Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes
As a follow up to my’10 things that took me 26 years to learn‘ personal diary entry, I thought it would be fitting to expand on some of the mistakes I’ve stumbled through so far in life. Most of these were made after I left home, it seems as soon as I shed parental guidance, I truly began to stumble. We all trip in this labyrinth called life – and I am sure the grandest of my regrets are yet to be felt. But, I dug deep here, there is nothing more humbling than rummaging through your past in search of your biggest shortcomings so far. I tend to keep my past close, wistfully so, almost like a scarf around my neck. But these mistakes, I wear them like a hat – and they keep my brain from falling into them again. Maybe you will learn something here or perhaps you can relate, either way I hope I inspire you in some way to treat the errors of your life with respect rather than regret. We all make them and to ignore them is to discard the lessons they sharply handed us.
i partied too much, too hard & too often
I grew up in the Spanish countryside where alcohol is usually only wine and acting drunk is disgraceful. My nights out on the beach boardwalk where the teenagers would frequent were few and far between. I jumped over to university in England – where it was cheaper to drink alcohol than it was to eat. I could walk through my dorm room door at any hour I liked and so I did just that, spending nights in cheap clubs, french fries before bed and then dragging through hungover hazes to lectures in knock off Uggs. I wasted a lot of time but it was University, I don’t regret this, really. I left Durham with a degree but also a penchant for alcohol – and it came with me to France. For that first year in Paris, I had a wild time. I was meeting so many people it felt like I was meeting everyone, I’d bounce from aperitif to house party to late dinner and then a bar or three all in the course of one night. Back then I’m sure I romantically imagined my social life akin to Holly Golightly’s…when in reality, I was just another American girl in heels too high drinking too much in Paris. And instead of Tiffanys’ there were only mean reds that never faded except to blanch the career I was trying to forge in blogging. Thankfully I shed the social butterfly wings and actually reversed back into a cocoon of sorts- but the time I wasted, the sleep I lost, the anguish and guilt I dragged through – it just wasn’t worth all those dozens and dozens of parties. Looking back, I wish I had been able to manage some sort of balance between the nocturnal thrills and work responsibilities. Moderation would have redeemed what I can only now call a vice, partying in Paris is great – I rarely do it now, maybe once or twice a year – but back then it was all I wanted to do.
i starved myself silly
I took those vile fat burner pills that feel like eruptions in your stomach. I’d eat but once a day – I replaced food with alarming amounts of caffeine. I’d go to bed so hungry I could barely sleep. I fainted from lack of food in line at a Sephora once and then again on a very crowded metro. At one point in one of my relationships, my boyfriend and I would monitor each other’s food intake with disgusting precision. I never did this consistently, but I’d dip in and out of these food deprivations cycles, suddenly shunning food like it was poison. It was terrible and it never made me feel or look any better. It made me miserable, anxious and I’m convinced a great deal of the wrinkles on my forehead are a consequence of this idiocy. I cannot even begin to consider the havoc this wreaked on my metabolism – and I cannot believe how long it took me to learn that starving yourself does not work. It absolutely does not work. At 26 I am the happiest I have ever been with my body and I eat what I like, when I like – the only austerity is that it’s healthy, clean and chemical free.
i gave up on good love too soon
One of my biggest regrets is specific to one of my boyfriends, the best one of the bunch. I just hope he doesn’t read this or maybe I hope he does. I don’t know. He was tall, muscular in that effortless way, naively handsome- and he made me laugh, all day. He moved to Paris for 6 months and I met him unexpectedly at my front door with a bottle of wine in his hand, invited to my dinner party by a friend of a friend. We weaved through a year of long distance, it was painful and I wasn’t patient enough. I bumped into a boy with a guitar at a bar and chose to see where it would go with him instead. I liked he was in a band, I liked that he lived down the street rather than across an ocean, I liked the lack of doubt and the lack of distance. I liked a lot of things but in time I grew to dislike him. He dumped me on a dark street on a Sunday a few months later – and I realized I had stupidly broken the only heart that was worth the struggle of love and it wasn’t his but the one I had carelessly left. Years later, this great ex boyfriend of mine and I are friends…and when single desperation kicks in I like to joke we will get married one day. He always laughs but sometimes I can’t help but sincerely hope.
