The New Year had me thinking a lot about goals, values, ambitions, motivations, life, and how excited I was to wear my new fuzzy socks. With all the talk of “look how far you’ve come in a year” and “can you believe that was only 1 year ago” I found myself even more reflective and nearly bubbling over with blog ideas – two of which involved writing about goals and values.
At my old job, we had a list of working norms – kind of like guiding values – and each day at our morning huddle, we would say what working norm we were focusing on that day. I loved that idea. I mean, obviously, in theory, you were living into every positive attribute every day you walked into the office, but how nice it was to really put your heart and soul behind one guiding value each week.
For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a new series of “Res” posts to my own kind of working norms – my own mini-resolutions. You don’t have to buy into any of these. You don’t have to make your own. But maybe at some point, it’ll make you think about what it would look like to radically change your life one week at a time.
Res 11: Own Up To It
So I really messed up. I mean, really, really messed up.
I get a lot of emails. I follow a few nonprofits, a few bloggers, and a whole lot of restaurants, a consequence of the #BirthdayGiveBack Campaign last year.
Anyway, I could make a million excuses here. I could talk about how I always forward the really bad Krispy Kreme emails to my best friend and how I always comment that Dunkin Donuts is better and he always writes back that I need to stop hating on Krispy Kreme.
I could talk about how, outside of quick “advertisement kind of emails,” I am the worst at answering real, important emails on my phone. I know I can, but it’s so much easier on the computer.
Still, even that felt like an excuse. I mean, I am a Millennial, I should have figured out the whole, forward, reply, mark as read thing, right? Wrong.
Long story short, I am a member of a group that is a branch of a nonprofit that I highly respect and admire. Basically, the employees at the nonprofit runs a program and send emails to me and approximately 25 other individuals, usually announcing meetings or calling for volunteers or speakers at events.
This is the kind of email I might glance at, but I typically always wait until I am home on my computer to read.
Enter Friday. I had to restart my computer at work, so I was scrolling through some personal emails on my phone. I had already forwarded the weekly “look at this Krispy Kreme email” note to my friend and had continued to read a couple emails with varying levels of importance.
Then I messed up. I thought I was replying to my friend and jokingly typed back “F*** no” to a suggestion he had made…only I didn’t use asterisks.
Now. Let me begin by saying I don’t like to swear. I have no issue with other people swearing and clearly, I don’t have the cleanest mouth. But that’s something I dislike about myself and something I am constantly trying to fix.
I never, ever swore. And then halfway through college as a result of my atmosphere, I finally broke down. I never broke the habit and since then, it has become a never-ending addendum to my New Year’s goals. Clearly, I wasn’t doing too well. But that one typed swear word wouldn’t begin to cover the problem once I realized who I had sent that to.
As Gmail Mobile was whisking away my response, I blinked hard. It wasn’t going to my friend. We weren’t going to laugh over the email later. It was going to the nonprofit.
My head then went to every swear word I knew. My face flushed red and my heart raced. I had not just done that. I flipped to the “sent” folder and there it was.
Liz Buechele replied to (nonprofit she respects and admires) with “F*** no.”
I frantically pulled up a Google tab on my newly restarted and freshly optimized computer – desperate to find a way to take it back. Of course, the “unsend” only works if you react in thirty seconds. I had spent the first thirty seconds swearing at myself and panicking.
Okay, so this wasn’t good.
Let me backtrack for a moment here. This isn’t a generic firstname.lastname@example.org kind of email. This is a small intimate email group. Moreover, the email was a direct ask for volunteers and speakers at an upcoming event. They asked for volunteers and not only did I directly respond “no,” but I added a strong punch in front of it. The final icing on the cake? It came from my Smile Project email account.
I was embarrassed, ashamed, and above all, angry at myself. What was I thinking? Not only is that not appropriate, but to have that coming from my Smile Project account? The word and the integrity of this organization means everything to me – and in one stupid act, by responding to the wrong thread, I had taken something away from The Smile Project. And I hated how that felt.
More than anything, though, I was disappointed in myself. I took thirty minutes to compose myself (mostly because I had a meeting) and then I responded again. I apologized profusely and fully owned up to the mistake – assuring that it was not intended to be a response to their call for volunteers and speakers.
I could feel this miserable dread suffocating me and I could feel myself becoming more mopey by the minute.
A few hours passed and I continued to work. Eventually, I decided to give my ears some comfort and I went to YouTube and played the song I had been humming all morning.
The Reprise of “Watch What Happens” from Newsies is a work of art and also was perfect in this moment. Not only is it smart and well-written both lyrically and musically, but it takes less than a minute for Jack to completely 180 his opinion about something. It takes him less than a minute to be convinced that, not only will things be okay, they’ll be great. And Newsies is about a revolution – not a regretful email.
And then I had to smile. I had to almost laugh a little. I had done everything I could. I had made an honest (though explicit) mistake and I had done everything I could to correct it. I took responsibility. I apologized. And I went back to work.
Resolution #11: Own Up To It
Maybe sometimes all you can do is own up to it. There’s no way I could have unsent that – unless of course I had quicker reflexes and more Gmail Mobile know-how. But a lot of our mistakes in life are like that.
There’s no taking back something you’ve said. There’s no undoing something you’ve done. All you can do is own it, apologize, and move forward.
Nobody’s perfect. That same friend that I send Krispy Kreme emails to? I’ve been in more than a few arguments with him and on more occasion than one have said something horrible that I have instantly regretted. I won’t pretend I haven’t hurt people I care about. Because I have.
And I could spend all day beating myself up over it. Or I could own up to it, apologize, and move forward – trying to be better next time. The second I realized it was out of my control, I smiled, and dare I say almost laughed. I mean the situation is almost comically bad:
A nonprofit I love sends an email asking for volunteers to the account of the movement I run and I accidentally respond, ‘F*** no.”
But the moment I followed up, I had done all I could. I had acknowledged the error, taken full responsibility, and was not about to mope around the rest of the afternoon and evening.
On a larger scale, I know this can apply to a lot of us. It’s easy to feel like you are defined by your worst action. It’s easy to spend years wracking your brain over regret for something you did when you were younger.
Well, stop. Let’s fix it right now.
Did you apologize? If so, great, next question. If not, you should probably take care of that.
Second question: Did you take responsibility and avoid blaming someone else? If so, great. If not, maybe it’s time to own up to it. I promise you’ll feel better bathing in honesty.
Once you can answer yes to those questions, move on. Let it go. It’s out of your control. You don’t need to torture yourself anymore over yesterday’s mistakes. That only stops you from embracing today.
I don’t know about you, but I’m far better at forgiving others than I am at forgiving myself. So let's work on that. This week, treat yourself with the same kindness you’d treat a friend. You deserve that…mistakes and all.