thoughts on learning from mistakes

ed89b5f95114436948161c41e2bec66dA follow-up from this morning’s post on making mistakes, I will now offer my perspective on learning from mistakes.

Life is about learning and growing. As a frequent mistake-maker, I’ve learned how to make better mistakes by learning from my past ones (not to be confused with dwelling on past mistakes, which I covered in my last post). 

Call it a mistake, call it a humbling experience, it doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you learned from it. One of my biggest mistakes was also once of my greatest periods of growth. Maybe some of you can relate.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into it, but at nineteen, I was young, naive, scared, going through big life changes, and experiencing what many people may call anomie. It was my first semester as a biology major and I was struggling to keep up with material and failing classes at an alarming rate. I was shy and hesitant to reach out for help, and without a niche of friends I sought for relief by dieting and exercising. What at first may have been a healthy outlet turned deadly once coupled with my perfectionism and obsessive personality. Soon I was skipping class for the gym, skipping meals for the sake of cutting calories and losing my sanity for a little peace of mind. As my gpa fell, so did the number on the scale, so I thought that I was at least doing one thing right. What I was doing was not sustainable, and soon I was binging and purging in my dorm room while my roommate was out until I ultimately became so disgusted with myself that I stopped eating altogether and was able to drop “the last ten pounds” — and then some. My “goal weight” was not realistic for my height or body type, something that I’m not sure many people even consider when picking an arbitrary number to aspire to. At 5’5′ with an athletic build, 115 was not realistic, and when I finally reached it, it wasn’t enough. I lost twenty more pounds before my parents withdrew me from school and admitted me into treatment.

You lose a lot more than weight with an eating disorder. I had basically lost my entire freshman year of college, lost valuable friendship, missed out on many opportunities, and spent the next two years re-building my life. I was back at home commuting to a branch of my university. I repeatedly was reminded to do the dishes, clean my room, and spent most of my weekends watching movies with my mom and going to bed by 10 o’clock. It also took a long time to break old habits, and I was hesitant to trust professionals so I dragged out the whole “weight-gain” process for nearly a year and a half. During that time, I learned a lot about myself:

1. Food is delicious, and everyone should eat all the (nutritious) food
2. Exercise is a great way to beat stress and boost self-esteem
3. Living with your parents when you’re in your 20s is just about as fun as it sounds
4. I want to help other people like me who think that extreme dieting and exercise will solve their problems
5. Nothing really matters as much as we may inflate them in our heads
6. I am enough

At 21, I definitely feel wise beyond my years (in some ways. Definitely not in the neatness category). I’ve run two half-marathons since I started running last year with four more on my schedule, and completing a full marathon is also on my radar. I’ve had three 4.0 semesters and have made the dean’s list, which is helping to boost my freshman year gpa. And even though I had to take a semester off and I am on the “five-year plan,” which would have embarrassed me to admit in the past, I am exactly where I need to be right now. I am going back to on-campus living for my senior (and super senior) years and have an awesome apartment set up with two good friends. I am in control of my life again, but I have learned healthy coping strategies and am now pretty good at “going with the flow.” Little things don’t upset me. I can empower myself. I am confident in my abilities and I can handle what ever life throws in my path.

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