What happened when I made my first mistake after 10 years of being perfect
This isn't click bait. I literally can't really phrase it any differently.
I had a perfect record. Flawless. Not a single error in 10 years.
And then today I made a mistake.
For 10 years I have never made an error as a driver. Sure I've been rear ended by others or someone else has cut me up, but since passing my test I have driven perfectly. I can't stress how flawless my record has been. I have been a good, confident, competent driver, solidly, that entire time. I do not speed. I do not tail gate. I do not block peoples drive ways. I let people out. I can parallel park. I can reverse up long narrow country roads. I can even... drift. But no, I have never once given someone else on the road reason to be angry or upset at me. I have never jumped a red light. I've never got my timing wrong. I have never given someone else reason to brake. I have consistently been a very, very, very, good girl.
I know this for a fact because driving TERRIFIES ME. I have spent YEARS refining my ability, practising, practising, practising, examining, testing myself, ensuring day in, day out, I was a perfect driver. I am not a weak driver. I am now a submissive driver. I am not a nervous driver. But I do not take risks. I do not drive aggressively. I do not want to... forget my manners. (Sorry, I'm British). Because I genuinely believe that if I did, I would basically...
Pulled over by the police: Dead. Prang my car: Dead. Piss off an old granny: Dead. Tail gate a learner driver: Dead. DEAD DEAD DEAD.
It was all a lot of pressure.
Screw up just a tiny bit Lianne and you will most definitely die.
So yeah I had 10 years of that... Compared to my husband who a) has a Racing licence and b) wrote his car off a week after passing his driving test showing off to his mates; we couldn't be more different. He does something wrong literally every time he steps foot in his car (or mine)... but guess who's more relaxed? Clue. It's not me.
Now I'm not saying throw caution to the wind and start driving the wrong way up the A2, but by not making a mistake for 10 years I had started to put myself under an enormous, horrific amount of extra pressure.
Let me tell you another story.
I haven't failed a single exam. EVER. Not one. So imagine my trauma when I did fail something?
My first driving test. Ok- It wasn't exactly my fault... dodgy blind roundabout, 30mph zone, I checked, checked again and as I slowly pulled out, a massive van doing at least 50 flew over the roundabout without even stopping and nearly wiped me out. The examiner had to take control and stop us from dying. Bad luck really. My examiner looked at me with such pity. He knew I did everything I could to handle it, but technically I'd failed outright. Because we nearly died. Ykno. A difficult situation to be in even as an experienced driver. It sucked. But my REACTION to this failure was very interesting.
I sobbed for days. I was MORTIFIED. You know those scenes in films where someone gets dumped and they just mope about for days acting really slummy and wallowing in the bath filled with the tears of their own self pity. That was me. Not only had I failed a really expensive driving test that I was now terrified of repeating but I had failed for the first time, ever, in my whole entire life. And it felt shit.
I felt like... a human being. I felt normal. I felt humbled.
And I HATED it. Precious me had finally come back down to the ground with a bump and FAILED. No longer was I perfect. No longer could I sit there with a smug sense of satisfaction looking down on everyone from lofty heights. I was... just like everyone else.
It took me two years to grow the guts to retake that test, and of course I passed. I passed with 3 minors. But I learnt something very important because I failed.
The Pressure of Perfectionism
So even though I had indeed gone around believing I was untouchable for a lot of my life, there was actually a very deep paralysing fear attached to it. The fact that deep down I knew that one day I WOULD make a mistake. That I HAD to fail at some point. Statistically it would be impossible to AVOID it... but when was it coming and what would I fail at?
You know when gangsters threaten people like 'watch your back- you won't know when I'm coming for you, but I'm coming for you'. That was my life. Every day. 'Would this be the day I screw up?', 'Can I afford to screw up today?', 'How badly am I going to screw up?', 'How many people are going to laugh at me and celebrate the fact I've FINALLY been knocked off my pedestal?'.
Of course I imagined it far worse then it would be. Of course it haunted me. Of course it made me more cautious, more perfect and more BORING.
