Make mistakes by doing things your friends wouldn’t do.
While they kiss faintly embarrassing boys, you have sex with your ex-boyfriend who already hated you for breaking his heart. Afterwards, hate yourself a little bit, try and justify, straighten out all that damn inconvenient cognitive dissonance that is wrecking your head. Curl up in a small ball on your bed, let slip tears like inappropriate secrets, try and think of all the ways to damage control the damage you wreaked on yourself. Tell your friends how bad you feel, but lie to them a little, explain that it wasn’t you who went looking for it, it was him, yes you should have said no, you agree about that, but you didn’t and you just have to move on. Hope they don’t start judging you for this, the umpteenth bad choice.
Make mistakes by doing things you wouldn’t do.
When you think about the kind of person you are and want to be – you know, that sophisticated, intelligent person who doesn’t hurt people or do stupid things – when you think about that person, choose the precisely opposite action that they would do, and do that. You’re going to regret it immensely afterwards. But at least it’ll teach you that elusive goal of having no regrets. That’s a positive, right? A positive to your bad choices?
Make mistakes by trying to be young.
YOLO is a ridiculously tired saying, but the basic premise of living, of enjoying yourself, of creating memories to mull over when you’re old and grey and can’t knock back more vodka than your liver knows what to do with – that’s an intriguing one. If we lived each day without doing, if we let hours dribble away into TV and surfing Facebook, what would we look back on, talk about, when our bodies have slowed down, our freedom has snuck away? Make mistakes by trying to claim your youth, hold it tight-knuckled to your chest, whisper ‘I fucked more boys than anyone I know, I destroyed relationships that didn’t need to be destroyed, I hurt myself’, smile that at least you’ll have stories to tell that won’t involve bridge.
Make mistakes out of fear.
Fear of growing up, fear of commitment. Fear of other people and their lives and their intensely delicate feelings, so easily thrown up in disarray. End things with that boy who was lovely, due to your intrinsic fear of settling down. Sleep with that other one, due to your fear of being alone. Human, we hold a knot of intricate fears, conflicting with each other, warring in the deepest spaces of our souls. Make mistakes based on whichever fear is most predominant that day. Make the mistake of investing too much too early, and losing them. Feel the hurt. Make the mistake of placing too much weight in a friend’s mistake; forget they might have forgiven you. Lose friends; someday realise the stupidity of such a judgement and try and get them back. Succeed, or fail. Eventually, you will realise the absurdity of such fears, the dead-weight of them around your ankles, dragging you down from the skyline of the person you are supposed to be. Slowly, over many accumulated mistakes fossilised around you, clamber up and up, towards your own personal ideal.
Make mistakes for your own reasons, or refuse to need reasons.
Learn from them or don’t; all of it will change you. Each successive error places a little scar upon you, a jagged realisation of what you must do the next time, to feel something else. Make mistakes to feel human, to feel the darkest clot of shame in your throat, to feel anger or sadness congealing in puddles in your chest. Make mistakes for the experience, for the understanding of the things you are capable of, your own blackest corners and most dangerous flaws. It may feel utterly horrifying now, but someday – 10, 20, 65 years later – you will look back, secure in the person you have become, and be glad.