Move Over, Carrie: On Second Chances

May 31, 2015

I remember the day he said it. The light thumb finger pressing against my chin, both pushing me away and pulling me closer at the same time. That familiar movement used for too wide an array of scenarios -- for gently scolding children and puppies, for encouraging loved ones, for inspiring perseverance. That. 

"And that is your problem Autumn. You always believe in someone's ability to become better. You're always giving second chances, unlimited hope in their potential."

And that analysis struck me. Deep. It hit a chord because it was... true. I give infinite second chances. For as long as I can remember, I have been the champion of second chances and endless encouragement. Friend, family, boyfriend, stranger... it doesn't matter who they are or what their relation is to me, I always believe in their ability to become the absolute best version of themselves. I am the girlfriend at the door after the second missed date, worrying about their day at work. I am the stranger on the street corner, worrying whether my donation to the homeless man who just chatted me up was enough. I am the daughter at the dinner table, reminding my mother after a long day of work with kids that there is such hope there, they'll get better.

What hit me most about what he said, about this supposed flaw of endless hope in individuals, was that this is precisely what made me really, really good in my chosen professional career. This belief in individuals to rise above, to make their own happiness no matter what they may have previously done, propelled me to nonprofit work. It propels me to not give up hope, no matter how many articles or books I read on the many, many problems within the word. It's the thing that keeps me from getting overwhelmed when so many others look around and say but where do you even start.

However, the thing that makes me strong within my profession is the very thing that makes me weak in my personal relationships.

For no matter how many times a person fails me, disappoints me, hurts me, or lies to me, there is always that voice in the back of my head that says they can be better, they can be better. Every time, I am convinced that person will be better -- that they will recognize their own flaws, and be moved to change them. Not for me. But for themselves, for their futures.

And they don't.

In fact, I don't think I can find a single example  of when these second chances actually resulted in change. 

And yet the voice in my head, the breath in my soul keeps speaking.... they can be better, they can be better, they can be better. Just believe. 

This things that makes me so strong at work, it kills me at home.

It's that old adage... your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. How often have we been trained to spin that interview question into a strength until there are really no weaknesses, just humble strengths? What is your greatest weakness? No no we say... I'm working on it, and it's really just a strength in the making. I'll be stronger, because I had to work for it.

Is there a dichotomy between your work-self and personal-self?
Do you have something that makes you kill it at work,
but alternately kills you at home?
How many second chances do you give?

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  1. I've started using the three strike rule after being burned by giving too many second chances. I don't even like baseball, but it gives me something to cling to as I'm walking away.

  2. I believe in second chances as well. And yep, it can hurt me in relationships, but I do believe there will be someone one day who takes that second chance and never lets go of it.


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