Mistakes will be made, but not by me

Note: This post references an event that happened in the past.

In concept I love the idea of failure as a means of growth. It’s how you iterate on products, on what you like, on who you are. I also feel comfortable taking responsibility for those failures. If we’re in a team setting and something goes off the rails, I feel comfortable taking responsibility publicly or outside of the team because I feel confident that the failure is not a reflection of who I am. It’s just a thing that happened.

There’s a different kind of failure. One that goes down to shaking your core belief of who you are as a person, one that breaks your internal narrative. I had a few of those growing up, and they always made me sick to my stomach. I would because physically ill, at times for months at a time when something triggered a memory of what I did. Something that triggered the memory that my internal monologue was a fraud.

I often associated that feeling with my anxiety. They were just overblown reactions to events. Having a better handle on my anxiety now, I thought I was done with those days. Nowadays when something bad happens, I know what I did and I understand my actions and the events that lead to it. Even when making mistakes, which I still regularly make, they don’t make me rethink who I am as a person, they are just mistakes.

Recently I did something that, from a 3rd party perspective, would probably be characterized as being in bad taste. But given the context, one I knew of, and had just not thought about at the time, was devastating to someone else.

I was stuck in my own head, thinking only of how current events impacted me, how I reacted to them, how I felt about them, how I could tell myself a story to make me at ease with the events that happened. A shitty self defense mechanism that jokingly downplayed someone else while up-playing myself. A few things made this even worse that I didn’t realize at the time and didn’t even think of it until it was flagged to me. I then thought it was bad but, perhaps as a self defense mechanism, told myself it wasn’t that bad. I told myself there was a confluence of events, it wasn’t just me, I wasn’t wholly responsible, multiple things came into play for this to happen, you know?

When the realization of the effects of my actions fully dawned on me, I felt that same feeling I felt so long ago. I wasn’t sad or angry…. I was disgusted.

I was disgusted by the juxtaposition of the story I tell myself, that I’m compassionate, that I help others, that I, overall, make the world a better place with the impact of what I said had, and will probably keep having on someone else. I robbed them of their safety, I robbed them of the ability to enjoy a moment, enjoy a memory, by poisoning it. When something like what I did would happen to me, I would ruminate on it for days, weeks, even months. I know the effects of what I did, and it is so diametrically opposed to the story I tell myself that I became ill.

Another part of me feels ashamed and embarrassed to even be thinking of how this impacted me. Just another demonstration of the shitty behavior that lead to this. I want to apologize, I want to fix things, but I don’t know how to convey that in a way that doesn’t focus on what the impact has been on me. Quite the selfish apology wouldn’t you say? I wish I had a time machine to undo what I’ve done.

I felt embarrassed I didn’t even realize what I was doing, that I was cutting in a wound I knew existed. Why had I not considered others when I spoke then? I know a few of the reasons I tell myself, but they are all trivial, they don’t undo anything, they don’t fix anything, they won’t even help ease the pain I caused in others. It’s all just stories I tell myself to minimize my actions. To try to tell myself that this event doesn’t condemn me to be the terrible individual it makes me feel like I am.

Even an apology feels shallow and empty at this point. Just Another selfish act to help ease my pain. To help me rebuild this narrative I tell myself about how, on the whole, I make the world a better place. The problem is, I don’t know of a better solution. Self inflicted pain and torture won’t make it better for them, it’s just more internal narrative fixing. How can one apologize and make amends after this?

I can only see a consistent set of small actions, repeated over an extended period of time, towards them and towards others to try to pay down this debt. To try to help heal as many wounds as I can because I can’t heal the one I inflicted.

That person who comments

I had a message a while back that read:

“Hey, so I read your last blog post. And to be honest, I drafted 3 different comments on 3 different posts on your blog, but lost my nerve before hitting submit on any of them. I really enjoy reading your blog, since it’s real and honest, but commenting is intimidating. I don’t want to be *that* person that comments with a tangentially related personal experience on all your posts. But I really appreciate that you write outloud, putting yourself out there for us to see a real, live human being living a real, human life.
Anyway, I didn’t post that as a comment, since it’s rambly and self indulgent.”

And I found it super interesting since I often have no idea who actually reads this and if there is any value to it.
I do have a few folks who reach out privately on various topics and give feedback, some of them pretty regularly (which I greatly appreciate) but it’s often a bit of a mystery. I know that shouldn’t really matter but it’s still something I always find interesting. Why is it that we always seek that external validation? Is it simply the dopamine hit we get when we interact with other humans? Is the only purpose to help mammal bonding?

