! πŸ’ͺ Woot Woot!!πŸ₯³πŸ’ƒπŸΌ

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is fascinating, Claudette! If only we all could travel back to the weird and even sometimes trivial places where we gained our ways of thinking, we could be people who might actual change their lives as you say so eloquently. I loved that you wrote out this beautiful trail for the rest of us to ponder how to break our own chains!

    And good luck with your list!

    Liked by 1 person

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