Fender bender? YUP. I had one. My first one. In a 12 passenger fleet van that the university owns. First accident since I was 19, first accident in a fleet vehicle.
I WAS MORTIFIED. No one was hurt. Another car and I were both backing up watching a big ol’ truck in our mirrors. Apparently so intently we forgot to watch each other and *bump* we did. Minimal damage to the vehicles, none of my students were hurt, the other driver was more than agreeable, and the university police were right there–parked and waiting (I joke that they knew this was going to happen, but I often see them sitting here as it is a busy spot when classes go in/out throughout the day). I have a bus drivers CDL license from my previous life so I was working to be aware of all things around me, but you know what, just like life, I missed something in my blind spot and made a mistake.
The big lesson here: as a new faculty, you’re going to make mistakes. Lots of them. Some days, you may trip and fall (literally) on a flight of stairs, spilling your iced coffee all down the front of you….not that I would be speaking from personal experience or anything……*grimace*. Other days, you will make a mistake that needs to be taken care of. Perhaps a slip of the tongue, not playing politics quite right, missing an important deadline/meeting, receiving less than spectacular teaching reviews, or whatever it may be. This list could go on for several paragraphs so in the interest of time, I’ll stop. You’re welcome. 😉
How do you bounce back? I’ve read lots of motivational quotes over the years and I’m sure you have too, but let me tell you how I learn from my failures. #1. Admit that I did screw it up. Sometimes it’s easier said than done to really say, “I totally missed/screwed that up.” #2. Apologize. Mean it. Don’t half a** it. Don’t make a joke. Don’t try and cover it with shame or any other emotion. Don’t cry. Just apologize and mean it. #3. Build a bridge and get over it. Again, this one can take about 14 seconds or 14 minutes or 14 days or 14 months…depends on who you are. #4. Don’t keep bringing it up. Nothing will make you look/feel worse than bringing something up that’s done and gone. Odds are you’re making it bigger than it needs to be because we’re often harder on ourselves than others might be. Unless it was something of a HUGE scale that might effect your annual review or something legal; stop talking about it. Build that bridge, go over the bridge, and learn. #5. Try your best to NEVER DO IT AGAIN. Freudian slips happen. Karma happens. Technology fails and makes all of our appts. three hours later sometimes. CHECK YOURSELF. #6. Make jokes later. Way later….Using your failure as a way to learn can be beneficial. Some people really want to hear about that in future job interviews, when you’re advising students, and of course–for personal reasons.
After owning my fender bender, apologizing, filling out the proper paperwork, and taking care of business-the incident is over. Although, my boss did joke that I might not get my ‘standing desk’ due to the insurance deductible.
As someone who believes in karma, I try to be forgiving and hope others have the same kind heart.
And if I may–as a woman: stop APOLOGIZING!!! all. of. the. time….. This is one thing I’m working on each and every day. I don’t know why, but we love apologizing. It rains, ‘gosh, I’m sorry you got wet walking to meet me.’ STOP IT. Instead of saying “sorry,” try, “thanks for being so patient with the weather.” Don’t believe me? Wait a few days and I’ll be posting about that too.
Back on track, let me finish by saying this, mistakes are inevitable. They are unavoidable, but just like you learned when you were a child, how you handle these set backs will help define your character, your coping skills, and can set you up for success later on. No great person in life was successful 100% of the time, so why start now? Mistakes and failure are humbling and can be moments to help you in the long run. Don’t avoid them because of your own fear.
I’ve got to go, not to have another fender bender but I’m sure there are some stairs for me trip up or down…..