Hi, I’m Sara, and this is Tiny Revolutions, a weekly dispatch of personal writing and links about the art of becoming who you are. Reply anytime, I love to hear from you.
"Walking alone" by hibernophile is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
One morning not so long ago, I left my house to walk my dog, and almost ran right into a distraught little boy. He was around eight or so, a chubby little guy whose sniffles and tears activated whatever trace of the mom there is in me.
“What happened?” I said, diving in as though he were actually my son. There was no time for the remove of a stranger; the kid was alone and clearly needed help.
He responded in kind. “I missed my stop on the bus and I don’t know where I am and I’m late for school and I can’t…” It all came out in a rush.
Poor kid, I thought.
“It’s OK,” I said, “School is just right down the street, and I’m walking my dog that way so we can just go together.”
“I’m such an idiot,” he said. “I wasn’t paying attention and I should know better and I’m always messing up and…”
“Oh no, it’s no big deal!” I put my arm around his quaking little shoulders to try to stanch the meltdown. “I do dumb stuff all the time!”
The sniffling continued unabated.
“Everybody does,” I said. “It happens! But you found somebody to help you and we’re almost to school now and it’s all gonna be fine.”
He really was breaking my heart. I knew that little boy. I was that little boy!
We walked a couple of minutes in silence until we rounded the corner and his school came into sight.
He wiped his nose on his sleeve and steeled his face and he didn’t so much as pause to say thanks as he scurried back into the world he knew. But I got it. He was ready to put that experience behind him and I couldn’t say I blamed him.
I think about that boy every once in while. How at such a young age he was already shaming and beating himself up for his mistakes. How that conditioning had come from somewhere — probably an adult who didn’t know any better. And how there was a critical voice already lodged in his head that’d he’d likely be living with for the rest of his life.
I thought about the kid a lot this week, when I had my own epic screw up. I had failed to realize that my prescription was out of refills until the last pill, which sent me into a spiral of panicked phone calls and a last minute online doctor appointment, which I then missed because I had taken an afternoon nap and forgotten to set an alarm (oof).
“You are entirely too old for this bullshit,” part of my brain said. “You will never get it together.”
But the other part of my brain told me that I was already paying the price for my mistake. I had a massive headache and I was losing hours of my day to getting it all sorted it out. The situation already sucked. Why did I need to pile on?
So that was the part of my brain I chose to listen to. I’ve been the little boy too many times — it was time for me to be the kind and encouraging mom. Not that it was easy (and not that the little boy part of my brain stopped harassing me). But this is how you build resilience. You choose over and over to believe the voice in your head that wants the best for you and knows you’re not your mistakes. Even if it’s hard. Even if you think you don’t deserve it. You do.
On to a few things I found worth sharing this week.
Some teenage YouTubers from Indiana went viral this week for their reaction to hearing Phil Collin’s “In the Air Tonight” for the first time, specifically the part where the drums kick in. Turns out they’ve done a bunch of reaction videos to massive hit songs across genres and decades, and they’re delightful and wholesome and make you feel like you too are listening to the songs for the first time. Here’s one of my favorites, where one of the twins reacts to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Infectious.
Staying on the music front…
The recent Marc Maron podcast episode where he interviews Ice T is one of the better things I’ve listened to recently. Some really insightful stuff about Covid, politics, censorship and activism — plus Ice really puts the music nerd side of himself on display. Highly recommended.
A Tiny Assignment
Are you being the little boy to yourself about something? Is that really necessary? Try letting it go.
Well, y’all, it’s been A WEEK over here. It’s Whitney Houston’s birthday, so I’m headed back to YouTube to watch some of her videos and leave it all behind.
p.s. Share this with someone who also had A WEEK.
Thanks for the insight: This really provides a new framework to think about failure, and I think it’s gonna be quite helpful to me. I too struggle with beating myself up too much and demanding too many things all ay once from myself. I hope you have a good week, and maybe check out my dispatch this Friday, on another, let’s say “cosmic”solution to relieving anxiety I discovered by accident!