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The Benefits of Making Mistakes

Quiet Revolutionary Gayle Aggiss’s Story

I think I have made a mistake. And I really don’t mind.

I am an extreme introvert. Even compared to that of other introverts, my level of introversion stands out. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day I ended up on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, unravelling the secrets of the universe or something. But I digress…

A couple of years ago, I decided to change my life. I went from being a university drop out, working a dead-end job that paid badly and made me feel even worse, to being a graduate working on a master’s degree and teaching English in China. It was a big jump.

A lot of people told me I couldn’t do it in the first place. As introverts, we’re taught there must be a lot of boundaries around the things we do. We aren’t supposed to like being around people very much. We’re timid and quiet. We don’t like being the center of attention. We’re nervous, slow to adapt to new situations and places. And most of all, we will always be upstaged by the louder extroverts that run the world.

Before I decided on this course, I thought about all of these guidelines. And I decided I would do what I wanted anyway. I studied, studied some more, researched my choices, and finally ended up teaching, first in Vietnam and now in China.

I’ve learned that even though I don’t like public speaking, I am perfectly comfortable talking in front of a class. I’ve learned that I adapt very well to new places and people, thank you very much. I’ve learned that I love sitting in cafes in new places, drinking tea and watching the sun set over alien towers of glass and stone.

And I’ve learned that I am still an introvert.

Although I can talk in front of a class and I can interact with my colleagues, parents, and the administration at my school, I can’t do all these things at the same time. My energy levels don’t allow it, and my social energy doesn’t allow it. After a week at work, I want to be by myself for my two-day weekend, and even that time isn’t enough to recharge my batteries to normal levels.

I made a mistake when I chose this job.

And that’s a truly wonderful thing.

Because even though it is a mistake, it has taught me so much that I can’t bring myself to be angry or regretful. My journey to this place has transformed me from a scared, battered mouse into a confident, accomplished woman, who dreams of more and knows she has what it takes to get it. That woman would never have existed if not for the mouse who dreamed of teaching overseas.

Once I left my home, the changes in me and around me accelerated. Learning to get by in a country where I didn’t speak the language, in a completely different culture, taught me confidence and boldness and self-sufficiency that I don’t think I could learn any other way. Not to mention that living overseas was always a dream of mine. The mistake in my path doesn’t take away from the value of living out a dream like that.

I’m nearing the end of my contract now and preparing to go home. And as I look at my life, the one I have now and the one that is stretching out in front of me, there is only gratitude.

Thank you so much, my very beneficial mistake.

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  • Barbara Noa Massey

    I love your story!Thank You for sharing.

  • Alicia Underwood

    “The mistake in my path doesn’t take away from the value of living out a dream like that.” This sentence touched me deeply. I am an actor pursuing a career in Entertainment. Some days I feel like this is a crazy dream that is extremely difficult. But looking back on how I have changed and grown in it, my choices have given me a new sense of self-worth and boldness.

  • PODVRSAN

    This is very encouraging, thanks for sharing. I have always needed time and space to get going maybe too long….but better late than ever.

  • disqus_EzhnGElasD

    Thank you for sharing Gayle. I am also an introvert who managed to jump ship and move to a different company – still within finance industry. I actually made a mistake of moving. I saw the opportunity bit when I was inside this company I am really struggling with everyday stress and the 2 day weekend is not enough to recharge. I am HSP as well and I think it just makes it harder for me to adjust to the new culture and people who I can feel are mostly stressed too I hope I will have the courage to listen to myself and correct this mistake. I admire you for your courage in admitting you made a mistake but still saw the value it gave you.. All the best to you Gayle.

  • Henry Santamaria

    Hola!
    Saludos desde Xalapa!!
    Gracias por compartir tu historia. Lo que me parece muy importante e interesantes es poder ser persistentes en la vida, lo cierto es que lograr cada una de las aventuras a lo largo del mundo siempre sera difícil, el animarnos ya es dejar de lado el temor.
    Me parece que la complejidad con la que nos podemos encontrar en este ir y devenir de la vida, nos puede enseñar muchas cosas, pero lo mas interesantes es pensar en esas cosas desde que enfoques testan partiendo y entonces podemos pensar que el universo nos coloca en una halo de luz, donde las circunstancias y las dinámicas en las que se desarrolla uno, pueden ser parte de lo que yo diría una”travesura del universo”.

    Saludos!!

