“Live and learn.” It’s the cliché we use right after we fuck something up—and, because we’re human, we use it a lot. We all know that humans often learn best by “doing.” But what happens when we realize that a lot of what we’re doing is completely ass-backwards? Do we keep doing it over and over expecting a different result? (Which is another cliché known as “the definition of insanity.”) Or, do we attempt a different route?
In truth, I’d prefer to “unlearn” a thing or two. Though this seems like a ridiculous idea, I think in order to truly grow as fully-rounded emotional beings, we need to admit when something isn’t working and then find a way to change the course. Change is hard, but sometimes it’s necessary—especially when whatever it was we were doing was never really working in the first place.
So, with that deep introduction, here’s a list of things I’d like to “unlearn.” And, to make it appear a little less depressing (and slightly more entertaining), I’ve enlisted the help of my good friend, Tina Fey (because everything goes better with a side of Tina Fey).
Chasing the clock.
We learn how to chase the clock the minute we’re able to fully understand what time actually is. Chasing the clock is exhausting and, no matter how hard I try, I rarely end up catching it. But here’s the thing—time is something we never get back, so instead of chasing time, maybe we should just give it a big ass-grabbing hug and, while fully embracing it, we might just learn how to spend it more wisely.
For some reason, we learn to seek approval from other people because it makes us feel validated in some way. Sometimes feeling validated is necessary, but usually it’s not. It’s okay to be different. Even at age 44, I still struggle with this one. I need to let go of the constant need to “fit in.” After all, trying too hard to fit in usually makes me nervous, and I sweat when I’m nervous—a lot. Sweating a lot is embarrassing, and being embarrassed makes me more self-conscious, which leads to additional sweating. It’s a vicious cycle.
Feeling guilty for saying “no.”
This is a big one, and guilt is tough to unlearn. It can make us do a lot of stupid things—like wasting the time we never get back by doing things we don’t enjoy doing with people we don’t enjoy doing them with because we’re afraid we might hurt their feelings. If you think about it, this makes us bigger assholes than if we just came right out and said, “I don’t like you because your breath smells like cheese.” I really don’t want to be an asshole, so instead I’m beginning to learn the art of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks and, by the way, here’s a breath mint.”
Holding on too tight.
We should definitely hold on to people and things that mean a lot to us, but far too often instead of nurturing the love we have for someone (or something) we sometimes strangle the living shit out of it simply because we’re afraid to lose it. Love can make us vulnerable, but if we learn to let go and nurture love rather than acting like a boa constrictor on crack, we might find the end result is even better than what we hoped for.
The fear of failure.
The odds of failing miserably at something are usually ten times higher than the chances are of succeeding at something. As a result, we learn to fear failure so much that it keeps us from doing things we might be good at—if we give ourselves the chance to try them. Instead of fearing failure, we should send it an awkward text message and invite it out to dinner. Once we get to know each other a little better failure won’t seem nearly as scary, and who knows, we may even end up wanting to sleep with it. (But, don’t do that, because that might land you in the middle of my next point …)
Engaging in gossip.
Gossip is something we all engage in, and it’s a practice we all desperately need to unlearn. Really, there’s nothing funny about gossip—especially when you find yourself in the middle of it. People are transfixed by gossip because it’s almost always full of implausible stories that are rarely true. They’re usually yarns spun from a tiny thread of truth. And guess what? That tiny thread of truth was none of your business to begin with. If you like to tell stories you should consider becoming a writer—it’s a much nicer way to make up cool stories purely for entertainment value without being a low-life piece of shit.
Giving too many fucks.
I wish I could unlearn how to do this, but I’m far too empathetic. I care how people feel, and I care how people perceive me. This sometimes leads to poor decisions and staying in certain situations that aren’t healthy anymore. The truth about giving too many fucks is that we usually give too many fucks about the wrong things and not enough fucks about the right things. This can weaken our resistance against all the things I mentioned above—chasing time, needing to be accepted, feeling guilty, holding on too tight, fearing failure and cutting others down for our own entertainment are all things that lessen our ability to be better women and men. A friend once told me that things usually end the way they begin. If that’s true, then maybe it’s time we seek out better beginnings—and then maybe, just maybe, we might find a way to collectively be better humans, too.
Or, you can just go on saying “live and learn,” but you should probably know, the phrase “live and learn” is at the top of the over-used clichés list, right below “the definition of insanity.” Food for thought.
As always, thanks for reading!
P.S. … Tina Fey and I really aren’t friends, but we should be … Call me Tina!