Making Mistakes, or What I Learned from Failed Cornbread

I hate making mistakes.  I realize that no one actually likes making mistakes, but I feel like I hate them more than the average person.  Mistakes suck and I have a hard time believing that I can ever be a good person after making them.

“Mistakes” covers a wide range of goofs, too.  I hate bashing my hip on a counter that’s been at the same height and in the same location for months.  I hate accidentally sharing a secret.  I hate making errors at work.

Also, I somehow don’t believe that I can learn from mistakes.  When I screw something up, I’m convinced that I’ll be a failure of a human being, forever and ever, regardless of whether or not I’ve done the same thing perfectly before.  For example, a couple weeks ago I made cornbread and epically messed it up.  I’m still not sure how it happened, but it just never cooked through all the way, and the whole pan had to be thrown out.

This haunted me for days.

This one pan of failed cornbread caused me to question my skills as a cook.  Never mind that I’ve successfully made cornbread several times in my life – messing up this one batch caused me to think that I’d altered my brain structure, that my baking skills were now gone.  Poof.  Instant, eternal, baking failure.  I will never make good cornbread again.

Plus, messing up the cornbread meant wasted ingredients and thus, wasted money.  All that flour and sugar, half a leftover can of corn I’d been saving specifically for bread, cornmeal, butter…straight in the trash.  That’s what, three dollars?  Four?  That’s a half-hour of wages (after tax)!  It’s a precious Starbucks trip!  A thrifted necklace!  And I just threw it away!

Kevin, naturally, did not share my anxiety.  Whatever.  It’s his fault I’m thrifty (well, thriftier) now.

I often don’t realize that other people probably a) make mistakes and b) also feel bad, if not anxiety-level terrible, about them.  They also c) learn from them, as evidenced by the fact that not everyone has to throw away cornbread every time they make them, and not everyone has consistently bruised hips, and HR departments are not always tripping over themselves trying to re-learn Quickbooks every week.

So there’s hope for me.

In the meantime, I’m working on talking myself down from the ledges I create by making a mistake.  The world isn’t going to end because of a payroll error, nor because I forgot to mail that bill for the third day in a row, nor because I accidentally poured laundry detergent into the litter box instead of the washing machine that one time. (Look, I was home sick that day, my brain cells were all focused on just keeping myself upright, let’s just move on.)

I’m also going to work on getting some perspective.  Wasting three or four dollars is a bummer, but it won’t plunge us into debt.  Not getting to have cornbread with our dinner was disappointing, but we still had plenty to eat.  Pouring a glob of laundry detergent into the litter box was kind of hilariously dumb, and besides, we need to use up that detergent to get high-efficiency stuff, anyway.

The world isn’t going to end when I make a  mistake.  I’m not the only one in the world who screws things up.  I am not going to be a terrible person forever.  I’m not even a terrible person right now – just a human one.


5 thoughts on “Making Mistakes, or What I Learned from Failed Cornbread

  1. Maybe not everyone walks around with perpetual bruises, but some of us do. There was this file cabinet at my last job… (I was there for 5 years, and I walked into it with at least part of my body at least once a week. For 5 YEARS.)

    Learning to accept that I was never going to be the graceful, poised, calm, and always cogent adult self I’d dreamed of was some of the main work I did in my late 20s. No matter how much I wanted, my normal self doesn’t really take a shine very well. And that’s okay. Most days, that’s okay. You’ll get there.

    • Thanks. 🙂 I will have to work pretty hard on the “acceptance” part…I feel like I should at least be able to stop walking into things, but maybe not!

  2. This rings true for me in a very real and painful way, and I appreciate the way you’ve laid it out here. I can intellectually acknowledge your thoughts in the last paragraph and say that sort of thing to myself a lot, but I haven’t yet gotten there to believing it emotionally (ie not letting that stuff completely wreck my day)–but I’m going to keep at it, and try to remember that a lot of other people feel this way too and are working through it.

    • It’s definitely a “fake it ’til you make it” process for me and it requires a good deal of focus to step back and recognize that the world isn’t really ending. (Not easy in the moment.) And it very much depends on the mistake for me – a mistake at work is way harder to shake off than a mistake in the kitchen.

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