Glancing in the rearview mirror, I checked my reflection one more time. This was probably as good as it was going to get. I took a deep breath and headed inside the fancy office building, the click-clacking of my knock-off pumps occasionally sticking in the uneven pavement.
During the interview, I said what came naturally, careful to be authentic, but careful to “sell” my writing—as is indicative of job interviews. It’s always a long tightrope walk of bobbles and wobbles to one side or another, honestly-confidence-honesty-confidence. Smile and nod. Repeat. Shake Hands.
“No, my background isn’t really in coding.” (Read: Please, never ask me to code.)
“Yes, I have done extensive research for clients before.” (Read: I have research on lock. We are good here.)
After an hour of fielding questions and about a week of waiting to hear if I landed the client, I eventually realized….noooope.
What did I say wrong? Could I have done something better? I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the coding thing (despite it being the truth). Should I have dressed differently? Not LA enough? Maybe I should have asked more questions. I’m still putting my actions through intense analysis to pinpoint where I went wrong.
Oh, if only this obsession with weeding out the “imperfect” stopped at job interviews. Through much of life, I have demanded perfection from myself, as if being “good” enough could help me control the outcomes.
I have a problem.
Well, okay, I have a lot of problems. But none have been more crippling than the problem of regret. As if focusing on what happened in the past could somehow fix it. As if berating myself for choices I made years ago could somehow change them. I have to be perfect! All the time. There is no room for messing up here. There is no room for flopped job interviews, snarky accidental comments, or failed relationships. I should have known better. I should have done it differently.
Unfortunately screaming “MULLIGAN!!!!” at the top of your lungs doesn’t give you a do-over anywhere other than the golf course. It mostly makes people look at you weird. Not that I know from experience.
Throughout life, there will almost certainly be people you wish you hadn’t met. Conversations you wish you could revisit. Places you wish you hadn’t gone. Situations you wish you could have avoided altogether, or at the very least, navigated more expertly.
I know there is in mine. And unfortunately, instead of chalking it up to the learning curve and thanking God for His grace, I have punished myself for every “wrong” turn, every slip of the tongue. I have played scenarios over in my head, embracing the shame of my mistakes.
I assume the position of God when I put myself on the hook and refuse to take myself down. But in doing so, I reject His grace. I reject His power to get me to where I need to be, despite my flaws. Moreover, I reject his ability to USE those very mistakes I labeled ugly and hopeless. I reject His ability to use me even though I don’t have it all down yet.
But perhaps most frighteningly, when I demand perfection of myself, I reject my need for God at all. I stubbornly insist that I have this on my own, that I know what I need and how my life should go better than He does.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the same person without those painful learning experiences—the messy relationships, the jobs I didn’t get, the boundaries I ignored. As much as I wish I could have reached this point of (growing) strength and liking myself (most of the time) without actually having to learn the hard lessons by living them…that’s not often the way it works. I never would have understood my need to enforce healthy boundaries if I hadn’t allowed mine to get trampled for a few years. Sometimes we must reach the bottom of ourselves, our meager structures torn down, before we realize we have a problem and must allow God to rebuild HIS way.
Gold doesn’t shine until it’s refined in fire.
So instead of regret, instead of feeling shame that I didn’t have all the answers before taking the class, I will choose to be thankful for those people, places, and choices that helped me learn.
I will not cover up the pages in my story where I acted without patience, where I charged ahead with reckless abandoned towards what I knew wasn’t wise. I will stop begrudging the repeat mistakes, the second and third chances that perhaps shouldn’t have been given. Because it all helped me learn. It gave me wisdom and discernment through PRACTICE; it shaped my backbone, helping me understand the world and myself a little better.
But more than that, these raw areas highlight my need for grace. I am utterly broken and could never be my own perfect savior. The past is proof that I simply cannot do it on my own, that relying on my own tendencies and wisdom is not enough. But the past is also proof that God can take every little thing, even that which we regret, and use it. Slammed doors and so-called failures are often the launch pad to growth. They serve as a catalyst back to God, back to his heart through the shaping of our own.
You and I…well, we are not so big, so powerful, so important that the mistakes we have made can thwart God’s plan for the world or His plan for our lives. Let yourself off that hook. Accept His grace to move forward.