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Mistakes can be learning opportunities

| Darien Olson

            If I had to analyze the thematics of the last year and summarize it, I would say it was a year of necessary mistakes. Mistake, as a word, carries such a

Darien Olson smiles as he stands in front of a tree

negative connotation, but mistakes, missteps, miscalculations, or whatever other synonym may seem more palatable are absolutely critical in better understanding who we are, how we operate, and how we exist in this world. Not that I’m always an optimist, but I’ve learned and actively work to continue to flip the script on mistakes by considering them as learning opportunities. From the personal to the professional to, dare I say, the political, I’m always asking myself, “Okay, Darien, that was rough, but what did we learn?” That space for self-reflection is where the real growth occurs.

            In the twelve months since graduation, I’ve been an AmeriCorps Member with an educational nonprofit, an Assistant Program Manager at a residential support agency for adults with developmental disabilities, a Community Case Manager for a national AIDS Service Organization, and back to an Assistant Program Manager. Objectively, I have made MANY mistakes in just twelve short months, but it has been an odd sort-of privilege to have made those mistakes because of that time for reflection and the subsequent personal development. I used to be such a planner in that my plans had plans had plans, a sometimes-nasty predisposition that still rears its ugly head, and it’s not that I’ve completely thrown caution to the wind, but I’ve learned to listen to my intuition - that’s what this year has taught me more than anything. “Darien, this doesn’t feel right.” “Darien, you are worth more than what they’re offering.” “Darien, this is not right for you.” BUT, I couldn’t have gotten to that reflection and learning without making the mistakes, missteps, and miscalculations that I have. Combined with an incredible support network of friends and family and mentors, I was able to reassess my priorities, grapple with some serious insecurities, and come out the other side focused and determined with a renewed sense of optimism about who I am, where I’m going, and how I’m going to get there.

Now, a last disclaimer: I’m not encouraging new and former English graduates to actively make mistakes. I guess, what I am encouraging y’all to do is take risks, and when the inevitable mistake occurs, lean into it, learn from it, and come out a more refined version of yourself.