Making Mistakes

I spent the last week in Florida, holed up in conference rooms by day and attending boozy events by night. It was my company’s annual sales conference, a huge event that brings sales professionals together from across the country. I don’t write much—or anything really—about my day job here. I work for a large legal research and technology company, selling both to law firms. When I made the transition from practicing law to sales, my mom was convinced that I would be successful, because in her words, I’m “smart and cute.”  What a gift to have had a full-time cheerleader; a gift that I will never take for granted again.

I have a boss, one who is at least three pegs up the ladder from me, who speaks to each and every person she meets with familiarity and respect. She’s the kind of boss who asks you to do more with less, and is the kind of boss who receives a resounding YES from her troops with no questions asked. We all want to make her proud. She spoke throughout the last few days, providing us with inspirational thoughts for the year ahead and reflecting on the past one. One thing she said stuck with me. She urged us to make mistakes this year—big ones, in fact—because you’re bound to make mistakes when you embrace change. I paused at this, immediately thinking about the big ones I made over the last year.

This past year, I spent too many hours thinking about the people who disappointed me, rather than the ones who showed up again and again. I appreciated the latter without question, but still thought about the cards I didn’t receive and the times my phone didn’t ring. I couldn’t help but notice the people who were around at first, but who faded from sight as time passed. This group is small though, so much smaller than the mob that has circled around me tirelessly and endlessly. My mom would tell me to get over it, in that way only she could.

This past year, I focused too much on my own needs in honoring my mom’s memory, instead of my family’s needs. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, my sister Meg asked me to continue the Black Friday tradition we started with our mom in recent years: in other words, to go shopping with her at an ungodly hour once again. I turned her down, thinking only of how sad it would be without my mom, instead of Meg’s wish to keep these traditions alive. Most recently, I balked in response to my sisters’ suggestion to serve chicken parm at an upcoming family dinner, to celebrate my mom’s birthday. They wanted to honor my mom with her favorite dish; all I could think about was the bother of frying chicken cutlets for 15 people. Thankfully, my sisters took a page out of my mom’s book and ignored my nonsense, and thankfully, I came to my senses before too long.

This past year, I lost my temper with my dad on more occasions than I’d like to admit. It’s difficult, helping him navigate life without my mom and watching him struggle with everyday tasks that she handled with such ease. The house is messier than it used to be, and all I see under the piles of mail and empty soda cans is my childhood home slipping away. I haven’t acknowledged my dad’s struggles quite clearly enough, or the strides he has made in becoming independent. My phone doesn’t ring every night like it used to, with questions about my day. But then, the first birthday card I opened this year was from my dad. It was signed simply, but he picked out the card and mailed it, with time to spare. A small milestone, but he’s learning—and quicker than I give him credit for at times.

We all know that change is the only constant in life. And so this year, I commit to embracing the change that is bound to come my way. I commit to making even more mistakes. And I commit to learning from my past mistakes. A tall order, so I’ll start small. . .

I was wrong about the chicken parm. It will be the best I’ve ever tasted—of this I’m sure.

 

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