Like just about everyone in America, I am a huge fan of Hamilton. For those of you who have not yet embraced this phenomenon, Hamilton is a Broadway rap-musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton. It's just as amazing as it sounds.
Because of Hamilton, Andy and I have gone on a Revolutionary War kick. We watched the HBO miniseries John Adams. Andy listened to 1776 on audiobook, and now he’s listening to a book on Ben Franklin. Lisa, Andy, and I swap trivia about Hamilton’s life and times and the musical itself.
In the midst of this extensive Hamilton education, I came across this quote from him: “A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous.”*
I do not think this way at all. As a thorough perfectionist (in the worst sense of the word), my goal is to never make mistakes ever. I hate making mistakes. If I make a mistake, then I have failed, and there really is no point in going on.
Some of my perfectionist role models in this pursuit were Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Kelson of the movie Two Weeks’ Notice. They were praised for never failing, and I so longed to be that girl.
And Mary reminded me that Anne is known for the following quote: “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” I always liked that idea, but I think it has fueled my perfectionistic tendencies. As Mary said, “It implies that once you do make a mistake tomorrow, you’re screwed. The only acceptable day is a perfect one. Blargh.”**
But the Hamilton quote contains a different idea of success. Instead of a well-adjusted person being someone who has days without mistakes, a well-adjusted person can make the same mistake, TWICE, IN ONE DAY, and not get rattled. This is a revelation to me, because like I said, one mistake and I’m out.
But I like this different idea of success. I thought about what I would need to achieve that level of adjustment, and I came up with two things:
I would have to have pretty high self esteem to pull this off. When I make a mistake, part of what makes it so painful is that I feel like my worthiness as a human being is called into question. To be able to make several mistakes and not get nervous, I have to know that I am a worthwhile person, and that my mistakes don’t threaten that truth. Not even TWO OF THE SAME MISTAKE.
I would need to be humble. In order to be well adjusted, according to Hamilton, I need to acknowledge and prepare for the fact that I could make the same mistake twice in a row. I am human, I am fallible, I am a sinner, and I don’t need to be freaked out by that. I can live my days without the existential threat of failure hanging over my head. It’s like I learned on my trip to Los Angeles: it’s good to plan to sin. That way, you are prepared to confess and repent and ask for forgiveness swiftly, instead of wallowing in shame.
So this is my new goal--be able to make mistakes without being undone by them. I’ll start with one mistake and see how that goes, and if I ever make it to two that will an exciting day. A really fresh one.
*I searched on the internet for a while to try and figure out where that quote comes from to make sure it is actually Hamilton’s, and to learn the context. It’s on a lot of quote sites and Pinterest pins but I couldn’t find anything definitive. If any of my historian friends know or find the provenance of this quote I would love to hear about it!
**We still love Anne! This quote is just not the most helpful for us.