Friday, July 18, 2014

Embarrassment to Mankind? Maybe.

For your reading pleasure, I present a series of unfortunate embarrassments.

I forgot to turn in my pay sheet two weeks in a row (even after lamentations of “I swear I will remember next week!” Alas, I did not). I had a massive, throbbing zit on my face the week I was going to film a short video for Kiplinger.com. Someone called my phone thinking I was the former intern who sat in my cubicle and I, in my infinite wisdom, instantly forgot all words in the English language. And I think I might have accidentally called my editors old while I was in an important story meeting. (Do I hear the things that come out of my mouth? Clearly not.)

If you too feel the wretched agony of “that awkward moment,” I hope for you, at least, it doesn't stem from deep insecurities about being with other humans, talking with other humans or being a human in general. I for one wish I were a quiet, pouty-faced cat as it would save everyone the trouble.

But this, my friends, is the existence we must face. Especially young adults. Right now, it’s honestly the best we can hope for.

Make no mistake, I don’t mean that fatalistically. One recent trending topic in the news that really stuck with me was that women in our generation tend to equate perfection with success even though this really isn’t true. Girls in high school strive for the perfect grades thinking that it will guarantee them careers. That was me.

I knew it as soon as I clicked on the article. That was me, and I am hopefully beginning to enter remission. I received very good, constructive criticism on my work for Kiplinger’s last week and I didn't melt into a glob of doom or despair. Progress! 

A couple of short years ago, I might have given up. This time, I took it in stride—and just this week, I was given positive feedback for my work so far this summer. What would giving up have accomplished?

For a while in my life, I struggled when people didn't respond to my work with complete rapture, as I thought appropriate. Writing has been such a part of my identity that for a while, it felt like someone was attacking me when they criticized my work. But that’s because I wanted it to be perfect immediately. What was its worth otherwise? What was my worth, as a writer?

Since then I've learned about the importance of embarrassing first drafts.

You are only as good as your last story. I look back on my old work and I recognize again and again why I didn't get that beatific reaction. With more refined eyes, I can pick apart flaws in a way that makes me feel proud because I know how to fix them. That sensibility came about thanks to my professors and scarily talented colleagues at IU as well as my mentors at my internships, especially Kiplinger’s.

I’m happy to report that I’m excited to write crappy first drafts. If I write decently OK now, who knows what heights I could reach in the future as long as I’m not afraid of stumbling, falling, forgetting the English language, collapsing to the floor and trying?

So yes. I’m an embarrassment to mankind. But I’m getting better. One charming, totally nonchalant joke at a time.

--Written by Kathryn Moody, Indiana University, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

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