Arguments, Mistakes, and Why I Should Shut the Fuck Up and Mind My Own Business


I got in an argument with a friend over a decision she’d made that would affect the rest of her life.  She thought her decision was totally reasonable.  I thought it was stupid and I needed to convince her of that, no matter how condescending I had to be to do it.

At one point, she asked why I cared so much about what she did with her life.

“I don’t want to see you make a mistake,” I said.

“Let me ask you something, Daryl,” she said.  “Is your life perfect right now?  Has it just been nothing but smooth sailing for you?”

This was a good point, but I didn’t let that stop me.  So we just kept arguing until we were both too pissed and tired to keep going.  Which is how arguments should end, in my opinion.  There’s nothing worse than getting into it with someone, and they decide mid-way, “You know what?  I don’t want to do this with you.”  Really?  You’re gonna stop now?  Now that I have a taste for blood?  Whatever. Quitter. 

I was on the debate team in high school, and I think during that time I learned to really enjoy arguing.  It’s not enough to just disagree with someone.  You gotta beat them.  You gotta show them just how wrong they are, so they can see it as well as you do.

…said the guy living on his friend’s couch.

You know what’s crazy about my Peace Pilgrim walk?  Besides the obvious?  Until the actual day I started walking, I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it, except like 3 people.  No one in my family had any idea.  I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid they would try to stop me.

I didn’t want to risk getting into an argument that I thought I might lose.

I’ve been getting emails and comments from folks, saying that I shouldn’t look at the Peace Pilgrim thing as a mistake. because it was an invaluable experience that I learned a lot from.  Truth be told, if I had a choice, I’d probably do it again.  Not because I would want to, but because I feel I would have to.  Where would I be without that experience?

Well…I’d probably be living in my own apartment, which would be nice, but whatever.  There’s a larger point I’m trying to make here.

I think back to the billboard that I saw while I was walking through Denton, Maryland in the middle of the night:  “It’s okay to make mistakes as long as they’re new ones.”

I don’t want to make mistakes.  Who does?  And nobody who’s in the middle of making a mistake is thinking, “I’m making a mistake.”  Nobody thinks they’re getting it wrong.

They’re thinking, “Helmet…check.  Parachute…check.   Magic mushroom smoothie…check.”

We all thing we’re getting it right!  That’s what makes it truly a mistake.

We gotta allow ourselves to make mistakes.  How else do we develop our own sense of direction and purpose?  If you’re making a compass from scratch, you have to calibrate it.  It’s not going to point North straight from the get-go.  I think making mistakes is how we do that. There have been times when I’ve had to make a decision, and I checked with my gut and I was like, “Okay, I’m going to do this thing.”  Then I checked back in a few minutes later, and I felt like my gut was saying, “Do this other thing instead.”  In both instances, I felt correct in my decision.

So how the fuck do I know I’m right about anything if my sense of rightness can shift that quickly?  I try to make decisions based on past experiences and observable data, but most of the time, I’m just guessing and gambling.  The only thing I’m 100% sure about is that I’m not 100% sure about anything.

It almost seems better to make an authentic choice, a choice that is truly your own, even if it’s a mistake, than to a make a so-called “right” choice because someone told you to.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get advice or feedback from people.  But I like what Erica Jong said about it:  “Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” 

Really good advice is the kind of advice you know is true when you hear it.  You don’t have to think about it; you can just feel it.  You’ve probably known the truth all along, but you either were just too distracted or too scared to really sit down and face it.

As far as my friend goes, she’s doing what she’s gotta do, according to what she feels.  Who am I to say anything about it besides, “Good luck, God speed, and keep your head down”?

By the way, this same friend is a Rubix cube master.  A while back, she showed me a part of her strategy for solving the cube:

“Once you’ve completed one side,” she said, “you gotta start moving things around so you can position the other same-colored squares in place, but you have to remember to always put your completed squares back in place, so you don’t lose progress.”

“I have trouble keeping track of everything I move,” I said.  “I always get afraid that I’m going to lose track and fuck up what I’ve already built.”

“Well,” she said, “maybe you should try telling yourself that it’s okay to fuck it up.  It’s just a game.”


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