Resolution Check-in: Mistakes: COMMENCE! Wow, well in retrospect, I probably never needed to put this on my resolution list again. Because I’m SUPER, SUPER GOOD at making mistakes!

Here’s the text of my resolution:

5. Make more mistakes… and learn from them 

The time for trepidation is over. I’ve got to be bold and confident. This extends past learning and communicating in the language, but it’s a good place to start. I’m a fairly strong introvert, but being here has exercised my extrovert skills. Every day presents me with magical, unique opportunities and I’m here to say Yes to them, even if I’d rather putter around with my plants or write some postcards by myself. I will go new places and make new mistakes there.

Now, let’s be clear… I was not talking about the same KIND of mistakes. I’ve learned that variety is the spice of life, and that – deities help me – extends to mistakes of all kinds, stripes, colors, and pearly, iridescent hues.

Also, double clear… my stipulation was that I had to LEARN FROM THEM. I guess that’s what (spoilers?) I’m still working on. To be fair, though, I assume that’ll be a rather permanent resolution for the rest of my life.

Oh, ok. So there’s where we start to go off the rails. But it’s good to have a jumping off point, even if that point goes right over a shark into a boiling vat of turkey gravy.

First of all, let me say that my plant and postcard skills have blossomed into something that could almost take on a life of its own and mail itself to America. Yay. Got that covered.

But there’s little risk in this, and, in the SPIRIT of my resolution, if not my exact lettering, I really should be taking risks that challenge me and my lesser developed brain-pieces, I.E. going to random places at random times looking for random things, putting myself in uncertain situations that require me to think and communicate my way out on my feet, or trying new foods/activities without being guaranteed of the outcome. These are worthy risks, and what I really meant when I wrote this down as a Resolution.

But, as usual, things got out of hand. And here I am to give them a serious, light-of-day appraisal.

What were some of the GOOD mistakes I made this year?

  • I stayed in the room I’m renting.
    • I could have moved. I probably should have moved. But I didn’t. And the rewards were that I a) didn’t have to move my crap, and therefore didn’t have to find and direct people how to move my crap (and all the attendant issues, such as finding a maid/learning the trash schedule/procuring internet, water, gas, etc/getting to know my new neighbors), and b) I got some new semi-permanent roommates, who were pretty compatible with me.

Your surprise is as great as mine! But seriously… living alone is not super great for me, personally. Living in a tiny room has a lot of advantages, though, such as not being able to collect a whole bunch of material crap, and getting to meet a whole new set of people every so often without going out to bars.

  • I began feeling comfortable about approaching anyone selling anything
    • Yup. This came with number fluency and a few basic food vocab. Lots of people in the South just want you to be comfortable and happy visiting their country, but many don’t know English numbers. Being able to simply understand what price they’re asking for is a huge advantage, and has the added advantage of putting everyone more at ease. If you can barter you are basically a god and you can expect, if not a cheaper price, then at least a more friendly shopping experience. Even when I mess up in bartering (like, go too high, and then, after a too-high counteroffer, just back to what we both know is normal) it’s forgiven because you can talk to the seller in the language everyone knows: money.
  • I took a chance on a really interesting job that wasn’t on my 20 year plan.
    • What a huge mistake. But… I would have been remiss if I didn’t pursue this, it was such a weird, wonderful opportunity. If this was America… well, it would never have been offered. But, it leads to another Good Mistake Experience. I’m still glad I made this bizarre mistake, even if it led to an unsatisfactory exit from my job into a job that was only marginally better.

And the BAD mistakes I’ve made in the last 11 months?

  • I trusted an employer without understanding the cultural procedure behind a promise
    • Right… I thought deferring my Life Plan to do this really unique job would pan out. BUT… I never thought about the fact that a ‘promise’ in my mind is not necessarily a ‘promise’ in the mind of someone from another culture. Once again, my Vietnamese employer promised something they could not actually deliver. And, unfortunately, that is not terribly uncommon. Most decisions that fall through like this are simply brushed aside, with a “well, it’s too bad, but here’s your job now.” Unfortunately for my old company, I’m not a 23 year old just out of college – I actually have a long-term plan, and putting off my plan to accept their ‘promise’ was a huge compromise for me. Staying with the company after that reversal was simply not going to happen. It took me 4 or 5 months to get back on track, but after getting my head screwed on tight again in America, I’m ready to get back to Vietnam and get back on track.
  • I let myself be distracted from my larger life goals by the captivating Tropical Life
    • It’s too slow. It’s too amazing. It’s too delicious. Just another reason why I have to leave by the 3- or 4-year mark. My super-scientific observations unequivocally state that if you stay past 3 or 4 years, you’re probably not leaving anytime soon. A good thing, as I have zero desire to become fluent in Vietnamese (…as if it were possible) and a strong desire to see more of the world.

  • I put off pursuing my big life goals because it was “bad timing” / I let other people dictate my timeline and priorities
    • Employers, friends, and the imaginary friends and family inside my skull. No Good. Time to get crackin’ on what interests me – we’re each responsible for our own happiness. It’s time I put my own dreams on a faster track.
Of course, mistakes are really fairly neutral in hindsight. Still, these are some I wish I hadn’t made. But, as the saying goes, it’s not how bad you fall, but if you pick yourself up. My best followup option, for any mistake, remains: Get up, Dust myself off, and Try again! (Or, say “I’ve made a huge mistake” with the GOB look in my eyes and move on to the next challenge!… after fully healing any bodily injuries, of course.)
My recent trip home to America has allowed me to take a deep mental breath and focus on what my Big Stuff is, from officially being on the second half of my SE Asian stay, to preparing for South America and the Spanish language, to pursuing sustainable urban landscaping internships, schools, and jobs in the future.
The bottom line is, however, that I’m pretty scared about the future and my ability to achieve my goals. They’re big, audacious, and outside my professional experience, and I’m going to have to dig deep to avoid slipping into the habits that make me feel safe and secure – 2015, and hopefully the rest of my life, are for making mistakes… and learning from them. Always.

RESOLUTION STATUS: Reinforced, Valued, & Ongoing