The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made


I graduated high school when I was 17 years old. Seventeen going on sixty.

I had always been near the top (not at, but near) of my class and when I graduated, had a scholarship waiting for me at the local college. I attended and did great in my classes that fall. At first. Toward the end of the semester, I slipped into a dark depression and stayed there for some time. Though I started strong that first semester, I flunked out. I stopped going to class. I skipped finals. I left the house only to sit in the college parking lot, giving the appearance I had attended class. I didn’t register for a second semester, but kept going to my choir classes as if I had. Music was the only thing I looked forward to. It was the only thing I could do without trying.

I was tired of trying.

Without turning this post into a therapy session, I’ll let you know that first college semester took a long time to recover from. I lost my scholarships, lost the respect of my professors, and lost myself in the process. I felt as though I had thrown the rest of my life away, and there was no real future.

Eventually, I went back to school and changed my major. When I started college, I loved to do two things: write, and teach. In order to do both at the level I wanted, however, I would have had to go to school for far longer than I was willing – or thought I could afford to.

So I took the easy way out. I changed from English Ed to Business.

It took me too many years of going part time and forcing myself to follow through, but eventually I graduated with an Associate’s degree. It wasn’t anywhere close to what I was passionate about or wanted to do. But I knew it was something I’d be able to do well.

And I did do well. I held clerical administrative positions my entire career in “corporate America.” I completed tasks I was assigned, and even received a few awards for my work. But I went home every night and woke up every morning feeling completely unfulfilled. I started to care less and less about my work. I wasn’t doing this because I wanted to. I was doing it because I had to.

After all, I screwed up early on in life, and this was the career I was destined for.

But do you know what? Flunking my first semester of college wasn’t my biggest mistake.

My biggest mistake was thinking that was my biggest mistake. My biggest mistake was not going after what I wanted to pursue.

I figured it was too late for me, and that having an “A.A.” after my name destined me as the foundation of any totem pole for the remainder of my life. I thought I was required to settle in my work, and never advance to what I dreamt of doing once upon a time.

That was my biggest mistake.

It’s not my career (yet…), but guess what I’m doing? I’m writing and teaching. I’m speaking into the lives of others at every opportunity. I’m writing when I’m inspired to share something. I’m jotting notes about my days and the experiences I have so I can share them with others. I’m doing these things because I started to believe I could. I gave up on giving up, and I’m doing what I love to do. This is the only life I get, and I don’t want to spend it wishing I could have done something different.

The letters I carry after my name don’t mean much to anyone. It’s not entirely impressive to too many people that I have an Associate of Arts degree in business management. It serves an incredible purpose in reminding me, however, that I sold myself short.

It took me eight years, start-to-finish, to get a degree I never wanted. In a field I never wanted to be in, let alone retire from. But I thought it was my only (easiest) choice.

And that, friends, was a big mistake.

I was created to be, do, and live more than any test or degree tried to determine for me.

Today, I’m a writer. I’ve written for our newspaper, and been featured on other blogs, magazines, and websites. I have a handful of loyal people who repeatedly come back to read what I share. I have invitations to speak – and to teach. I work for a man who writes and teaches for a living. He is a dear mentor to me, and I’m soaking up as much of his knowledge as I can.

Today I do what I love and I’m able to do it because I chose to let my mistake be just that: a mistake. Not a determining factor, not a sentence, not a curse. A mistake.

Today, I do what I love because I know I’m capable of it.

And you are, too. Don’t wear your mistakes as chains. Carry the scars, but realize there’s new skin over those marks. You can have a new beginning to pursue your old dreams.