Learning from our mistakes never gets easy

Mistakes teach good lessons in life. Embarrassing mistakes teach unforgettable lessons. Two mistakes in the previous issue of Currents taught me one unforgettable lesson–don’t trust my own brain–and one good lesson–trust my brain only. An oxymoron? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

The first mistake, the embarrassing one, pointed out rather agitatedly by an 11-year-old member of Hobe Sound Elementary School’s The Eagle Times newspaper staff (and my granddaughter) Devon Clowdus, was the misspelling of Stuart attorney Lauri Goldstein’s name. The name was not misspelled, though; it was changed to Lauri Feinstein. To my knowledge, no Lauri Feinstein exists anywhere in Martin County, Fla., other than in this one particular Hobe Sound Currents newspaper story about Lauri Goldstein’s support of the D.A.R.E. program.

If you read the story closely, however, the real Lauri Goldstein is present all right–written inside the story (along with more Feinsteins) that is printed beneath the headline trumpeting the Lauri Feinstein name, which lies directly below the photo of one of the screen-printed Lauri Goldstein T-shirts presented to every D.A.R.E. graduate in Hobe Sound (and probably elsewhere, too). The wrong name printed in a 30-point tall headline takes the mistake to an apogee that makes it not only unforgettable, but achingly indelible. My decision to change her name came after one of those 2am half-asleep, half-awake epiphanies that usually inspire creativity or uncover truths or save you from making mistakes. Usually.

An orange neon sign inside my brain had abruptly flashed “Feinstein,” jarring me instantly awake, in time to stop my computer from sending the last of the newspaper’s electronic files to the printer. Whew. Relief floated over me like a fuzzy blanket on a cold night as I fixed all those mistakes, as I changed every Goldstein to Feinstein. No doubts arose, not even a tiny whisper in my ear to double-check, to triple-check that spelling. After all, how wrong could a neon sign be?

Two days after suffering abject humiliation for committing an easily preventable mistake, that neon signed flashed again, but this time I remembered why it was there in the first place. It had been my mnemonic for the correct pronunciation of Ms. Goldstein’s name. “It’s Gold-STEEN,” the publicist had admonished, not Gold-STINE, as I had said. Oops. I knew Fein-STEENs and Gold-STINEs; therefore, just before we met–to remember how to say properly, “I’m so glad to meet you, Ms. Gold-STEEN”–up went the orange, neon Fein-STEEN, right across my forehead. Apparently, it’s tattooed there. The lesson learned: never, ever trust my brain solely.

The second error came after my research into the status of the development application for Olympia Plaza, which lead like a pulled thread to the Polo Club, the Canopus Sound project, Hobe Grove, Hobe Sound Village, and others. The nomenclature, the jargon, the layers upon layers of councils, agencies, departments, divisions, the PUDs, the FLUMs, Growth Management Plan–a maze of governmental agencies and regulations–intimidated me. After having lived previously in a county with only one zoning officer, during a time that my brain cells were much younger, I doubted that I understood enough to write fairly and accurately. My brain simply rebels now at learning anything new.

After a few visits to state and county employees and officials, I had a new understanding of some of the facts. Only later did I discover that I’d not found that information, because what they’d told me was not entirely accurate. Lesson learned: My thinking may at times be fallible, but my own brain operates without an agenda. Any mistakes I make from now on will be completely, unabashedly my own.