I used to be a person who compulsively made lists, plans and backup plans. If Plan A fell through, I was sure to have a Plan B, C and D.
My daily planner was more marked up than pre-surgery Heidi Montag. Checking something off my ‘To Do’ list was literally a triumphant experience that could make or break my entire day. My feelings about what I was doing, when I would do it and how it was being done were not a consideration. Feelings led to decisions. Decisions led to mistakes. Mistakes were not an option.
Decisions are so loaded; choose wrong and all of a sudden you’ve made a mistake that illustrates to everyone that you’re fallible. When you live such a systematized, regulated lifestyle, it is difficult to make many mistakes — you don’t have time to do anything random or make impulsive decisions that could go horribly wrong — and if there is one thing I hate, it’s making the wrong decision and having to live with the consequences.
Making a mistake might not be a big deal to most people, but perfection was — and still is, to an extent — important to me, and very integrated into my self-concept. I couldn’t even fathom what people would think of me if I made a mistake, not to mention how I would cope living with the consequences of them.
While this lifestyle might work for some people, I can safely say that I felt as if I lived in a pressure cooker.
Not a day went by that I didn’t question whether I was doing what I really wanted to do or just what my lists and plans dictated I do. Thus, when I moved to London last year to continue my education, I promised myself one thing: I would not live my life according to lists and contingency plans.
Instead, I would make decisions based on the scariest criteria possible: my feelings.
In the past six months, my structured, controlled world has spiraled out of control and I find myself, perfectionist that I am, making more mistakes and missteps than I ever have in my life. I’ve given myself the breathing space to make more decisions, which is incredibly empowering, but, concurrently, I’ve also opened myself up to the world of error, imperfection and well, as stupid as it might sound, really being human and dealing with all of those confusing feelings that get us into trouble.
Still, despite the mounting evidence (as if I really needed any) that decisions based on feelings often lead to unsuccessful, awkward, strange and sometimes painful situations, I have consistently leaped off a cliff in an act of faith or stupidity — I still can’t yet tell which — but that I would have thought impossible even a year ago.
I’m not yet sure if once I’m back home next year, I’ll live without lists and plans (I’ll certainly have to decide soon!); it’s been really difficult having to handle the fallout of so many mistakes. However, I’m so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to show myself that I am not made of porcelain and that I can handle falling every once in a while. Sure, I might be chipped and a little worse for wear, but I’ve found that nothing can really break me permanently.
By far, my resolution to feel my way into my decisions has been my favorite mistake.
Known as the girl who could talk herself out of a paper bag, Khaleelah Jones (www.khaleelahjones.com) has always loved sharing her voice with others. An avid fan of reading, anything Francophone, travel and dance, you can usually find Khaleelah gazing longingly at travel blogs or in the yoga studio. Khaleelah currently lives in London working as a freelance writer and yoga teacher.