Today I went to the Oakland Museum with a friend for a quick day trip. As much as I love my job, I also love exploring different parts of the area. I hadn’t been to the OMCA in many years, and was looking forward to seeing it. The museum is divided into levels, featuring an art gallery, natural sciences exhibit, gardens, and a walkthrough of California’s history. History is one of my favorite topics, and I really enjoyed taking a “trip through time” and seeing all the great artifacts and hands-on exhibits. We tried our hand at braiding leather like rancheros, played checkers on the couch of a retro living room, and hung out in a fifties-era diner listening to music from a jukebox. All in all, it was a great day, and a cheap one at that. Entrance for visitors under 18 is only around seven dollars, which is a steal considering the vast array of things to look at.
That is, until I missed the parking meter by 15 minutes and ended up with a 60 dollar parking ticket.
It was a rough way to end a good trip, and as soon as I saw the ticket, I started to beat myself up in my head.
How could you be so dumb? You should’ve bought more time. And you shouldn’t have lost track of time in the first place! What a waste of money.
Then I took a step back. So I’d made a mistake- did the world end? Did it negate all the good of the day? It’s not like my car was towed or I was pulled over for reckless driving, and I could afford to pay the fine. I took a few deep breaths, swiped the ticket off my windshield, and smiled at my friend, “That sucks, huh?”
What more could I say? I wasn’t going to lie and say it was a great way to end the day, but I could acknowledge it and move on. Holding a grudge over the ticket or beating myself up over the mistake wouldn’t change anything but my memory of the day. Would I rather remember the fun I had in the museum, or the fact that I got a ticket? Would I rather enjoy the ride home and hang out with my friend, or stew over the fact that I’m 60 dollars poorer?
Here’s the thing about life- it’s never 100%. No one has ever had a day that’s gone entirely right or entirely wrong. Even the most perfect days have their slip ups, and sometimes it’s just spilling coffee on your shirt or forgetting your water bottle at home. Some days it’s bigger than that (like getting a ticket or fighting with a friend), but it’s never your entire day. It’s only how you choose to react to the situation at hand that dictates your experience.
I used to beat myself up all the time over little mistakes. It was a running dialogue in my head that was like a little devil on my shoulder commenting on everything I did or said. You sound so dumb when you say that. They don’t really want to hang out with you. You should have dressed up more. You should have known the answer to that. You’re not smart enough, pretty enough, tall enough, big enough, small enough, fast enough. You’re not enough.
Consider this- how long would you want to hang out with the person above? How long would you be friends with someone who beats you up over the tiniest infractions? Hopefully, not very long. So why would we talk to ourselves that way?
So I’ll fully admit that I messed up. I didn’t pay for enough parking, or I didn’t keep track of time well enough, or I should have been more responsible. But that doesn’t mean something is wrong with me. I’ll pay for my mistake, learn my lesson, and, most importantly, move on. Because that’s what life is about.