i listened too much to people who mattered so little
I used to crack like an egg when people would criticize me and I’d wear their comments like a sticker on my forehead – it would do just that, stick and stay put and upset me endlessly. I pride myself on being socially adaptable in that I can get along with just about anyone. I am very talkative. I am very friendly – strangers approach me far more frequently than anyone else I know, because I am just that, approachable. So it used to mystify me when someone didn’t like me – their dislike irked me like an itch and one I refused to stop scratching. I’d wonder and agonize and analyze their criticisms or insults or disdain. It would quite literally make me anxiously sick to the stomach. What a waste of time. And to wonder is such a wonderful thing – yet I spent so much time wondering about people I barely knew that disliked me. I think this is a malady of youth and I still see some of my younger friends struggle under the weight of other people’s opinions. In recent years, I learnt to trust only a few other’s opinions of me, my family and exactly four friends. Everyone else’s is utterly irrelevant. Oh how I wish I could take back all the wasted anguish and channel all that valuable emotion into something more worthy.
i was so financially foolish
Quite frankly, this is probably still a mistake I’m making but not with the intensity I used to. I was detached from money, it was simply paper that helped me acquire things I wanted. Cocktails, shoes online, a manicure, lazy taxi rides, extortionate night clubs… I could continue this list infinitely. I have a lot of friends that are far wealthier than me and so inadvertently I would spend my money at the same speed they did. Except they’d continue and I’d be calling my Mom crying, exaggerating how expensive city life was in hopes for a ’50’ to appear on the screen of my bank balance. The amount of times I have run my bank accounts down to a halting zero…I am too ashamed to admit. Rummaging every last one of my handbags for all the coins I could find, desperately borrowing bills from friends and then the guilt that always came when I realized I had done it yet again. Finding yourself poor is the worst feeling in the world, but when your lack of money is due to your own foolishness, it becomes almost physically painful. Back then I could have had a million in my account and I would have spent and spent frivolously until it fell back to zero. It pains me to think of all the money that slipped through my fingers, money spent on such foolish things – and what I could do with all that money now. It has been a long time since I have seen one of those solitary sad zeros on my bank balances, sure I am making more money but that’s not really what prevents them from appearing. Quite simply, I don’t buy everything I want, in fact I don’t buy 99% of the things I want. Money isn’t about things you want, it in itself is the thing you need most of all. If I had realized this years ago, I’d probably own a vacation home by now. Instead I’ll be shacking up at budget Airbnbs again this summer.
i found myself lost in the depths of comparison
I am lucky enough to have a group of blessed, successful & beautiful friends. I love them. They are out their sprinting after their dreams at speeds I can barely keep up with. But for so long, it felt like a competition. Competition amongst women always becomes catty. Who was single, who had a boyfriend, my work in comparison to theirs. And it sunk even lower too, who had nicer clothes, better hair, who’s apartment decor trumped who’s. This happened amongst my friends but also with people I didn’t know at all. This barometer we have installed as women – which we use to measure everyone’s everything against ours. I had a terrible one, so terrible it became the centrepiece in the living room of my mind for many, many years. I would dive into envy that bubbled into jealousy and the alchemy of these two poisons created the worst potion of all, self-hate. Compared to everyone else, I simply wasn’t enough. I wasn’t pretty enough, slim enough, successful enough -my boyfriend, my hair, every single component of my life screamed lacklustre and cried inadequacy. Relief came in only one form; criticizing all these adequacies of all the women that I constantly compared myself to. It was a humiliating cycle, putting myself down and then putting everyone else down in an effort to hoist myself back up. I look back in shame at the pure venom that fuelled so many of my thoughts. Filling my head up in that way just extended the dissatisfaction I felt so acutely. As for now, over time I dissasembled this barometer and replaced it with a photograph of myself I quite like – I much prefer my mental living room now. I just wish I had made it this comfortable long, long ago.