A few days ago I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor on Netflix and was deeply moved, especially by this section on mistakes. I can definitely remember as a child wondering if I was a mistake because there were times when I didn’t seem to be able to fit in, or get what was expected of me, and people didn’t seem to get me or appreciate me.
Exploring this in a couple of groups I’m part of, I’ve seen that this is a very common experience with different flavours to it.
Reflecting further on it, I was thinking about what I read in Francis Weller’s book The Wild Edge of Sorrow about how in traditional cultures children were sung into conception and then as they started to grow as children, the tribe would be sitting with the question, “what unique gift will this child bring into the tribe?” In other words, the culture had an expectation and a celebration of uniqueness and difference.
What a contrast to our culture where there is an expectation of standardization and being measured against an ideal (100% test scores) which almost nobody achieves. What I think I experienced as a child was a sense that I couldn’t follow this script that was being handed to me – it wasn’t me. And while I could try to pretend, I would never match up to the expectations being laid on me and would always feel a failure. No wonder this feeling of “being a mistake” is so common!