when I feel defined by my mistakes

I’ve never written explicitly about this, but everyone reading this will know that I got divorced when I was barely 23 years old.

How does one end up in a situation like this? People always speculate. We got married too young. We were selfish. We didn’t work hard enough. Whatever. The common thread here is that yeah, mistakes were made. You don’t exactly get in that bucket by making perfect life decisions.

Everybody makes mistakes. Even smart people. Even big mistakes. My mistakes were just… extremely public. My mistakes opened my life up to scrutiny and judgement and gossip.

In the months following this event, I heard (and heard of) people assuming and speculating details, saying negative things about me and/or my ex, questioning my dating life and new relationship. I’m sure it wasn’t a huge topic of conversation (I’m not that important), but it’s something I carried, and it didn’t feel super great.

I could usually have a sense of humor about it all. And being young and divorced in Utah is surprisingly common (hmmm… so weird! such a mystery!!!!), so I knew I wasn’t really alone in this.

But sometimes I’d get a sneaky feeling that I needed to somehow prove to the world that I was still the same happy and healthy person I was before. I was not a trainwreck or going through some weird phase. I was still someone worthy of friendship and support and respect.

But hey self, guess what? This feeling is a very stupid feeling. I can’t, and am not obligated to, explain myself to everyone. To myself and to the people who matter, I am not defined by my past mistakes. All I can do is be kind to myself, laugh off the snarky comments, and continue to live my most badass life.

Everyone, including myself, deserves to feel like they can move forward and past their screw-ups. This mistake might be public, but that doesn’t mean anyone else’s assessment of the situation is in any way relevant.

This whole experience made me way less judgmental. Gossip has never been a huge vice of mine, but I’ve definitely been guilty of performing my own personal speculations and assumptions about others. Now I know that I seriously can’t know a situation unless I actually know it.

It also taught me that I don’t need to prove myself according to the obligations, expectations, or parameters of anyone except myself. It’s given me the guts and the confidence to make many other decisions that have brought me closer to the kind of life I want to live.

Basically, living is crazy. I don’t really believe in destiny, but I do believe that the mistakes we make and the crappy things that happen to us are all part of the experience of living, and we take what we can from them.

This all sounds very cliche, and if you asked me to read these words as a teenager and try to take them to heart, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes. I don’t think it would have been possible for me to learn these lessons unless I actually experienced this, so for that, I am thankful.


8 thoughts on “when I feel defined by my mistakes

  1. My best friend got divorced when we were 21, and the messages I would get from people truly astounded me and actually disheartens me to this day, and I was fairly removed from the situation. The fact that people feel entitled to know about other’s personal lives is a weird thing, maybe social media makes people feel that way. I totally agree with you about learning my lesson about gossiping. I feel like I want to go apologize to anyone who I ever hurt by making assumptions. Anyway, I’m sorry people are dicks.


    1. yikes :( yeah, same here. I think it’s sorta just a reality of life sometimes, and it was happening long before social media. although social media I think does make people feel more involved/knowledgeable in each others’ lives even though they really aren’t. thanks tho.


  2. Oh man, that title. Makes me feel a lot of things. I’m happy it sounds like you aren’t letting that happen anymore. And also grateful for what you said at the end – if the hard stuff is what helps me to grow and become better then I guess I’ll take it.


  3. When I was younger (not that I’m that old right now… only 25, but younger, younger) I used to judge people for different things and I think a lot of that came down to naivety and inexperience. As I’ve come to experience more of life I realize that I can’t really judge anyone because their experience and what they know is completely different from what I know. Generally speaking I believe people make the best decisions they can based off of where they are in life at that present moment. Does it really matter ‘where’ we are on the path of life, so much as where we’re headed? Life is full of mistake making and that’s ok. I read this quote a couple weeks ago that said good judgement comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgement! How true that is. We’re all human, and that’s ok.


  4. I really like your blog! It seems like you are really enjoying your life. So great! I guess I chose the wrong job ;) working and living like you seems really pretty awesome! Every time I read one of your posts I think, I need to be more Leah :)
    I do sometimes feel defined by my mistakes, not only by others, but also by myself, which is really frustrating… why focus on mistakes, instead of all the things one did right? well I need to carry on and learn and do things differently the next time, or the time after that, haha i can be a slow learner ;) I also do like the good and bad judgenment quote!

    I really should just post the comment now, but … I’m curious… sorry… but what happend?Why were your mistakes “extremely public”?


    1. hey Anna! thank you! haha, that’s really kind of you to say. I definitely love working in tech and the flexibility it gives me!
      so true about just moving on and learning, that’s the best thing you can do. anything else is just a waste of energy.
      I just meant that in the case of a divorce, it’s a very public thing that everyone in your life knows about, because everyone came to your wedding and down the road sees that you’re no longer together. divorce is never pleasant and while in my case it was the right thing, it’s still fraught with mistakes and sadness and is overall a difficult thing. I got married really young and I’m sure lots of people see that as a “public mistake”, and the divorce is a big “I told you so” moment. sorry if anything here sounded overly vague!


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