Karen Osborne

More than a decade ago, I was sitting in an office, nervously listening to the president talk about possibly going to war with a foreign country. Right now, I’m also sitting in an office, nervously listening to the president talk about going to war with a foreign country. The thought of bombing Syria makes me sick, just like the thought of bombing Iraq made me queasy in 2002.

I’m a dove, not a hawk. I prefer building cities in video games such as SimCity rather than destroying them. Bombing Syria without first exhausting diplomatic measures is a mistake. I thought we learned that in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a lot of mistakes were made. I thought that, as a country, we’d learned from those mistakes. Apparently not.

We don’t always learn from our mistakes, do we? We keep dating bad boys and driving 30 miles per hour above the speed limit. We don’t hand in our homework and then wonder where all those low grades came from. We know the fire is hot from past experiences, but we feel the terrible temptation to touch it anyway — just to make sure.

It’s absolutely imperative — in politics and in life — that we learn from our mistakes. And let’s face it: Teenagers know a lot about making mistakes. Sometimes it feels like making mistakes is all you do. It feels as if you’re always getting in trouble with your parents, your teachers, your bosses or your friends. It can be frustrating, especially when you try to make things better but the people around you don’t seem to know that you’re trying to change.

People learn in a lot of ways. One of those ways is by making mistakes, examining the situation, figuring out what went wrong, and trying to fix things to avoid making the same mistake next time.

That last bit is the key to turning a mistake into a valuable life experience. If you don’t figure out what went wrong and don’t take steps to fix it, the mistake remains.

Let’s say that you made the mistake of blowing your curfew, and now your parents won’t let you go anywhere. After looking at the situation, you might find that letting your parents know where you are at all times will not only restore your curfew, but may allow you more freedom as they realize they can trust you.

Maybe you didn’t study for a test or didn’t hand in a week’s worth of homework. Why not turn that mistake around by going to your teacher for help after school? The requested tutoring will not only impress your teacher, but will give you study skills and knowledge that will help you on the next test and in the future.

You will make a lot of mistakes. That’s part of being human. But the way to grow into your potential is to take those mistakes, turn them around and use what you’ve learned to build a better life for yourself and those around you.

Regarding the thoughts of war, though, the hawks are partially right: Something should be done to help the thousands of innocents dying in this horrible civil war. Something has to be done to stop it. I just hope that we’ve learned that encouraging war isn’t the solution.

I hope teens aren’t the only ones to learn from mistakes.