This has not been my experience. My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life.
And being embarrassed when you mess up is part of the human experience. Getting back up, dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it? That’s a gift.
The times I was told no or wasn’t included, wasn’t chosen, didn’t win, didn’t make the cut… looking back, it really feels like those moments were as important, if not more crucial, than the moments I was told “yes.”
Not being invited to the parties and sleepovers in my hometown made me feel hopelessly lonely, but because I felt alone, I would sit in my room and write the songs that would get me a ticket somewhere else. Having label executives in Nashville tell me that only 35 year old housewives listen to country music and there was no place for a 13-year-old on their roster made me cry in the car on the way home. But then I’d post my songs on my Myspace and yes, Myspace, and would message with other teenagers like me who loved country music, but just didn’t have anyone singing from their perspective. Having journalists write in-depth, oftentimes critical, pieces about who they perceive me to be made me feel like I was living in some weird simulation, but it also made me look inward to learn about who I actually am. Having the world treat my love life like a spectator sport in which I lose every single game was not a great way to date in my teens and twenties, but it taught me to protect my private life fiercely. Being publicly humiliated over and over again at a young age was excruciatingly painful but it forced me to devalue the ridiculous notion of minute by minute, ever fluctuating social relevance and likability. Getting canceled on the internet and nearly losing my career gave me an excellent knowledge of all the types of wine.
I know I sound like a consummate optimist, but I’m really not. I lose perspective all the time. Sometimes everything just feels completely pointless. I know the pressure of living your life through the lens of perfectionism. And I know that I’m talking to a group of perfectionists because you are here today graduating from NYU. And so this may be hard for you to hear: In your life, you will inevitably misspeak, trust the wrong people, under-react, overreact, hurt the people who didn’t deserve it, overthink, not think at all, self sabotage, create a reality where only your experience exists, ruin perfectly good moments for yourself and others, deny any wrongdoing, not take the steps to make it right, feel very guilty, let the guilt eat at you, hit rock bottom, finally address the pain you caused, try to do better next time, rinse, repeat. And I’m not gonna lie, these mistakes will cause you to lose things.