Not my cup of tea

I made a cup of tea to start my day this morning, as I’ve been doing as a habit for some time. Something about this day recalled a memory.

About 10 or 12 years ago, I was watching a video on youtube of indie gamedev scene darling Jonathan Blow giving his opinions on game development and design, the details of which I don’t recall any longer. But what I do remember was that during this video, Blow made a cup of tea. And while his tea was steeping, he started talking, and then forgot about the tea. By the time he went to drink it, it had steeped for too long. So he proceeded to throw out this cup of tea, and started making another.

This was shocking to me at the time. Who DOES that?

How could Jonathan Blow make a cup of tea and then just throw it out after one sip? It’s wasteful! It’s, like, sinful to waste food! There was a time when men took expeditions at great peril trying to find a way to bring tea from where it was grown to where their people lived. The tea trade has shaped world history in surprisingly profound ways. Empires were built on tea. Nations were conquered and subjugated for it. How could he not respect all of that?

If that had been me, I would have just drank the tea. It would have been a tad too strong, or too bitter, or whatever, and I would have just accepted that and drank it. I probably would have re-used the tea bag to steep 2-3 more cups.

Today, I thought about that.

And who’s right?

Well 10 years later, the horror and shock has worn off, and I’m able to concede that Jonathan Blow wasn’t just being hoity toity because he didn’t want to drink a cup of tea that sat a minute too long.

It’s actually a great life lesson. If you make a mistake, you don’t have to eat it. You can discard it and start fresh.

When you’re a kid, sometimes your parents will force you to eat something that you don’t want to eat, because it’s “good for you” and “builds character”. And then we internalize that lesson and we think we always have to eat our mistakes, that that’s what it means to “own” a “problem” that you have responsibility for creating. Sometimes you’re so poor that the thought of not wringing every last drop of tea out of every single teabag in the box of the cheapest tea you could find in the store makes you feel like you’re in danger of bankrupting yourself with your irresponsible ways.

Only a millionaire would make a cup of tea, find that it wasn’t perfect, and then just toss it away and make another. Watching Jonathan Blow do this felt to me like watching a rich man light a cigar with a burning hundred dollar bill.

But sometimes it’s not a mistake, it’s just a cup of tea. It’s not symbolic of anything. Which costs a few pennies, maybe, in the modern economy. You don’t have to drink it. You can change your mind. You can correct course. And if the tea isn’t made to your liking, you should do what enables you to enjoy life. Make another, do it better.

There are some mistakes in life that we do have to live with, but you don’t have to live with all of them. You can pour out a cup of tea you just made and do it over again, and go on with your life without regret.

Updated: 2023-Jun-02 — 1:00 pm

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