The inertia of mistakes

Admitting you've made a mistake is a difficult thing. Admitting you made a mistake over thirteen years ago and doggedly pursued it to its natural conclusion despite knowing it was a mistake is even more difficult. Some may wonder how you could coast one the inertia of this one mistake for such a long time without correcting the problem, but that is the thing about mistakes, if you don't correct them right away their inertia grows great enough that only an incredibly strong "outside force" can stop them. Perhaps a small story can illustrate the concept. When I was in elementary school we had to complete a reading workbook over the course of the school year in tiny increments each week. This was actually done on a quasi-honor system. The teacher's aide would review the workbooks, but the students would grade the workbook themselves and write their score on a large grid. I was naive and egotistical and I didn't particularly enjoy completing reading workbooks. At that time I was engrossed in a fairly intricate imaginary world where I was an accomplished fighter pilot and I didn't really have time for reading workbook nonsense. In brief, I began to falsify the grading grid and give myself imaginary grades for completing work I never actually did. It is possible that I wasn't well versed in probability at that time and I gave myself unrealistic scores. It is also possible that the scores were "too random" appearing, something I didn't realize until years later while listening to a Radio Lab episode about "stochasticity." Regardless, no one of authority seemed to notice this and I went through most of the school year receiving credit for work I did not do. Eventually, though, my deceit was discovered. I do not remember the particulars of how it was discovered but I do remember vividly watching "He-Man" episodes after school the day I was found out, with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach as I imagined the wrath of my father. I did not set out to falsify my grades for the entire school year, but mistakes have an inertia which seems disproportionately large compared to their initial magnitude as if they gradually grow in mass the farther out they get from their instant of creation. If I had corrected my mistake almost immediately and started completing my work again it might have gone unnoticed, but the longer I delayed in correcting it the harder it became to correct until it was impossible for me to correct it and my misdeeds needed to be halted by an "outside force."