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Trial by error

February 16th, 2012

Bad decisions. We all make them, and sometimes they’re unavoidable. Bad decisions are a fact of life, a part of the process of learning and growing up.

There are different types of bad decisions, too. Some are life-changing bad decisions, which substantially alter your life. Then there are the other bad decisions that make for a bad day, but don’t cause too much damage. Bad decisions are inherently not good – obviously, they’re called “bad”– but the one positive aspect is that they teach the decision-maker a lesson.

I’ve been lucky enough to not make any life-changing bad decisions yet, but I have certainly made my fair share of the lesser type of bad decisions. I don’t regret them, however, because it seems to be the only way I really learn.

Others may try to tell me that a plan will backfire, or that my decision will have negative results, or that doing it another way would work better, but I don’t always listen. Often, I think that my way will work just fine, or that I can deal with whatever could go wrong. Usually when something does go wrong it is exactly as people (like my parents) warned it would. It’s more difficult to understand their wisdom they try to impart upon me, if I don’t experience it for myself.

I’ve been reflecting on some of these bad decisions and many are now quite funny. At the time, it ruined my day but with the distance of time, I can laugh at them.

For example, in high school, it’s a tradition that the senior class takes a class picture together. The entire class is supposed to dress up for the picture and I chose my favorite crème-colored turtleneck sweater. That same day I had to be at school early for a meeting and, of course, needed coffee. My mother warned me to either leave the coffee or wear something over the sweater. I responded, “I’ll be fine.”

Surprisingly, I made it all the way to school without spilling anything on myself. However, in the middle of the meeting I spilled half of my coffee down the front of my beautiful sweater. I had to call my dad in a panic to bring me something else to wear. I should have listened to my mother. I now never drink coffee when I’m wearing white and always carry Tide to Go wherever I go.

Another time as a freshman at JCU, I was warned to not wear flip-flops because it was going to rain. I thought to myself, “Even if it does rain, I’ll be fine.” Thus, I wore the flip-flops anyway and it did rain. As I walked past the wall-length window of Einstein Bros. Bagels, despite my careful walking, I slipped and fell flat on my butt. (And since it was the middle of the day, the counter behind the wall-length window was full.) It was painful and extremely embarrassing.

Last winter, I had an internship the mornings after deadline night for The CN. On one particular Wednesday, I didn’t get out of The CN until 7 a.m. That meant I only had time to change clothes before I had to leave for work. It was also snowing that day, so when I told my mother I had no sleep, she told me to call in sick that day. I told her I couldn’t and I’d be fine. She didn’t need to worry.

Well, that was a bad decision, if I’ve ever made one. I was miserable the entire day, and felt a little sick. When I finally made it home at the end of the day, all I could think about was going to sleep. But, since it had been snowing, the driveway was covered and I couldn’t get up the driveway. I also couldn’t get down; I was stuck. In calling my parents to ask what to do, I did something I never do: cry. I was in tears for no reason – I could have avoided it all by just staying home and taking care of myself that day.

My bad decisions have made for some bad days, but from them I have learned to listen to advice when it’s given to me, learn from past experiences, and always be prepared … I’ve also learned to laugh at myself.