Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:02 PM on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let's face it, mistakes happen

Every error presents opportunity to learn something new and says today I'll do better than yesterday

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


 

McKibben Jackinsky

You don't have to fish to be excited about the Homer Winter King Tournament. Anyone who has dropped a hook into the water, been out on Kachemak Bay or eaten fresh fish is subject to fishing tournament jitters.

Drawing the straw that meant I covered Sunday's tournament wasn't a bad thing. I had fun throughout the day photographing fish, talking to fishermen, watching prizes be awarded and scurrying back to the Homer News to quickly get a story on the website so readers would know the results.

Monday morning, before coming to work, I turned on my home computer to see if anyone had read the story and was pleased to see several readers had not only read it, but taken time to leave responses. I was mystified, however, that they repeated the same comment: 2012.

Reading the story I'd so proudly posted the night before, I finally understood their response. In my eagerness to get fishermen's and boats' names, fish weights and cash prizes noted correctly, I'd mistakenly written 2011 instead of 2012.

Argh.

Webster's first definition of "mistake" is to understand or perceive wrongly. The dictionary doesn't determine the importance of a mistake by the number of times a person is correct, the embarrassment that comes from being wrong, the self-condemnation a mistake sets off or the vows to be more careful in the future. Nor does it take into account the effect mistakes have on others.

Some have horrific consequences. Some take a financial toll. Some can wipe away a longed-for dream. Some are embarrassing. Some are laughable. All are opportunities to learn. Nonetheless, mistakes are mistakes.

Early in my writing career, a story I did for a business magazine contained an error that understandably upset the individual about whom I'd written. I offered to do whatever was needed to appease the individual and redeem myself in the eyes of the magazine's editor. The editor silenced my apologies by telling me she once wrote an article detailing an individual's brave battle against a life-threatening illness, only to discover after publication she had referenced the wrong illness.

Then there's a musical group I saw perform in Seattle. One of the musicians danced enthusiastically as he played and sang. Within short time, the audience became aware the musician had mistakenly overlooked a small detail before going on stage: ensuring his pants were zipped. The wilder he danced, the more apparent the mistake became and the louder the crowd cheered. When the song finally ended, his bandmates alerted him of the situation. He blushed, turned his back to the crowd, zipped his pants, turned back around and continued to entertain with his music.

One spring day, as my daughter, Jennifer, was walking home from classes on the University of Oregon campus, she was thrilled to note the effect of the warm sun. It seemed to her that overnight the student body had replaced warm winter clothes with shorts, T-shirts, sundresses and, as in her case, skirts. More importantly, it seemed to have brightened everyone's mood. Without fail, each person Jennifer passed was smiling. It wasn't until she got home she realized the back of her skirt was tucked into her underwear. She didn't refuse to leave her home after that. Instead, she chose to let the wardrobe mistake on her part be a funny story to share with others.

Audrey Russell, a Homer Middle School student, recently took second place in the state spelling bee. She didn't cry about misspelling "therapeutant" incorrectly or how that mistake caused her to miss being the state champ. Instead, she focused on advancing that far in the competition and her hopes to be back in the competition next year.

Years ago I woke up on the day of an important job interview to discover my mistake at internalizing the stress of getting the job. My face had morphed into something resembling a hothouse tomato. In addition to being bright red, it was swollen to the point of my eyes being mere slits. I threw myself at the mercy of a doctor who gave me one and then another injection of an antihistamine, hoping to reverse the effect of my self-imposed stress.

When it became clear the color and the swelling weren't going to disappear by the time of the interview, daughter Jennifer offered excellent advice.

"Slap on your makeup and go do your best," she said.

I did. And I got the job, one whose benefits included paying for my college education.

Monday morning, as I read and finally understood the website comments and then received emails also pointing out my mistake, I was horrified and embarrassed. I struggled to put my mistake into perspective. I apologized.

Then I slapped on my makeup and, once more, vowed to do my best.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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