  • Mary Smith Hansen

    I am an introvert who enjoys others – until I am tired and need to recharge. However, I can speak in front of 1500 people without being nervous. I am a musician who learned to conquer fear to perform. One never knows what talent may lay hidden within the Introvert until the need (or dream) arises. Thanks for your post.

    • Gayle Aggiss

      Exactly, Mary. If it’s just introversion, and not shyness, we can easily talk in front of a crowd and then run away from the socialising afterwards.

  • Banks Peacock

    I’m glad your story overcomes the stereotype that introverts can’t be public speakers. I think introverts bring their strength of thinking about what they are saying to public speaking.

    • I think this misconception comes from people equating introversion with shyness, a trait that this author clearly also has. I am very introverted. I can happily spend weeks on my own without seeing or talking to another human. I hate going to parties where I don’t know people and have to try to make small talk. However, public speaking is fine because I have a reason to be speaking and the people listening are there because they want to hear what I have to say. Two thirds of the year I am an artist and spend time alone in my studio. The other four months I work as a locum veterinarian. Those weeks that I work as a vet are extremely taxing. Again I don’t have a problem talking to clients, but I find it utterly exhausting. On the weekends I prefer to be with me, myself, I.

      • Pam B

        Another veterinarian artist (and introvert to boot) …. there are more of us around then I ever realized! 🙂

        • Good to know! Although I’ve been working so hard on this locum that I’ve had no head space for anything else. I brought all my drawing gear with me and have wanted to do something, but with being sole charge and on call 24/7 when I do have down time I just want to veg out.

          • Pam B

            Personally, I have struggled with it for almost 20 years and am retiring from the profession to spend time on my art because I never was able to strike a balance – the profession always demanded too much. I hope you can find or create the time, or at least make space for it when the locum is done!

          • Actually when I get home I’ll be building my new wardrobes and kitchen pantry cabinets, but I’ve had to put that off for 8 months so can’t wait for that. I’d love to stay in touch Pam – I’m on instagram @martabrysha_artist. Yep, being a vet is an all-in profession. I learned pretty early on that I was a better vet when I wasn’t exhausted and so for a number of years worked 2 days a week. After a while I found it unrewarding in terms of being a vet and a bothersome interruption to my art work. So I decided to locum 16 weeks a year. I prefer sole charge so I get to travel to some amazing remote locations in Australia. You don’t always have all the bells and whistles to work with, but you do get some totally fascinating cases and because of the remoteness you’ve got to work things out for yourself. I only work 8 weeks at a time so I don’t get burnt out. I love it because when I’m a vet I’m totally a vet and when I’m at home I have no work stuff clouding my mind and I get to be an artist full time without interruption. After 20 years I’m not surprised you are retiring. People really don’t understand just how demanding what we do is.

      • Gayle Aggiss

        Hi Blue Wren, it’s true I have been shy all my life. China, and teaching, cured that really fast. I don’t think anyone would call me shy at this stage, but I’m definitely still an introvert. Wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest. I like what you wrote about spending weeks on your own happily. Most introverts just seem to want hours/days, it’s nice to see that others need as long as I do alone.

    • Gayle Aggiss

      We can definitely be good public speakers, as long as we have a purpose and a clear idea of what we’re doing. The only time I fear public speaking now is when I’m expected to ‘wing it’. Those are nightmare words.

  • Gerry Smith

    What a beautiful example and affirmation of the power of openness to both inside and outside. Thanks for sharing.

    • Gayle Aggiss

      Thanks Gerry, being open to life in general is something I have to work on constantly, I think sometimes as an introvert it’s easier to be closed, but not necessarily better.

  • Excellent adventure! So glad you took the opportunity to do this!

    • Gayle Aggiss

      I was really an awesome adventure, and hopefully not my last.

  • Susan Kuhn

    I like that you embrace getting out there and mixing it with life and found your way to make peace with it. We too often are afraid of messiness and just plain living. You inspire me!

    • Gayle Aggiss

      Wow, thanks Susan, that’s so nice to hear. Most of the time I think that life is always messy, even when we run from the things we want, and we should just accept it and direct the messy the way we want.

  • 玉不琢不成器,人不学不知道,拜读了!

  • 真是学无止境!

  • Kris McCrady

    Thank you for sharing! Often, I am very afraid of making mistakes, especially with big life decisions. Your story is a clear demonstration that that fear is largely unnecessary as so much good can come from striving for what you want in life!

    • Gayle Aggiss

      Hi Kris, I think that’s the most valuable thing I’ve learned from the experience, the realisation that it might have been a mistake, but it was a really good one to make. Thanks for the support.