I’m the first one to admit I make a lot of mistakes. I’m usually the one to hit reply all, to leave my driver’s license at home before flights, to drive 45 minutes for a restaurant that closed, or to spell things incoherently. It’s easy to look back on all those moments and laugh, but none of them were very funny when they happened. I wasn’t chuckling to myself when I ran out of gas on the side of the highway in Kansas while it was -12 degrees out. Nor was I giggling as I discovered I’d left my iPad on a train in Amsterdam. I got mad at myself. I got mean. I started judging myself, wondering how careless I could possibly be… wondering when I would finally grow up?
After my grandmother’s vase slid off our bookshelf while I was burpee-ing my way through a workout video, I turned to the internet in attempt to avoid the incoming self-criticism. That’s when I discovered Kintsugi, an ancient Japanese tradition for repairing broken pottery. Kintsugi literally translates as, “to repair with gold.” As a person who has seen– and caused– many, many pieces of broken pottery, this was the answer I’d been searching for.
Rather than covering up the breaks or throwing out the piece, they put the pottery back together using glue mixed with gold powder. They highlight the cracks. Suddenly, the break becomes a part of the piece’s story, adding value and uniqueness to the pot. No two Kintsugi pots are the same.
It’s a beautifully simplistic metaphor for life. Wear your mistakes with pride and see the beauty in those failures. Your mistakes represent the journey you’re on. Life writes a story more inventive, complicated, and unique than anything we could ever write ourselves. Every mistake is a part of us. You can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you wear your mistakes. You can choose not to judge yourself, and to show yourself the same gratitude and forgiveness you would to others.
I wouldn’t be who I am today without those mistakes. I learned more about myself from my time in the wrong job than I do regularly now that I have a job I love. That choice is an intricate part of me now– as is my lost iPad, missed flights, and twisted ankle (from the shoes I wore last night). By accepting mistakes we can allow them to evolve and grow. My mistakes don’t define me; they make me who I am. My story has cracks, but it’s repaired with gold.
Artwork by Michelle Favin of Whys LA for Poppy & Seed. Connect with her @whyslosangeles.