Monday, 22 June 2009

The Learning Curve

Someone suggested recently that I should be clearer from the start of things what it is I’m hoping to say by the end. Good advice, but sadly I find it almost impossible to explain what I’m actually trying to say in a few well-constructed sentences, choosing instead to reiterate main themes, highlight key facts while introducing several underlying trends and include a bullet-point summery before reaching the climatic closing paragraph.

More problematic is that I also employ this style in conversation, and can then spend several hours after a particularly rambling exchange in complete disbelief that I still haven’t learnt how to chat. Or at least just copy the style of the person I’m talking to.

But a thing I have recently learnt is that I don’t learn from experience. And I now have enough experience to know that this is a fact. In the early hours of Sunday morning I fell off a garden chair at a friend’s birthday party on to my face, literally. I woke up later on Sunday with a black eye, an unsightly graze across my cheek and a split lip – along with really painful knees, presumably from crawling across the patio to find a stable object to use to haul myself upright. Mortifying.

This was a social chatting scenario I was nervous about. The party was hosted by someone I love, and attended by people I can only ever avoid until the school bell rings at 9.10am the next day. It was a party I wanted to attend as an adult. Instead, I drank a vat of Caipirinha and fell on my face.

I know that not learning about alcohol is sort of the exact point of alcohol. But the whole sorry incident represents the fact that, although I spend most of my waking life worrying about how to learn from my mistakes and not constantly fall on my face, metaphorically, I still do it. Definitely more than most I’m sure.

So this week I’m going to work on restraint. I was re-writing some copy this morning for a client, and when I emailed it back I included a covering letter, explaining that it was ‘a little chattier and more emotional’ than the original. Which I instinctively wanted to follow with the words ‘a bit like me’. Brilliantly, I didn’t, which I’m taking as an early indicator of having learnt something. Two steps forward, one huge plunge onto the patio backwards.

1 comment:

  1. The Nanna Diaries

    OK learning from mistakes. Five teenage girls go away for 7 days; months are spent in planning, Facebook is alive with the sound of anticipation and lists upon lists are compiled.
    Remember, we sagely say to all of them,as a group and individually, don't ever split up as you did once before. Remember, we say, how the left-alone felt and how the rest of you squirmed with remorse. Well, no prizes for guessing. It happened again and so 3 chastened girls are now heading home full of tears and panic attacks and the remaining 2 are holding out on their own;all vowing never to speak to each other again (as you do). We know they will love each other again; we know that they will leave each other again; we know that they will look at the photos and remember only the good times; but not yet.

    I think we only learn from a build-up of experiences and yet we expect to learn from just the one. As a person on whom mortification and humiliation are visited on almost daily bases, I have such sympathy for patio falls and campsite falling outs. But we have to fall and fall again; from each lesson we may learn a finger nail or postage stamp sized growth but mainly we just soldier on.

    I will welcome back my own little traveller who at least tried to get away and I will remind her (and myself) of my constant forays with stupidness and danger at her age and know that she has the benefit of learning from both her own mistakes and mine.

    As will your children learn from your mistakes and theirs despite your best attempts to ensure that they don't make any!