Introspections & Retrospections

Make No Mistake

It’s a bit surprising, uncanny, and unsettling how a lot of articles, posts and thoughts this New Year have been about urging people to make mistakes. A friend even chatted me about it, telling me to make my own mistakes— particularly about career, romance, and life.

The principle behind this trending ideology, I believe, is about encouraging people to live their lives without fear— a noble idea, if you think about it. Don’t be afraid to travel. Don’t be afraid to shift careers, look for a better job. Don’t be afraid to fall in love. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Sounds good.

But make no mistake: sometimes it’s better to be afraid.

Back when I was a kid (and teen), I enjoyed watching Dexter and Deedee’s escapades in the Cartoon Network series Dexter’s Laboratory. The story usually runs around Dexter warning Deedee about stuff not to do in his underground laboratory, and Deedee not paying heed to any of them. Thus, the near-iconic “Ooooh what does this button do?” line from the series.

Mistakes do happen— that’s natural. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid of them. Some of life’s best surprises do come from happy accidents. But that in itself is not an excuse to do them! Think about it: if you already know that it is a mistake, why would you still want to do it?

Some would argue: how would you know it’s a mistake unless you try it? A tempting argument, indeed. How would I know if the food would taste good or bad until I take a bite? My personal experience does confirm the validity of such a thought.

But some things don’t need to be tried, questioned to be proven— because they are already proven.

Look around at all the signs.

No jaywalking.

Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health.

Don’t leave your valuables behind.

Stop, look, listen.

Watch out for falling debris.

Beware of dog.

Strictly for adults only.

Easy to fall in love with.

Danger.

Danger.

Danger.

Almost every year, we hear about it on the news: residential fires from firecrackers of irresponsible people, stray bullets from irresponsible gun owners, broken hearts from irresponsible love/lust-blinded people, road accidents from irresponsible vehicle drivers, violence and awkward memories from irresponsible alcohol drinkers. Despite countless warnings, innumerable reminders— they still happen, simply because of stubborn people know the mistakes that are waiting to happen, but still they do it. As some popular Filipino phrases go, “Baka makalusot,” “Kaya ko pa,” “Okay lang ‘yan, walang makakaalam,” “Ngayon lang naman ‘to.”

Some say, rules are meant to be broken. I say rules are meant to fix what’s broken. We don’t create rules to tempt ourselves, or raise the challenge and thrill of living; we realize the need for them in order to sustain the harmony of living.

I believe that’s what the legendary okra forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was all about: not a tease for us to try something stupid, but a safeguard for us to enjoy life as it should have been. Unfortunately, history chose to make the first mistake— and frankly, we haven’t learnt much after it.

Yes, don’t be afraid to make mistakes this year. We can learn from our mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we need to intentionally keep making mistakes in order to learn. You only live once, you only get one chance— so make each mistake count for something: start by avoiding the things you already are wrong in the first place, and find the correct mistakes that will lead you back to what is right and good.

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