“Hindsight is a gift. Stop wasting my time.”
I’ve been a fan of Hannah Gadsby’s one-woman show Nanette since it was first released on Netflix. Deeply moved by her theorization of comedy, her ruminations on art history, and her diagnosis of power, I have never failed to cry when she asserts to the audience that she is in her “prime” – daring anyone who watches to believe differently.
It is a line affects me almost paradoxically – providing me a groundswell of inspiration by reminding me that I am far, far, far from my prime. Through the screen, Gadsby insists to her younger audiences that our interiority is only just developing; life is long, and strength that we have not yet known lies ahead.
However, as I’ve been working and living in Miami, I keep returning to a more understated part of the show. Twice, Gadsby interrupts her own monologue to tell the room: “Hindsight is a gift. Stop wasting my time.”
Often asked to reflect, I’ve had many opportunities to give this line careful consideration – allowing it to take on a multiplicity of meanings. While it speaks mainly to the type of “growth mindset” I would like to embody, I’ve come to realize it also informs the murky process of navigating a privileged experience like DukeEngage.
I was first reminded of this line while watching my cohort take the time to critique others – to voice their opinions fervently, intelligently, and productively. I was impressed by my peers’ thoughts and their courage to share them; they exist at the forefront of this experience. However – in the back of my mind – I was also reminded of all the times in my life that I have been corrected. My reactions have been far from static – ranging from a foolishly stalwart defensiveness to an unproductive sense of self-loathing. Motivated by a desire to not feel bad, I’ve either ignored mistakes or let them represent insurmountable impasses – believing that I was unable to move forward if I have not yet moved perfectly.
From the standpoint of my personal mental health, I feel comfortable concluding that these reactions are a waste of my time. I inhabit this earth; learning should be part and parcel of existence. Furthermore, as I’ve listened to my cohort over these past few weeks, a new realization has begun to crystallize: these reactions are not only a waste of my time, but a waste of time for everyone who has ever put their energy into providing me feedback.
This is not to say that it isn’t valid or natural to feel bad about mistakes; however, a desire to do better can’t be oriented around a shunning of these emotions or a conflation of the future self with the past error. This is only compounding the damage that has been done.
Hindsight, in this sense, becomes a societal obligation. I can’t help but think that privileged individuals need to stop investing time in trying to disprove the grievances that others bring forth against the status quo, and instead take the time to openly believe – to trust that the world is not made to reflect our own experiences.
As I’ve worked in Miami, it feels as though I have been set in front of my own limitations – forced to explore and confront the outer reaches of my current capabilities.
If I were to ignore these recognitions and encounters, or if I were to simply stop, whose time would I be wasting? What right do I have to waste it?
I have not navigated DukeEngage Miami anywhere near perfectly, but I cannot look back on my missteps with fear or denial. Hindsight is a gift not because it allows me to neatly wrap up my time in this city, place a bow on my best memories, and make tidy conclusions about myself and the work I did here. Instead, hindsight is a gift because hindsight represents an empowering choice: the choice, at every juncture, to try to do better.