I found this quote that reminds me of a life-changing moment I experienced many years ago. At the age of 19, I landed an awesome job working with a professional ballet theatre touring company and school in downtown Toronto.
I arrived with only typing, spelling and grammar skills but I soon learned how to use a computer, maintain an accounting ledger, make payroll, balance receipts, put together promotional materials, and much more — they taught me everything I needed to know to manage an arts office.
I loved it!
A woman named Pegi supervised my work. She was around the same age as my mother and we developed a special friendship. I had never met a woman quite like Pegi before. She was strong and independent and could become very aggressive in some situations — tough as nails. At the same time, she was very tender hearted and caring, and could be moved to tears when she witnessed something cruel or her feelings got hurt.
I really admired her and hoped one day to become the kind of woman she was. Throughout the years I’ve often found myself in situations where I didn’t know what to do or how to respond and every time I ask myself, “What would Pegi do? How would she deal with this? What would she say?” She’s helped me come through many sticky situations.
Pegi was my mentor and personal role model at a time when I was struggling to form my own identity and build my own life independent of my family. I’m very thankful she was there for me. There is one day I remember in particular that truly changed my life.
Before the days of Windows working on a PC was a complicated process. All our software packages were DOS-based programs written specifically for us to use to maintain our records. I think the boss had a friend who would whip up these little programs fairly inexpensively for her. To top this all off, our computer was a clone, a brand name nobody had ever heard of before nor since. The word buggy comes to mind but really doesn’t do the system justice — this computer was beyond buggy!
But once you figured out the billion little ticks in the system, it worked okay. You just had to be extra careful and stay sharp so you wouldn’t lose everything and have to begin again.
Anyway, one day while working on this dinosaur of a computer I wasn’t paying enough attention and lost everything. I’m talking weeks worth of work disappeared into the bottomless pit and there was no way to undelete and get it back.
I was so upset!
Not only was I a little overwhelmed by the idea of doing all that work again, but I was also worried that Pegi would think I was stupid for making a mistake. Not being one to dilly-dally around in crises, I immediately started re-entering the data muttering to myself the entire time,
“Whacked out system!”
“What kind of a crazy computer is this anyway?”
“Can’t hit z and x at the same time — Sheesh! Who ever heard of anything like that?”
“How are you supposed to be effective working on a system like?”
“You would think we could get —“
“Kellie!” Pegi chimed in rather sharply.
I recognised that tone. It was THE tone, the one that meant I was in trouble — Oh no, now she’s going to tell me how stupid I am for making a mistake, I thought.
But then something unexpected happened.
“Whose fault is this?” she asked.
“Mine,” I whispered.
“Exactly,” she said. “Accept responsibility.”
And in that moment something clicked and it all made sense. My whole life flashed before my eyes and I saw all the mistakes I had made and all the times I avoided accepting any responsibility by complaining about the circumstances. Suddenly, I understood that making mistakes was okay, part of being human.
I hadn’t realised it before but never in my life had I ever admitted that anything was my fault.
I felt like two cents. I disappointed Pegi and got a reprimand not because I made a mistake, but because I hadn’t accepted responsibility for my mistake. My feelings were hurt. I felt embarrassed she had noticed this flaw in me and called me on it. But I wouldn’t erase that moment from my history for anything. I was changed that day, and for the better.
Here’s the quote that reminded me of this day and inspired me to share this story with you:
“Don’t blame others for your failure, be fully accountable for your own life. If others are to blame then you have given them control.”
— Bob Perks, Speaker and Author
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