And if it is “just” that, do we need to do anything about it?

Nondualism

I’ve always liked the idea of nondualism, I do sometimes struggle with it. I forget, I “other”, I assume bad intent, I lack compassion, etc.

Lucas wrote about it here: https://lucascherkewski.com/study/franklin-other-us/ which was a good reminder.

I find the problem is when I’m in the moment I often forget it. I might get back to it a bit later. Realize I lost it and then be compassionate in the past tense. I’m hoping it’s like all exercise, the more I practice it, the better it’ll be.

Remember the Past to Appreciate the Present

I really loved the Mass Effect video game, the whole trilogy in fact is amazing. One thing I still remember clearly is finishing Mass Effect and having this song come on during the credits:

From the start of the guitar to when the lyrics kick in, the song always spoke to me. While I was perhaps slightly better than in the past in 2008, it was still a pretty big mess. The feeling of longing, nostalgia and what I’ll call hopeful despair that I took from the song really made an impact on me at the time.

I identified with the lyrics, I had always up to that point struggled with being able to be a “full” person on my own. That I shouldn’t need anyone else that I used as a crutch. My happiness, my wisdom, my actions, they shouldn’t rely on there being someone else there with me (in particular as a romantic partner).

And I need you to recover
Because I can’t make it on my own

M4 Lyrics

A few books got me to accept the impossibility of that task. That humans were not built to be that way (by this I mean, being alone, not that the traditional concept of relationship is for everyone).

Once in a while the song comes up in one of my playlists. And it reminds me, in an almost nostalgic way, of the times when I really didn’t have my shit together.

Sometimes it’s good to remember the past to appreciate the present.

“What chance has made yours, is not really yours”

While this quote is again from Seneca, (Or Lucilius I guess?) I think it falls inline with the misattribution bias. Something that I think successful people often fall in the trap of. I am successful clearly because I am better, and not because of some random lucky breaks I go (especially including inherited wealth).

While not the same, I find them similar enough and the comic does a good job of explaining it.

Website traffic

So as much as I say that I’m writing for myself, it’s always interesting to see the traffic patterns. I can see why people become obsessed with Facebook’s algorithm and making it happy since it is what drives so much sporadic traffic. It’s kinda like the rats and birds that become superstitious, you just start to think that certain things will cause traffic.

All that to say, that no one seems to care about Seneca, but sadly for you, I don’t have anything more interesting at the moment (that’s probably a lie, but my thoughts on those topics are a bit scattered right now).

I think it’s also bit apropos that the topic of that post was on accepting and embracing helping one person and not many. Facebook and Twitter have conspired to make sure I really appreciate that point.

Think Globally, Act Locally

I’ve been thinking about this duality for a while, many years in fact. But for some reason, it showed up in multiple ways today.

I have a tendency to be a big picture person, I see it, and I want to get us there. The problem is that along that road there are a lot of small victories that need to be had. It’s often demoralizing if you know where you should be, and know how far ahead it still is.

Oddly enough, today’s letter of Seneca I read (#7) had these choice quotes:

“One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man.”

Democritus

“I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.”

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”

Epicurus

My take away for today is that while there are many big picture items I will strive towards, it’s only by taking small steps, by helping one person, improving one tool, that I’ll be able to achieve them.

Viveport sucks

So I cancelled my viveport account, I’m not sure, like 2-3 months ago. And then today noticed that they had just charged me again! So I contact support, and oh, they can’t refund me unless I somehow have a screenshot of the cancellation screen of my refund.

That’s total BS, I’m going to do a chargeback via my Visa, but I’d really recommend everyone be really careful with Viveport. Pretty shady and I won’t trust them in the future. See relevant post about refunds as brand loyalty.

Money gets to people’s head

There’s a good interview with Abigail Disney who, as you may of guessed by the last name, has a lot of money.

You can read it here: https://www.thecut.com/2019/03/abigail-disney-has-more-money-than-shell-ever-spend.html

I think there’s this idea that we should all aim to be rich. That money is a valid metric for success. I think it’s a bit like wanting to be CTO or CEO (something I’ve struggled with potentially wanting). It’s outsourcing your feelings of self worth to something you can point to. It’s not real, but you can tell yourself it’s important.