Let’s talk about the last time you fucked up.
I’m not talking, Oh my God, I left the oven on overnight and almost burned down the apartment, kind of screw-up. Honey, I did that three times last month.
Let’s talk about the last time you totaled your car, got fired, got arrested, or lost the client deliverable due at 8AM the next morning. Let’s talk about the time you actually did burn down your kitchen for leaving an oven mitt carelessly in the bottom drawer of the oven.
Let’s talk about the last time you tore yourself to shreds, wondering WHY you could EVER be so f*cking STUPID, you sorry excuse for a human being.
You might as well just pack your bags and move to Utah, because you are never going to make it. NEVER. Just cut your losses and live a life of isolation. You moron.
Think back to the last time you thought you were fucked thirteen times ‘til Sunday, and how you felt just twenty-four hours later. Things really weren’t as bad as you thought, now were they?
Let me explain the best thing about really shitty situations: Life goes on.
The world keeps turning, and one day, something even shittier than that shitty thing will happen to you, making the first shitty thing seem not quite as shitty compared to the second.
Tell me I’m wrong.
Look back on a time when you truly thought your life was over. No matter how trivial a thing it may seem now, at the time it really was the worst day of your life. And you didn’t give two flying fucks about the rest of the world telling you it would all be ok, because it was the most catastrophic experience you’d ever gone through.
Yet, you went to bed that night, you woke back up in the morning. You still had all your limbs, ten toes, a roof over your head, friends and family that loved you, and therefore you were better off than half of the global population.
And that meant everything, somehow-somewhere-some-when; would all be ok.
The most screwed I have ever been in my adult life was exactly two years and one month ago—March 11th, 2015. I moved my life from Pittsburgh, PA to Boston, MA—a city where I didn’t know a soul and had zero network—for an over-promised job on all the finest points: salary, leadership, and culture fit.
I was fired in eight days.
I am very, very open with my life but I have never told this story online. One day I’ll tell you everything, but apologies in advance—today is not that day.
All you need to know is this: I truly thought I was fucked.
I had a zero dollar balance in my bank account, a thousand dollar credit card bill I had no way to pay, no friends/family/support system within the tri-state area, and I just doubled my cost of living. I was given zero severance, my moving expenses were not reimbursed, and I couldn’t even declare unemployment because I hadn’t lived in the state for 90 days. On top of all that, how the hell was I supposed to explain to the world I managed to get fired in less than two weeks?
Of all the crazy scenarios I’ve ever gotten myself into—the car accidents, the endless moves, the random visits to the hospital—for the first time ever, I called my parents and I dropped the E word.
“Dad, call me back. It’s an emergency.”
For what it’s worth, the night I got fired I did actually start a fire in the kitchen—for leaving an oven mitt carelessly in the bottom drawer of the oven. And as I watched that oven go up in smoke, all I could think was, “Yep. This is my life. Going up in flames.”
Sometimes, all it takes is a night of good rest and a call to your best friend to put things into perspective. This was not one of those times.
That experience wrecked my confidence, my credit score, and my general trust in people. I flat-out lied to friends and family about what happened to me, until suddenly people started asking, “What, Kara lives in DC now? What happened to Boston?”
It didn’t take me twenty-four hours, two days, or even two months to be ok with that particular situation. It took two years. It took two years to receive some of the best advice I’ve received in this lifetime, for an error a tenth the magnitude of what happened two years ago. Actually, I wish someone would have been there to say it to me then:
“This is not genocide. You didn’t kill someone. You can come back from this. There is a solution, you just haven’t found it yet.”
My friend Nora, one of the most badass girl bosses I know, told me this one month ago via text. This time, my incredible fuck-up wasn’t getting fired in a state I’d lived in for a week—it was losing a series of files I desperately needed for client.
That client was my friend Meg Doll, and the series of files was an entire chapter for the cookbook I photographed for her.
There were tears. So many, inconsolable tears. I downloaded and dropped way-too-much money on data recovery software, hoping to scrap together the memory card I had carelessly copied over. I had no idea how I was going to explain the ordeal to Meg, who sacrificed a month of her life to move to DC and create this thing that we were supposed to build—together.
It was a careless mistake, and it doesn’t matter how or why it happened. What matters is this: Meg was not mad. And a solution was there, the entire time.
The solution is, of course, that I’m now spending April re-photographing that chapter. It’s not glamorous, and it sucks doing this without her. But it was never something I couldn’t come back from.
There are very few instances in life where we can’t bounce back.
With the exception of genocide, a death, or a child being ill—we can always claw our nails in the dirt and crawl out of this shit hole we dug ourselves. We make mistakes and we learn from them—that’s how life was intended to be. There are always solutions available. They may suck, that’s for sure—but they exist.
I freelanced in Boston to make ends meet. I swallowed my pride and asked my parents for help. If it would have come to it, I could have sold my car, taken out a personal loan, hell, even moved home and Airbnb’d my apartment. None of those options are glamorous and they might be a tad mortifying—but they are options.
Boston is far from the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. If it was, I’d have a pretty cozy life.
No matter what horrible, life-screwing things you go through, understand that it is never the end of you. No matter how bad you mess up, you can fix it. There may be scars, PTSD, and cracks in that thing you broke, but you have the capability to pick the pieces off the floor and hot-glue them back together. Your mistakes are not the end of you—your mistakes help build resilience.
There is always a solution. You just haven’t found it yet