I recently had a truly awful shoot. I was posing for art nudes on a far too public beach, although I was hidden behind a large rock formation. The rocks were a blessing for several reasons, really. Not only did they block line of sight from the beach, but they also gave me something to grab when the high surf came crashing in. I’d been to this location many times before, and I’d never seen waves this rough or wild. I’d also lived around the ocean long enough to recognize the characteristic pull of a riptide as the water surged away from the rocks below me.
So there I was, clinging to the rock, trying not to be seen or swept out to sea. I was working my ass off and cold and wet and worried and frankly miserable. As one particularly energetic wave managed to soak me, I had a realization:
Oh you fucking idiot. You said you weren’t going to do this ever again. You even wrote a blog about it, and proudly posted it to the entire goddamn internet.
Sadly, this is one hundred percent true—in my essay about problems in the modeling industry and why I am no longer modeling full time, I said I would not be taking bookings anymore that violated my boundaries, or put me in physical or legal danger. And yet, I found myself risking both my life and arrest at the same time for the sake of a few photos.
I wish I could say that this was the only time in my life that I had forgotten to listen to advice from my past self, but that would be a blatant lie. I often think of my blog posts as reminders for future me: “Here’s this thing you figured out the hard way! Write it down so that you don’t forget it again. And if it was a struggle for you, maybe someone else out there will find it useful too.”
It’s a noble goal, but I still often make the same mistakes again and again—even when I’ve already figured out and written down the solution. It’s gotten so bad that my partners and friends will mine my blog archives before they give me advice on a problem, just so they can quote myself back to me. After all, who am I most likely to listen to? Sometimes, I even preempt them and do the keyword searches myself.
On those perusals of my past work, I’ve noticed a second, completely different type of being wrong that I’ve apparently also had a lot of practice at. Sometimes I don’t make good decisions, not because I forgot the right answer like during my recent shoot, but because the conclusion I came to in the first place was just flat out incorrect. And worse, I wrote blog posts about those, and also posted them to the entire goddamn internet.
This was honestly one of my biggest fears when I started writing: that I’d be one of those people. You know, somebody that was wrong on the internet. Now I’m in the bemusing situation of having my worst fear come to pass.
It turns out, being wrong does suck. (Although if I’m being completely honest, not quite as much as I had imagined). Sometimes it has immediate consequences, like having a miserable shoot. Sometimes people judge me on what I’ve previously thought, and not what I currently believe. And sometimes I worry that what I currently believe is wrong, too! I will always be changing, and what I think is correct right now will probably be wrong in the future. But at least I think it’s like that for everybody else, too.
I can’t stop being wrong. But through abundant amounts of practice, I think I’ve learned how to be a bit better at it.
The best thing I can do is not fear the inevitable. I’m going to make mistakes. But I find that if I’m afraid of that possibility, I tend to double down on being wrong and hold on for dear life, which is frankly the worst thing that I can do. Better to mess up spectacularly and admit to it and learn and apologize.
And if people are going to judge me on things I’ve grown past? Well let’s just say they definitely are wrong about a thing or two themselves. Like how they judge people. I hope they learn too, and that it doesn’t bite them too hard in the ass.
I also try to remind myself on a regular basis that I am only able to learn the lessons that I’m ready for. I can run across a better idea—hell, angels could come down from the heavens and tell me the meaning of life itself—and it won’t make any sense to me if I haven’t put the work into creating the scaffolding to hold it. Ideas need context, and sometimes it takes time to build that.
For example, I can’t tell you how many times in my adult life I came across the concept of white space under various guises—free time, leisure time, creative play. I read studies on the subject, and I still thought people who practiced it were weird at best, and harmful at worst. It wasn’t until last summer that it finally clicked. And oh boy, was I wrong. So best not to beat myself up now, or I’ll just hold onto current beliefs and it’ll take me that much longer to learn. And who knows how many times I’ll forget it before it sticks.
Now, let’s just hope future me remembers to read this the next time I fuck up.