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Seems like it’s been a week of high profile apologies. Some reluctant, some heartfelt. Me? I’m always happy to admit when I’m wrong. Wait a second. HA! No. More like crushed, humiliated, feeling very tiny and never wanting to try anything again or ever even think about leaving the house. Not happy, no. But admitting it does ultimately make me feel a lot better than standing over something that’s wrong, just to maintain my own notional rightness.
Rightness. Sounds almost sore. And it often is. It hurts the person who needs to be right a lot more than being wrong.
Wrong. So wrong it’s right. “I’m wrong.” Say it. Try it. Taste its bittersweet salty goodness on your tongue. It usually isn’t as bad as you think.
At school, we’re taught that being right gets us gold stars, rewards. It gets us approval and that’s great. Approval’s nice. But it’s also fleeting. You will be wrong some other time (I AM USUALLY WRONG SO YOU MIGHT NOT EVER BE BUT YOU PROBABLY WILL) and when that happens you’ll crave the approval. You’ll do anything to get it. That’s a scary place to be.
I get people shouting at me online all the time about how wrong I am. As – as far as I’m concerned – I’m really only spouting opinions into the void on there, that’s fine. They’re only my opinions and I’m putting them out there like it’s my own backyard. I’m not dragging anyone past it, I’m not forcing them to read my neither-good-nor-bad-just-mine opinions, I’m 100% not charging anyone for them or getting a wage to cover their formation. So I ask these people to unfollow, mute or block. Why, oh why would you keep swinging past my page if you think I’m such a giant shit? (Their opinion. And fair play.) That’s terrible masochism altogether. I would also advise against plunging an open wound into a sackful of salt, but that’s just my opinion.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve been wrong. CAN’T AND WON’T cos it’s much too embarrassing. Yes, ego; need to be right is always ego. Splash of entitlement, too, plus the human fact that we all hate feeling very tiny and humiliated. But it’s ego and entitlement that lead us the wrong way in the first place. They stop us from, say, examining privilege; we pretend it doesn’t exist because ‘we’re not bad people and we mean no harm’. But despite our best efforts, we can and do harm others. Everyone makes mistakes.
Some of my mistakes have been poor choices. Some have been accidents. Some have borne of feelings of despair or loneliness. Knocking on a door that’s long-since closed because I still have feelings and am overcome with selfish sorrow. Drinking too much because I feel bad and like I’m owed more than that badness. Using racial or other epithets when singing along with the radio, or retelling stories onstage because it ‘wasn’t me saying them’. I know better now. I try. I still fuck up. But I try.
Nobody’s perfect, and I’m less perfect than most. I get frazzled and cranky. I forget people’s names. I take things personally (especially if they’re personal. You’d be amazed at how people feel entitled to debate your life once you open a bit of it up). It’s why, since campaigning for repeal of the 8th amendment, I haven’t formally joined any groups. If someone has a personal go at me, I’m not one of those amazing people who can ignore and fly above it. I need to have my say, if only to show them I’ve seen them and am now about to forget them. Thing is, I’m not looking for votes; only the opinions of my loved ones count.
I have plenty of work to do, in my personal life alone. I’m only learning about my own white privilege, through the patience of my fella and others. (Let’s not even start to list the other bits of privilege I need to examine or we’ll be here all day. I have tons.) I bite my tongue more these days, in the realisation that other people might not be doing that same self-examination, not asking themselves the same tough questions. I try to be kind, because those tough questions are hard to face. It’s never easy to say ‘I’ve hurt you, even if I didn’t intend it. I’m sorry and I want to make good on it in future.’
Just before saying it, I once again feel very tiny. My cheeks glow red with the embarrassment of both the memory of the mistake and in anticipation of the humble pie I’m about to eat. But then I eat it. And it turns out to be kind of delicious.