Growing from our mistakes

After my first solitary drive yesterday around the neighbourhood, I decided to drive to somewhere farther away from home tonight after dinner. I didn’t really have a route in mind. I just wanted to wander around and get familiarise with the major roads and terrains.

Like always, I missed signs and took the wrong streets, which led me to places I wasn’t intending to go. If I was with my parents, I would have been so nervous and wouldn’t know what to do. I would just freak out.

Tonight I just went with the flow and let the road take me to wherever. I reminded myself I’d find my way out if I kept my cool.

I realized that even if I hit a dead end, I could just make a U-turn and come out fine as long as I don’t freak out and start stomping on the pedal and mistake it as the brake. I may have wasted some time here and there, but I needed to make these mistakes to know which way to take next time.

I know by nature I’m the kind of person to freak out whenever life throws something random at me. My first instinct is to run away, but I’m glad later in my life I’ve acquired resilience. Instead of giving in to my instinct, I persevere. I wasn’t born to be strong, but I aspire to be anyway.

I think most people assume that successful people are just so good that they never fail or make mistakes. I once believed it until I’ve started to gain more life experience.

When I was in my junior year of college, I wanted to get an internship, so I basically sent out like 20 resumes to different newspapers, TV stations and radio stations in Iowa and Chicago. When I applied to the biggest radio station in Chicago, I didn’t think I would stand a chance. I knew for a fact that even my ex, an Irish American born and raised in the suburb who speaks impeccable English, didn’t get it a few years back, but I was like, “What the hell, email is free.” I went ahead and applied anyway.

Weeks went by, I didn’t hear anything from any of the small outlet until one day I got a voicemail from a reporter from the radio station saying he wanted to do a phone interview with me. I didn’t know how I pulled that off with my Cantonese accent and complete ignorance about Chicago, but I guess my dedication, my passion, my grades, all the student leadership roles I took really impressed him. I was eventually offered one of the two positions in the local news department. It was like a miracle and all my friends and professors were so proud and happy for me.

Just as I was over the moon, I found that my student visa didn’t allow my to study part-time in a regular semester. I found out at the international student centre, and I immediately burst in tears to my advisor. I thought it was the most unfair thing ever. How I could have beat hundreds of college kids around the nation with my credientals, and I couldn’t take on this internship of a lifetime because of my citizenship.

My breakdown must have touched the advisor. He handed me some Kleenex and assured me, “It’s alright. We’ll find a way. We’ll look into the rules and restrictions and find a way to let you do it.”

Till this day, I still don’t know how he did it. Anyway, I enrolled in the “internship” class that semester and worked on Chicago’s famous “Magnificent Mile”–Michigan Avenue for three months. As an intern, I did trivial things like answering the phone and editing clips, but that was challenging enough for me. I made several silly mistakes causing my colleagues to play to wrong sound bites.

Of course I felt super sorry about my screw-ups, but what a well known reporter said to me seven years ago still resonates with me now.

“It’s alright. You’re here to make mistakes.”

As humans, mistakes are unavoidable. Sometimes we go astray due to carelessness and stupidity. What I’ve learned from this flashback and my driving experience is to grow from our mistakes. As long as we know how to self-correct, even though we’ve made detours, one day we’ll still reach our destinations.

I believe this mentality, instead of pure luck or pure talent, is what separates winners from losers.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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