Return to Quiet Revolutionaries

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.