Ditch the Eraser

I think we all wish we could erase some dark times in our lives.
But all of life’s experiences, bad and good make you who you are.
Erasing any of life’s experiences would be a great mistake. ~Luis Miguel

 

The two blue lines with the dashed red line between them contained words from another time in my life. See Jane Run. Run, Jane, Run! That second Run had a darker area behind it, definitely from an old eraser. Do you remember how that felt? Even though you erased your mistake, anyone looking at the paper could tell that you had made a correction. As we got older, we’d start to write, make a mistake, wad up the paper, and start on a fresh page — feeling much better about making the teacher think, and ourselves feel, we hadn’t messed up. Life is full of times when we mess up and wish we could erase the mistakes, presenting a pristine self to all we meet, but the truth is as Miguel notes — erasing any of our experiences would be the mistake.

I saw a memory on social media of the day my oldest son graduated from college, and it reminded me of my own graduation day, almost 28 years ago. It took me a long time, 8 years, to get through, but I did it and had a baby (that college graduate son) in my lap as I took my last final exam. I had a lot of life experiences along the way, and while at times I have thought how nice it might be to erase some of that, the bad and the good have made me who I am, and I wouldn’t want to be anyone else today.

More than the need to erase is the need we often feel to hide our mistakes, and while we don’t have to print them on the front page of the paper, we might find that we are stronger for sharing them with other people. When I was a young woman, I had an experience that was life-changing for me, but I was ashamed to talk about it for fear my ‘mistake’ would be seen as a significant character flaw. More than 30 years later, I have found that sharing my experience with young women has been helpful and has taken much pressure off of me — pressure to be perfect.

What about you? Did you have experiences when you were younger, or maybe just last year, that left you feeling “less than?” Perhaps you lost your job because of bad choices, lost your marriage because of a change of desire or lapse in judgment, lost $10,000 because you chose to drink and drive, or lost friends because of a difference in values.  Gosh, those are all seriously huge deals, aren’t they? The truth, though, is that you are a different person, probably a stronger person, because of your mistakes (if you learned from them). They might not be comfortable to live with, but they are impossible to erase.

We can hide from our mistakes, we can let them stand as secrets that plague us with a fear of being discovered, but unless we have legitimate memory recall issues, the best Sanford eraser will not remove them. Instead of letting the bad experiences suffocate you or beating yourself up for messing up, why not make some positive choices that will help you be a better version of yourself. If, after all, it is as Miguel has said, that all of life’s experiences make us who we are, shouldn’t we use all of our experiences to be stepping stones across the ocean of life instead of allowing them to be concrete blocks to which we are tethered, causing us to feel sunken to the bottom of the sea?

  1. Admit your mistake(s), to yourself definitely and possibly to others. It is liberating to know that the secret of a mistake doesn’t own us. If you need to apologize to someone, take care of it.
  2. Figure out why you made the choices you made and what you could do differently the next time. Allow yourself to learn from what you’ve done and move forward, instead of staying stuck in the darkness of your experience.
  3. STOP. Don’t keep doing what you’ve done that got you in a mess. If you keep doing the same thing, it is no longer a mistake.
  4. If someone else’s mistake has created your difficult moment, recognize what is in your control and work from there. Spending your energy being angry and dreaming up ways to get back at them or make them suffer won’t help you, really it won’t.
  5. Believe in yourself. While it helps when others believe in us,  sometimes we have to be our best fan and cheerleader. Don’t give up on the possibilities that lie ahead.

It would have been easy to let the dark experiences and mistakes in my life dictate the direction I would travel. Instead, every mistake (mine or someone else’s) became a part of my story. Don’t try to erase your dark experiences — embrace them as part of your story and write that story in ink. I’m using purple.

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