How I Learned To Be A Student Of Life By Trying Something New

I catch myself looking at him–just looking–admiring, and thinking, How did I do that? He is my pride and joy. The most beautiful masterpiece I have ever created.

My bookshelf.

When we were shopping for homes, every time I saw a built-in, I imagined arranging my books on the shelves and accenting with trinkets, plants, and globes. I still believe that one day I’ll have a study and the built-in bookshelves will tower like skyscrapers around me.

We love our home, and I’ve only come to love it more, but it didn’t have built-ins when we moved in. As our life together evolved and our collection of junk (where does it all come from?) accrued, I started feeling slightly cramped. My creative problem-solver clicked in, and I seized the opportunity to devise a pragmatic plan. Using the wall ledge on the basement stair landing as a foundation, I determined to build bookshelves.

Thanks to YouTube, I did just that.

No one was more surprised by my success than me. I know its imperfections, and I have certainly recognized approaches I’d change for next time. But what surprised me even more than my achievement was how much I actually enjoyed it.

I’m not a handyman. Lately, however, I have allowed myself the freedom to fail; I’ve challenged myself to just go for it; and (at least in this case) I have remained humble enough to actually learn. I wish the rest of me could learn from my built-in bookshelf building guru.

Embrace The Freedom To Fail

Embracing the freedom to fail is key to any kind of success. When we give ourselves too high of expectations or when we strive for perfection, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Recognizing that failure is not an option (as in, we will inevitably fail) allows us to be okay with failure. None of us are perfect, and none of us will ever be, and that’s okay.

There are a few details that I missed or messed up on my bookshelf, but I have to be okay with the discrepancies if I’m to enjoy it. Otherwise, I’d drive myself insane. I’ve been there before, and I don’t want to go back.

Erich Fromm said, “There can be no real freedom without the freedom to fail.” Let us learn to enjoy life, be proud of our accomplishments, and embrace the freedom to fail so that we can find freedom in every other part of our lives. (READ DO YOU HAVE A FIXED OR A GROWTH MINDSET.)

Just Go For It

I turned 30 in January. My 20’s were a mess of a time trying to figure out who I am, where I am going, and why it all matters.

Finally, I feel like I have some kind of direction that I’ve never really had before. I know what I’m good at, what I’m bad at, and what skills I have and don’t have to offer. I am familiar with my INFP personality, and the depression and anxiety that simmers in the depths. And because I feel more established in my identity, it’s easy to limit myself to only the tasks in which I am confident. With age comes an inherent temptation to deny opportunity. But, no matter our age or self-perception, we should never give up on the thrill of trying something new, pushing our limits or refining our abilities to learn.

Be A Constant Learner

It seems within their core values, every corporation has some variant of the phrase “we strive to be constant learners.” Indeed, we should never act as if we’ve arrived–like we’ve figured it all out–or have retired from the art of learning. Let’s always strive to learn, to grow, and to push ourselves to try new things. Who knew that I would be able to build a bookshelf and actually enjoy doing it?

Not me, until I tried.

Because the society in which we live is results-oriented, the temptation to act like we are put together is insurmountable. And because none of us are put-together but we all think we should be, we lack the humility it takes to embrace the freedom to fail, try something new, and be a student of life.

So, you know that thing you’ve been thinking about trying for a long time now? That habit? That art? That physical activity? That home project?

Whatever it is for you, why not?


Here’s my bookshelf by the way:

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