It’s July already!
This year is not an ordinary one though, it definitely felt longer than 6 months. But time is still running like usual, it doesn’t stop for us or even the pandemic.
Every New Year, I got excited. Well actually, I would usually get excited the whole of December. When December comes, all I can think about are Christmas songs and New Year resolutions.
But this year I decided to do things a little differently.
Instead of setting goals and resolutions, I set an intention for the whole year. I treated it like a mantra.
As I’ve mentioned before in the piece I wrote about being an introvert, I went to the same Catholic school for 13 years, from kindergarten up to high school. It’s not a regular Catholic school, it’s considered a top private school, so it has a high expectation, highly competitive environment. You won’t stand out unless you really stand out.
Rules are everywhere. Sometimes they’re absurd, but you just have to play along. For example, as a girl, you have to pull your hair up into a ponytail, with no bangs or flyaways visible. Your skirt and your socks must intersect so that you don’t show any skin of your legs. All of the students look alike. There’s so little (or none) room for creativity and mistakes, because everything has been decided for you.
I know these rules are for our own good, but we all know that real life doesn’t look anything like this. It’s not a perfectly structured world where everyone plays by the book.
As you can imagine, going to this kind of world every day for 13 years kinda damaged my creativity. I’m so used to being ‘perfect’. As in, making no mistakes, playing by the books, following the rules.
It’s so hard for us to try something new, because everyone already has their ‘greatest skill’. Trying something new would generate extra attention to you. Trying something new means you’ll be less than the best.
Maybe I should’ve read this Anne-Marie’s Instagram caption back then..
Unlearning and Relearning
Despite all of this, I didn’t regret going to my school. It has taught me so many important things, like discipline and moral values. But there are things — like that perfectionist trait — that I had to unlearn if I wanted to grow as a person.
Graduating from high school, I got to embrace my real self. I let go of my science major in high school and went to pursue a degree in Information Systems instead (which I have also left for a career in content).
It’s now been 6 years since I left the school. I’ve come a long way, but I still have a lot more to learn.
So this ‘making more mistakes’ is part of the plan of living my life fully. It’s something that’s really close to my heart, shaped and worded specifically for my case.
What mistakes have you made in the last 6 months?
Speak in front of strangers (January, March)
If you know me, you know that one of my biggest struggles/insecurity is public speaking. So when Mbak Devin asked me to become a speaker in this year’s first WordPress Jakarta meetup, I wasn’t sure at first. Will I survive? Will I be able to speak without having any stage fright? I decided to go, powered by my mantra, and survived just fine, even wrote something about public speaking.
That event was attended by around 30 people. In March, I got another chance to share my remote work story to more than 80 people, this time virtually.
Learn to draw (January – March, now)
Disclaimer: This wasn’t the first time I drew something. I had art classes in school, and were enrolled in a couple of drawing/art courses. I just never considered myself to be an artist/artistic/someone who draws’, so I never really drew for fun.
On January 1st, I bought a drawing course on Udemy as my first step in making more mistakes. For about 3 months, I practiced drawing almost every day.
It’s fun to learn lines and contrast and shapes, but because I held such a high standard for myself (to practice every single day), it started to feel like a chore by the third month.
So I dropped the daily practice and decided that I would just draw whenever I feel like it.
Learn to digital draw (April – now)
In April, I felt tempted to buy an iPad + an Apple Pencil. I don’t know where exactly I got this idea from, the next thing I knew I wanted to learn to draw on an iPad.
So I ordered an iPad, an Apple Pencil, and the iPad cover.
And I started drawing digitally! It’s so much fun and easier than drawing with a pencil and paper. You get to undo your mistakes. You get to transform shapes. You get to make selections and move them around.
Once I felt comfortable sharing my artwork, I integrated them into my blog posts (see my recent posts). I also share some of them with my coworkers.
Learn to dance (June – now)
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Kaycee Rice and Sean Lew.
I was never confident enough to go into a dance class. It’s usually full of people who have been dancing for years. So intimidating.
But turns out there are tons of dance tutorial videos on YouTube. You don’t have to go to a dance studio. So that’s what I’ve been doing for 2 weeks now, following along those videos. My favorite tutorial right now is contemporary combos by Ava from avamayvibes and this combo to ‘I Lost A Friend’.
Well, I’ll never be a professional dancer, but it’s really fun to dance!
Learn to watercolor (now)
A few weeks ago, out of boredom, I tried to follow another YouTube tutorial, this time drawing some bird-eye view oceans. I borrowed my sister’s acrylic paint but they’re all dry except for the blue and black.
So I bought myself a set of Reeves watercolor. This was the first thing that I drew, that night after I got it.
This one I just finished this afternoon.
I was surprised by how little watercolor you really need for a drawing.
So, does the mantra work?
It’s such a small but life-changing reminder that you can use in your daily life. Every time you’re faced with a decision, every time you’re tempted to try something new. It will act as a little push. And sometimes it’s all you need to start something.
What else have I realized since I started making more mistakes?
Getting rid of those stereotypes or expectations from people around me
“You don’t look like someone who paints/sings/draws..”
“Why are you suddenly interested in [insert something you’re suddenly interested in here]?
Sometimes it’s okay to try something new just for fun, even if it doesn’t fit you (the image you or other people have about you). Remember, you’re not committing to it, you’re allowed to change your mind later. You don’t have to be a pro either. It can just be a hobby.
Getting past that self-doubt, the need to be flawless in everything
We all have some limiting beliefs. The things we believe we aren’t good at. The things we believe we will never be able to do. But we also have to remember to treat our whole life as a learning journey.
It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to learn something new.
There are things out there that I really enjoy doing
My little mantra reminded me that when I tried out a new thing, there’s really nothing to lose. The worst outcome is I waste 30 minutes of my life (which is nothing compared to what I’ve spent on my phone mindlessly), and discover that I don’t like that thing. The best possible outcome is I find something that I enjoy doing, maybe for a lifetime.
I wouldn’t have tried any of the activities above without my mantra, because I never considered myself to be good in any of them.
Getting used to making mistakes
All in all, this has been a really fun experiment to desensitize my fear of mistakes! I can’t wait to see what else I’ll try in the next 6 months 😉
Rather than setting five or ten goals for your year, try using a little mantra, a little reminder, or intention you can use every time you make a decision.