Transformative Mistakes [NOT 27/5/22]

Changes that are more than changes

Swiss Cheese Cubes
Resized from

When a change is more than just a matter of degree

Cheese! People love it! But it’s an accident.

Although you can make a coagulated milk product like ricotta or cottage cheese by adding acid or letting bacteria work on raw milk, the cheese we love most needs rennet, a set of enzymes mostly found in the stomachs of young cud chewing animals.

Rennet turns soft, pasty curdled milk into firm, chewy mozzarella, cheddar and Emmental. But originally rennet got mixed in by accident. In the days of using every part of an animal, stomachs were convenient storage sacks — they were flexible and waterproof. And when people happened to store milk in a fresh stomach of a young animal before the enzymes had denatured, they noticed that something very different happened than when milk was stored in a clay pot or regular skin, although the specifics of enzymatic reactions were only discovered much later.

Still Life With Cheeses Almonds and Pretzels by Clara Peeters 1681
Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels, Clara Peeters, 1681

Transformational Accidents

So let’s talk about about a specific type of change — Transformational Accidents.

A lot of change is minor or incremental — the annual COLA, winning $50 in a raffle, mowing the lawn one inch shorter, clipping your toenails. And a lot of change is intentional — taking guitar lessons, planting a garden, giving away your old books.

But sometimes something changes you in a big way by accident. For example, one time I was trimming the hair on the back of my neck. But I hadn’t secured the guard on the clipper, and the 1/8 inch trim I was aiming for turned into an inch deep gash through the hair on the back of my head.

There was nothing to do but put the shortest guard on the clipper and cut all of my hair to a 1/4 inch long. I had never had a haircut remotely that short. When my daughter saw me, she gasped. It took days for me to get used to using almost no shampoo. My baseball hat no longer fit.

What is a transformative accident you’ve gone through? For instance:

Finding yourself in a STEM program in high school after missing the deadline for the arts program, and finding yourself loving the new track. Having a stray cat move in one day, and going from petless to cat person. Spilling paint on your beloved old jacket, and suddenly needing to go modern. Someone at work unexpectedly quitting which started a chain reaction that led you to a completely new job. Accidentally going back in time in a DeLorean and meeting your parents right before they met (wait, maybe not that).

What’s an example of cheese in your life?



  1. sometime during me fun years  my 2 functioning neurons tole me… go get a life

    nothing transformative happened to me….i just chose life

    nowadays…im not sure i made the right call

  2. The most recent cheese (but it’s quite bitter) was letting the Cokehead Narcissist into my life and home.  Without her, I would still be getting fucked by management and being passive about it till it was too fucking late to stop them.  Thanks to all the damn shit she put me through I learned when I to fight back instead of being a passive aggressive punk.

    After Nortel’s demise, the miserable 2 years at Ericcson and 19 months of unemployment, I pretty much withdrew into a passive shell trying to hide. My formerly semi-aggressive spirit was broken and unable/unwilling to fight.  I was pissed with my life, my ruined career and my former housemate, but stuck in an anger loop unwilling to let go as if my former housemate were the SOLE source of all my misfortune like another large white skinned mammal.  He wasn’t, but he was conveniently close. I still loathe him, but I don’t strap on a peg leg and lash myself to him while screaming “FROM HELL’S HEART I STAB AT THEEEEEEEEE!!!”

    I hate what she put me through. I hated the death threats against me.  I hated being scared out of my fucking mind. I hated that she nearly ruined me financially, personally and at work. What she did was force me out of my passive shell and be actively aggressive something I rarely did.

    I fought back (in some cases literally like when she attacked me with a knife after I refused to buy her coke.) When I was done with her, I hit back at management who was pretty close to firing me and became someone they fear/hate instead of a whipping boy. I mock them instead of being cowed by them.

    When I got the job I wanted after trying then losing it after 10 months because I was expendable, I didn’t shrink back into the shell.  I wanted blood.  When my manager tried to chew me out on my last week as a project lead, I jumped down her throat and verbally kicked her ass all over the office.  She tried to blame me for not accomplishing certain tasks and I reminded her that it was her that denied me that access to the necessary software and forcing me to depend on jealous assholes who rarely did anything for me. I reminded her that it was all her decisions that put in me a precarious situation that I managed to escape from.  It was the last civil words I said to her.  I treated her as she was part of the wall and never acknowledged her presense. The one time she tried to talk to me, I ignored her and walked past her.  I heard she was unimpressed with me as I was one of the few people who treated her like garbage and got away with it.

    I’ll admit that I terrorised one man who had stabbed me in the back several times (and was apparently my manager’s boy toy.) I made sure that he looked stupid in front of the new manager.  I crossed swords with him several times. He quit as I was preparing to go to the director and HR about his personal bias against me.  When he tried to steal documents from the company through coworkers, I found out and then told him the next time I sick the company’s lawyers on him.  I ensured he can never come back even if he wanted to.

    I… said something nice about Cokehead Narcissist? WTF.

  3. I’ve made so many mistakes but because I’m a slow learner none of them were exactly transformative in a cheese sort of way. Instead I gradually changed the way I lived. I don’t take any pride in that though because I have a lot of regrets.

  4. Being impaled by a tree & ending up in a Canadian hospital made me realize not only that Canada has a great healthcare system but also that if I wanted to see my daughters grow up I should probably not do stupid things when in the backcountry.

  5. Checking my blood pressure at a grocery store pharmacy, one of those little desks you sit at and shove your arm in the sleeve tube thing.

    I’d been getting so stressed and miserable in my PhD program and I couldn’t see the end game. I loved what I studied, but the job market was shit for people who came from top tier programs. My school was not in that league.

    Anyways, I sat at the blood pressure machine, it came bad at like 155/110. I was 27 and I very clearly thought “this is literally killing me.”

    Within a week I’d told the dean and my advisor I was dropping out and I abandoned at the end of the semester to move home.

    Best decision I ever made.

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