Today I had the privellge of making my first mistake in 10 years since passing my driving test.
I hadn't deliberately gone out of my way to stay perfect, I am naturally a high achiever (much to my surprise) so I do really push myself to do things right, but since failing my driving test I did learn the importance of not taking things so seriously and learning the value in failure and screwing up and apologising. Yet even with that, my personality had allowed it grow into a monster again.
I hadn't screwed up yet.
I hadn't ploughed my car into a wall, yet.
I hadn't caused an accident, yet.
I hadn't set fire to my engine, yet.
I hadn't driven into the Thames, yet.
And so on. It was difficult. It was painful. Every time I got in that car I was carrying around this time bomb of emotional and maybe physical pain. Perfectionism, intentional or not, was hurting me. Every, single, day.
Today I misjudged a roundabout.
A road I know very well caught me by surprise and someone did something I didn't expect. I assumed incorrectly. I pulled out at the wrong time and nearly hit him. I didn't. I'm a good driver and stopped in time.
But he beeped me.
Right there in the middle of my village. One single short... BEEP!
Big fucking whoop right? No one exactly died did they? But this WAS a big deal for me. I HAD DONE SOMETHING WRONG.
So I did what any good BMW driver would do and I stuck my fingers up at him and told him to get off my case... ONLY JOKING. Hahahahaha. No. I put my hands up, surrendered, and mouthed 'I'm SO sorry', shaking my head sadly. And you know what happened? He accepted my apology, he drove off and then so did I. The. End.
That was it. Nobody punched me. The sky didn't fall in. I didn't suddenly become naked and have people standing around me pointing and laughing. Life went on.
Driving away I was relieved.
Relieved that of course nobody was hurt but that actually, I could release that pressure I'd been under for 10 years of not making a mistake. I was now off the hook. I could now relax and know that if I do it again, if I scratch my car, if I reverse into a fence post... it's all okay. Sure it's annoying but it's not the worse thing I could ever do or be. If anything it means I'm just like everyone else and I'm allowed to make mistakes. It's OKAY to make mistakes. It's IMPORTANT AND HEALTHY to make mistakes.
Well that was FASCINATING Lianne. Wtf this got to do with art then?
I'm sat here looking at my easel thinking I have no idea if my next painting will turn out okay.
My creativity is a place where I need to allow myself permission to make mistakes every damn second, actually, no, it's more important then that; I thrive on making mistakes every damn second. My best self comes from mistakes. And yet there I was day in day out, over analysing how straight my parking was in the pursuit of avoiding mistakes when people like my husband are driving up walls and braking so hard their engine falls apart (oh the stories he could tell).
How is it that I can allow myself to make mistakes with my art but not with other things in my life?
Well... maybe that's what art is for?
Nobody dies if you muddy your watercolours. Nobody has a £700 repair bill if you tear your paper.
Maybe art making and creativity is a really safe, incredible place where we should practice learning the value of making mistakes without really hurting ourselves or others... so we can begin to tentatively take more risks in real life? Maybe in art making we can start to learn how to accept our failings: 'yup, that sucked', 'wow, I'm not doing that again- let's try this instead'. And most importantly.... forgiveness.
When we accept that things haven't gone to the best of our abilities or we've let ourselves down it's so easy to start rattling off self loathing. I know that I find it much easier to say to myself, 'Lianne, you've screwed up that drawing today- it's okay, but just accept it'. Compared to smacking someones wing mirror off, but they ARE the same thing, the same feeling. By teaching myself how to cope with making mistakes through my art, I teach myself how to make mistakes in real life too. Without shame. Without anger. So I can apologise properly. So I can stay humble. So I can try again tomorrow and do better. To LEARN from my mistakes. To heal the people I hurt with my mistakes, including me.
So dude on the roundabout.
I am REALLY sorry. I didn't see you there and I'm so glad I stopped in time and didn't hurt you. I hope I didn't frighten you. I hope you have forgotten the moment now and aren't carrying any anger around with you because you did not deserve that this morning. I will try better tomorrow. Thank you SO MUCH for your lesson.