Life is Like This
I recently—finally—finished the second edition of A Preparation Guide for the Assessment Center Method, Charles C. Thomas Publishers. (Assessment Centers are processes often used in public safety promotional testing and there is far more to being prepared for them than many people realize.) Michael Thomas, Editor-In-Chief, had been gently encouraging me to finish the second edition since, oh, about 2006. By 2012 I felt quite guilty and in February, 2013, I essentially rewrote the whole thing.
A 38 MB document with 3 MB of text. In the process of rewriting the book I changed headings, styles, chapters, table of contents, bold to italics, italics to bold, lists to text, text to lists and rewrote some chapters several times. As I worked, my Word program became slower and slower and froze up repeatedly. I blamed my old computer. Finally, the document looked perfect! I felt elated as I saved the last tweaked page. Then, I noticed that my document was 38 MB! That couldn’t be right!
I cut and pasted each chapter into another document. The sum of all the chapters was 3 MB. When I looked at the Properties of the remaining blank document I saw that it was 0 pages, 0 paragraphs and 0 characters, but those 0 items totaled 35 MB.
What went wrong: At some point, “Track Changes” had been checked on that document. In addition, in the process of making changes but not closing the document correctly on a few occasions, the file had become corrupted. The result was that the page on the screen was blank and the Properties information showed no text, but underneath it all, behind the scenes in that document, there was 35 Megabytes of stuff and things. It was errors I thought I had eliminated and poorly written text that I certainly did not want to be part of my perfect document. I still have that blank bunch of junk in a file folder, as a reminder about myself and those with whom I communicate every day.
The junk and corruption behind the pages of your life. Benjamin Franklin once said he would live his life from beginning to end in the same general way. Then, he added, “All I would ask should be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the first.”
Many of us spend our time trying to rewrite, edit, improve and correct our lives. We swear to clean up our act and move forward in a better way—and often we do. But, we can’t un-check the “Track Changes” button in our bodies and brains. It’s all there, behind the scenes, often slowing us down and freezing us up and we don’t even know why. Even when we correct mistakes, something is left behind.
We’re all big messes. The same thing is true in the lives of those with whom we interact. We see one thing but underneath is something quite different. We can’t know what is underneath, but it is at least good to remind ourselves regularly that it is there. My friend, Jeff Adams, pastor of Graceway Church in Kansas City, Missouri, often says, “We’re all pretty much big messes and it’s a wonder God loves any of us.”
We are millions or billions of Megabytes of errors, corrections, junk and corrupted material, hidden by tidy margins, nice headings and carefully edited text.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to his daughter, after she told him how a mistake from her past was still haunting her:
Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; but get rid of them and forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, and you should never encumber its potentialities and invitations with the dread of the past. You should not waste a moment of today on the rottenness of yesterday.
I agree with that sentiment, for the most part. But, Mr. Emerson never used Word.
Type the story of your life carefully–this isn’t a draft version.