Central PA's LGBT News Source

My List of Mistakes

Making Sense of Life


By Dr. Terry Drew Kaaren

Don’t you just love to tell others all the things you’ve done wrong? Hmmmm…. Probably not. But that’s exactly what this column is about.

“CV” (if you’re unfamiliar with the term – many Americans don’t know what it is!) stands for curriculum vitae, Latin for “life’s work.” It’s like a résumé. While the latter is recommended to be one or two pages at the most, a CV tends to be longer – much longer. It’s more common in Europe than the States but is used here extensively in academia.

A CV and a résumé both feature our assets. I recently heard about another kind of CV, one that features our mistakes. Why on earth would anyone want to do THAT?

One reason is that it’s by acknowledging where we’ve screwed up that we can: (1) Learn from what didn’t work; and, (2) Help us realize what we lived through and beyond. The latter, in particular, can be of great comfort when we are facing new challenges, problems, or blockages to our plans.

In an attempt of full-disclosure, I offer my “CV of Mistakes” as a guide for you to create your own. (Deep breath, Terry … Here goes!)

  • As a child and adolescent, I faked illness or fainting. This enabled me to avoid conflict or garner sympathy. Both reasons fulfilled my need at the time to be seen as a victim, someone needing the care of others, and supported my belief that I was incapable of facing conflict. As an adult I don’t seek out conflict, but if it pops up I run at it with full confidence and a willingness to stand firm in my resolve.
  • I’ve left more than one relationship “for their own good.” This is another example of the lack of self-esteem I once had. I couldn’t bring myself to break off a relationship because it wasn’t working for me or I’d lost interest. I had to be the hero (“I’m doing what’s best for us!”) or victim (“I don’t deserve you – you deserve someone better.”) This is another past, re-occurring drama I no longer buy a ticket to watch. I’ve learned to say, “No.” I’m willing to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And, my personal favorite, “Oh HELL no!”
  • I’ve told a story so many times I get bored when I start telling it … again! I SO wanted to be an ice dancer. I craved the idea of taking ballet – my father wouldn’t allow it. “It’ll make him a fairy.” (Guess the joke was on him on that one.) I hated giving up acting and performing to focus on my ministerial training – I felt I had to choose between the two. GEEZ! Can we say “VICTIM!”? I’ve been the victim of crimes (rape, assault, robbery, and being shot), but I sure as heck didn’t need to keep victimizing myself. No, I’ll never star in “Disney on Ice,” but I can appreciate ice skating in person and on TV. (Oh, did I mention I can’t even stand up on ice skates?!?) I may have never taken ballet, but I dance whenever I can. I’ve been complimented by professionals asking me where I studied – I haven’t! I realized speaking as minister and motivational speaker takes a fair amount of acting, so I get to do that. You know what I wanted to be when I grew up? Two things: A flight attendant and a minister. I’ve been a professional flight attendant for 21 years and counting and I’ve been a minister for 25 years concurrently and that doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon either. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t have the life YOU want.
  • I said for years I’m not artistic. This allowed me to give my sister (who draws beautifully) a “one-up-manship” on me. I excelled in so many things in which she did not. I continue to honor all that she can do, but I found out some time ago that I can do all sorts of artsy, crafty sort of things. The only reason I can do that, however, is that I’m not afraid to screw up or have a project fall completely flat. I have fun with the process, perhaps even more than the result.
  • I said over and over that I wasn’t smart enough to learn a foreign language. Just another means to kick my self-esteem down the stairs head first. ENOUGH! I’ve found books and courses that speak to me in a way I can understand. I’m only fluent in English, but as of today I can communicate in American Sign Language and three foreign languages. When I feel conversationally fluent in those three, I have two more on the back burner to explore. My goal is to be fluent in the five most-spoken languages: English (check!), Spanish (I manage, but don’t hire me as an interpreter), and Mandarin (I’ve been told I have a “Beijing accent,” which I guess is better than sounding like an American!). The other two are Arabic and Hindi. I’m making a commitment to you (and myself) today that I will accomplish this before I turn 70.

Get the idea? If we don’t acknowledge our mistakes, foibles, screwups, and disasters we can’t move forward. No, we don’t have to dwell on them; we NEED to let them go and glean what we learned from the experience. But here’s the kicker, and I DO so love a good kicker! If you’re one of those people who won’t admit those things because you don’t want to “dwell on the negative,” well guess what, sugar?

By not painting that elephant in the room purple, giving him a name, potty-training him, and inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner, we keep the guilt, the shame, and the embarrassment buried deep down inside our consciousness. It’s like a splinter in our finger we refuse to remove. What happens? It hurts. It gets inflamed. It starts pussing and looks nasty. Then it starts to spread and could even mean losing the finger.

Start today to take out those splinters in your consciousness. Get spiritual and/or mental health support to do so. Allow me to support you through spiritual mind treatment.

Give some thought to writing your own “CV of Mistakes.” If you want, share them with me or by clicking the link below. Relate the mistake, what you’ve learned, and how you are (or can be) different and more successful in all you do!

Terry is an author, speaker, licensed social worker and flight attendant. He is also the director of Spirit, Mind and Body Foundation (spiritmindbodyfoundation.org).