The first day of Kindergarten came and went. I asked my son what he liked best about the day. Was it his classmates? Was it his teacher? Was it a particular story or activity? His answer was “the bus!”
In my grown-up mind, I don’t view the school bus as all that exciting. I have several memories of being jostled to and fro during my childhood rides, wedged into seats covered in cracked pleather. The same seats which were either freezing cold or scalding and sticky depending on the time of year. My son also only rode the bus in the morning which meant, in my thinking, that his day peaked before 8am. Everything else had to have done downhill after that.
My heart dropped. I felt terrible for him. I was afraid that he was going to ask to go back to his daycare. I imagined the crying and pleading I was going to somehow force myself to counter.
But then he continued. He said the bus was “Awesome!” citing evidence such as “the seats were HUGE! The stairs were SO BIG!”
He reminded me that sometimes you simply have to adjust your perspective.
I had to view the comment in the eyes of a child. It occurred to me then that the school bus ride truly had been a life changing moment for him. He had been in classrooms before, sat through instruction, and had been surrounded by children his own age, but this was different. To him it was a new challenge, something he could grow into, something exciting and wonderful.
Earlier this week I received the news that a piece of writing I had entered earlier this year into a contest would not be winning that particular award. There was no other feedback as to how my submission scored. Nothing which I could use as a guide to help me improve. I was more than a little disappointed.
Kathyrn Schulz gave a TED talk presentation on being wrong. In the beginning she asks the audience how does it feel to be wrong. They answer as you might expect: dreadful, embarrassing, etc. She counters that these are all great answers, but answers to the question, how does it feel to realize you are wrong.
Being wrong feels much like being right. It is only the moment you realize you were wrong that you feel embarrassment and find yourself doubting yourself. I thought my submission could win, otherwise I wouldn’t have submitted it. Hearing back that it wasn’t award caliber suddenly made me question its worth. Then I started questioning my ability. That morning I was on the express train to the pity party.
Later that same day, my colleagues at the day job voted and selected me as a recipient for a company award. This was completely coincidental as I hadn’t shared my disappointing news yet with anyone.
Did these events balance out? Not entirely, but being spontaneously recognized by people who have actually met me did help soften the blow. It was enough to derail my pity party train.
At the end of her presentation, Kathryn challenges the audience to risk being wrong from time to time as a means to fuel innovation. It is as okay to be wrong as it is to be right because at least it means you’ve tried and learned something new. Being wrong can be a good thing. As my son’s experience with the bus reminded me, it is all in the perspective.
I submitted that piece months ago, and had written it even earlier. Back then, my writing sample was one of hundreds of faceless submissions. My subscriber base has grown since then. I’ve grown as a writer as well. If I took a blog piece from the same period and compared it to a more current piece, it is highly likely that the more current piece would be deemed better.
I didn’t win today, but it doesn’t mean I won’t win tomorrow, unless I never try again.