James Harmon’s book Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation From People Who Know a Thing or Two is a collection of letters that Harmon received when he asked creative people for advice. The advice came from writers, poets, independent film actors, and artists. Poet Robert Creeley was one of the writers who gave Harmon advice and he started his letter with, “What seems most significant is the way in which one takes the world as existing.” What I believe that the poet is saying is that our individual ways of thinking about the world, our place in it, and how things work, is the most important difference between us.
The poet continues his quote adding that our interpretation of the world is impacted most heavily by the time, place, and people around us at birth. In my mind this means that our economic, social, and political status at birth and as we grow to young adults will impact how we view the world. What is powerful about this quote is that it opens up the idea that we can all have different perceptions of the world, and that our perceptions are built by factors that we do not control.
This is why having a broad view of the world and a strong sense of awareness is important. Being able to understand that we have individual biases that shape our outlook on life allows us to look at the world from new perspectives. When you have only a narrow view of the world it becomes easy to criticize people for not living a certain way, or not thinking in a specific manner. Opening up your awareness and seeing the world from a wider lens that captures the viewpoints and understands the backgrounds of others will help one have more empathy for others, and more appreciation for the life they live.
Recently I have moved out of the house I grew up in. I moved with my girlfriend of three years across town to an apartment to start out on our own and live our own lives. The process has been exciting, scary, and for us filled with luck. However with all of the luck we have had, we have also made mistakes. Highlighted on January 9th from page 91 of my copy of Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt is a single simple sentence, “I am going to give myself freedom to make mistakes.” For me this is a new line of thinking, and one that is not easily adopted. I graduated Cum Laude from college, have found a great job, and love to stay physically fit, but none of that helps me be prepared for just how difficult life can be when you work 40 hours a week and have to maintain more responsibilities in your post-graduation life. I have strived to work hard, make good choices, and achieve a level of perfection in the things that I do, but lately I have come to understand that as part of growing and learning in life, I will make mistakes. What Allison’s quote says to me is that it is fine if you make mistakes.
Living by the quote means that we accept our imperfections and understand that we do not know everything nor have all of the answers for life. In a society where we hide every imperfection of our lives and project our highlight reels on Facebook as if they were our every day lives, accepting that you will fail, struggle, and mess up from time to time is not a frequently accepted mindset.
When I started to understand that I would make mistakes and accept that I would not do everything perfectly I began to feel more at ease. I was able to picture myself in the future as someone who was constantly growing and learning from mistakes and unreasonable expectations. The best part of living by Vesterfelt’s quote is that the pressure and stress that I felt before, when I expected things to be easy and perfect, has melted away. I can go into a situation and try to be as aware as possible, and understand that it is ok if I make a mistake.