Pardon Our Dust: Acknowledging You’re a Work in Progress

"Pardon our dust", sort of a silly phrase, isn’t it? Often, you will see this phrase splayed across construction sites, the internet and just about everywhere anytime something new or different is coming. It is meant to be a light-hearted signifier that even though there is a lot of chaos, noise and dirt everywhere, something better is coming. It could be a new interface for your favorite website, better sidewalks, paths or even an entirely new building. The phrase is designed to keep the downsides of the process out of your mind because you see a funny bird holding a sign and wearing a hard hat.

A few days ago, I passed one of these signs. The changes that you could see were minimal. They excavated some sidewalk and are seemingly replacing it, but the noises from the machines were horrible, loud jackhammers and trucks blocking the whole sidewalk. I thought about how it was annoying and wanted them to stop. Eventually, they finished working. All that remained was the sign and some caution tape, ironically clean despite the mess behind it. After I got back to my apartment, I was sitting around playing video games and something just lit up in me with the intensity of a lighthouse on a cloudy night. I thought to myself, “why do I feel shame for these silly skills that I was never able to completely master, when I am so good at so many things? It’s completely okay to have gaps in your skills.” For some reason, the sign at the construction site sparked the thought in my head and made me realize, aren’t these little gaps just my dust? If this is true, I say, "pardon my dust, I am still learning." 

I have many gaps in my knowledge and skill, but that’s okay. I am still working on them. For example, I suck at placing commas and I always have. No matter how much I practice or read about them, I always get commas wrong... but I am trying to get better! I also downloaded Grammarly to help #NotAnAd. Another example is that I have a habit of taking on too much work and not giving myself breaks when I really should. I spent last year really practicing grace with others, but I still need to practice giving myself grace. I need to understand when it’s time to say no, or not right now. I took a whole week off from work and it was very energizing. I could endlessly list things that I am not so good at but that won’t help anybody, so I want to add one more. I am very mediocre at volleyball. I have a decent serve but I am the worst setter. Even though I suck at volleyball, I absolutely love playing and that really helps me remember why it’s okay to suck. When my friends and I are on the court, nobody cares how good you are. We are there to have fun, which we do!

It can be really challenging to embrace the things you suck at, but if everything was fun like volleyball wouldn’t it just be a bit easier? I get so self-conscious about my inability to place commas, especially knowing how important they are in my work, but I am refusing to let that stop me. As I reflect on my own knowledge gaps, here are a few of the strategies I came up with to help me improve.

  • I am making it more of a point to ask for help when I need it.
  • I refuse to be ashamed when I screw up. It’s part of being human.
  • I am embracing every opportunity as a learning experience. 
  • I have a music playlist of absolute confidence-boosting bops on standby at all times.

Embracing our faults can be intimidating and honestly very difficult, but it’s about growth. Isn’t that a huge reason we all went to college anyway? I think it’s important that we all start reframing how we see ourselves, especially as the world keeps changing. Remember: pardon your dust because it will blow off eventually.

Sam Dalton
Outreach Housing Ambassador