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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Mistakes

Writing for The Aggie is a trip. I encourage you to do it. If you’ve got opinions and a couple hours a week to indulge yourself into thinking you know anything, then this position is for you. At the very least it will force you to articulate your opinions in 20 inches or less. The irony of an opinion column is that none of us know anything. But Elli, if we don’t know anything, how can we know that we don’t know anything?

I don’t know!

But, really. We are all wrong about something, somewhere, sometime in our life. Our wrongs don’t have to be black and white, either. We can be ignorant, confused, ambivalent, unfamiliar, unknowledgeable or just completely misunderstand a situation. There are infinite shades of gray between right and wrong, and there is an entire spectrum of other colors as well. (Consider these the areas that you don’t even know you don’t know about).

That is sort of relieving, though, isn’t it? To know that there is no possible way for us to always be right. Phew! I can stop being so damn hard on myself! I make mistakes pretty often. I’ve been know to fuck up once or twice. It’s alright. It’s not the mistakes that make us who we are; it is how we address them.

I used to believe I could avoid all mistakes, and learning that I can’t has been a struggle. My younger self truly thought that I could avoid making mistakes if I just tried hard enough or was thoughtful enough. I suppose growing up has been like looking through a prism. It’s not a dichotomy of black and white. It’s a rainbow of maybes and sometimes and depends. I’m making more mistakes now, because I am challenging myself more often. Living in the Domes and attending UC Davis has helped me to address difficult issues, examine my discomfort and expose my ignorance.

Doing this work is difficult, but worthwhile. It’s not like being assigned a 20-page term paper for a class you don’t like. That is hard and meaningless. Admitting my mistakes and working toward correcting this is hard and meaningful.

Let’s bring it out of the abstract. Throughout my column, I’ve written about topics that are supposedly alternative. They’ve included cooperative living, menstruation, education reform, herbalism and nudity. Maybe the idea of a naked, menstruating woman shouting about education reform makes you uncomfortable. (Oh dear, did I just describe myself?!)

If the Tri-Cooperatives or Domes make you uncomfortable, ask yourself why. If discussing female reproductive cycles makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why. If politely telling your professor you think his PowerPoint is bullshit makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why. Maybe you don’t have an answer. Maybe you have a very real answer.

Either way, inhabiting that why and inviting in that discomfort can be important. Making mistakes makes me uncomfortable, but asking myself why has helped me to grow as a person. Perhaps asking yourself why nudity conjures uncomfortable thoughts will reveal something to you. Maybe our entire education system makes you uncomfortable, and asking why could probably prove some useful insight and fodder for change.

Perhaps I’ll end my last column with the disclaimer that I don’t know, and I’m still learning of different ways to know. I think I’ve caught on to some ideas that could be pretty great, but then again, they might not. Focusing on dichotomies of right/wrong or good/bad can feel rigid and limiting. In my experience, it’s been far more relieving and inspiring to live in a world of fluid possibility.

To tell ELLI PEARSON she is definitely right or definitely wrong, email her at erpearson@ucdavis.edu.

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