What kind of person believes that they’ve never fucked up? We’ve all fucked up at one point or another during our lives. What matters is how one deals with it once it’s done.

Are you the kind of person who dwells on it till the end of days and agonizes over what one word you couldv’e changed so that you wouldn’t have hurt someone or made a complete ass of yourself?

Are you the kind of person who realizes the fuck up, owns it, apologizes and moves on. Are you able to let go of the ass-making-moment?

Or are you the kind of person who fucked up once, pretended nothing happened and in order to cling to that lie, continued to fuck-up, sometimes on purpose, and steamroll over other people without ever stopping to acknowledge that you are indeed fucking up way more than you would have if you’d only – just that first time – stopped and said, “I’m sorry.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

One of my earliest memories of fucking up is when I was about nine or ten years old. We used to live on the 1st floor of a two-storey Army accommodation in a small town called Nasirabad. My classmate, a girl named Mala, used to live on the ground floor. She had the longest hair in my entire bus-to-school and even in the entire school. As a child with short hair, I’d been fascinated with all my sardaarni girlfriends who had long, luscious hair in neatly-braided plaits.

Mala had a younger brother – I don’t recall how much younger he was but possibly not more than two or three years. He was a little bully and bullied his way through the bus to school and wherever else he got a chance and the adults weren’t looking. I avoided him for the most part because confrontation made me uncomfortable – I did not know how to confront anyone. Least of all confrontation with a bully. In retrospect, I believe he saw my non-engagement as fear. Playing in the mud and grass one evening, he walked up to me as I stood up to dust my hands on my dress and whacked me with an open full-palm-slap across my face. He ran away in peals of laughter as I stood there, my face getting redder by the second and my eyes stinging with the tears of physical pain and something else that I couldn’t quite identify at that point. Years later, when I encountered that feeling again at another school, I realized it was humiliation.

How I fucked up is that I did not report this incident to anyone. Not my parents, not Mala, not her parents, nobody. And I stopped hanging out with Mala with no explanation. Actually I don’t really remember anything about my relationship with Mala after this incident. I don’t know if we stopped hanging out and / or talking but I’ve often wondered. If we did stop hanging out, did she feel bad or did she move on without so much as a thought? That would’ve been easy because who wants to be friends with someone who her brother could so easily bully? On the other hand, I wonder if she was being bullied by that little prick as well? Army officers from my parents’ generation are notorious for wanting male children so maybe her parents were blind to the bullying?

This incident is almost three decades old and I still think about it and I get angry. I feel like I fucked up and should’ve punched that little shit in his face. What makes me even more irritated is that I let this incident bother me even now. I am unable to let go. I allow it to have power over me even now. Shame-attack on many fronts. I am grateful that at least I am self-aware enough to LOL at it sometimes and stop the thought-train in its tracks.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Another incident, where I actually did fuck up, was much more recent.

About two to three years ago, I was meeting a girl and a guy ( business partners ) about their agency representing me as a blogger. I wanted to explore the idea of hiring them as my “managers”. Enquiry in-flow was insane and I was not being able to keep up with the volume. I had been asking around for any such agencies in India and most of them only represented celebrities and sports people and no one had thought about bloggers yet. I’d discussed work with these two a couple of times over the phone earlier and they sounded worth exploring. A meeting date was set.

We met at a coffee shop at a mall in Delhi. After the initial chit chat about what I do, what they do, etc. they asked me about this recent gig I’d just closed and published on the blog. I was still fresh from a particularly nasty case of having dealt with one of the most unprofessional people I’ve ever worked with and their question triggered an avalanche of emotions and I spewed forth my experience. I bitched about this guy who was supposed to be handling the gig and he was my point of contact and he had been atrociously unprofessional. I ranted about specific incidents from the gig to illustrate. I made it clear that this is not the kind of people or agencies I wanted to work with and that it would be nice to hand over this part of the interaction to my “managers”.

They responded with their own inputs, agreed with my assessment and at one point, I said something to the effect of, “What kind of a person is this guy anyway. If he has kids, I feel bad for his kids. What kind of a father must he be?”

We had been talking about this person referring to him only with first name and we knew his designation and he worked at a well-known agency. I had just made a horribly personal remark. And I did not immediately apologize for it even though I was quite aware of what a wretched, irrelevant-to-the-conversation thing I’d just said. Maybe I was much too angry and happy to poke any kind of cruel fun at this guy.

After a few more minutes, the girl from this duo I was meeting, excused herself to go to the washroom. Once she was out of earshot, the guy, her business partner, turned to me, laughed and said, “By the way, this guy you’re talking about. He’s her husband.”

I had no idea that guy was married or that he actually had two children.

Fuck.

When she came back to the table, I informed her that I had been told he is her husband. I told her that I was terribly sorry for the personal remark I had made but that I stood by my assessment of him regarding his unprofessionalism.

I will forever be confused about not having been told about this personal relationship as soon as I’d launched into my rant. Why did they wait 30-45 mintues before I was told? And I will forever be mortified about the horrible personal remark I made. The shitstorm in my head about what a shameful thing I’d done was unending for weeks. “What kind of a person have you become Naina?” was the governing question in my head. The voices had a field day.

The girl still wanted to work with me but I couldn’t think of a single possible way to make that happen.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I moved on from the self-shame at some point. Moved on enough to start relating the anecdote to friends and family who were going through their own shame shitstorms. Moved on enough to talk about it publicly. Moved on enough to blog about it. Moved on enough to use this incident as a real-life illustration of how not to conduct a business meeting. But not moved on enough to not cringe each time I think about what a complete idiot I’d been. A little bit of self-flagellation goes a long way.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

In my experience, when you fuck up, the BEST thing to do is to publicly say that you fucked up and that you’re sorry and you’re willing to sit and talk about it and make it right. Whether personally or professionally. The chances of you getting fired or of losing a friend are very high. But there are other jobs and other people who can be befriended. If you don’t first admit to your fuck up and apologize, every other job or relationship you build after this will be built on pretense. No matter how important you believe your designation is or how important you believe your status in society is, it will gnaw at you. Unless you’re a sociopath / psychopath, in which case, OMG you’re reading my blog?!

My only cautionary advice is that you must not ask strangers for advice – only speak to your closest friend or spouse or partner when the wounds of your fuck-up are fresh. Give it time. You don’t owe it to anyone to help make a spectacle out of your idiocy. Keep it to yourself, till you’re ready to move on.

 

( Photo by Marianne from Flickr. Link to License. )

Total
51
Shares

1 comment

  1. Apart from photography you also write really well. I love Coming to your blog and miss your logo and Designing blogs.

    We all have done huge blunders in life. Accepting it publicly seem like a good idea. These are life changing experiences and you rightly said we remember them forever.

Comments are closed.