We Are All Cats, Aren’t We?

We've all had moments that could launch a thousand memes
March 1, 2021 Updated: March 1, 2021

We are all cats.

You know what I mean?

Perhaps not, if you were quarantined from social media and missed the video of the lawyer in Texas who joined a virtual court hearing via Zoom using a kitten filter. The lawyer couldn’t figure out how to turn off the filter, the judge tried to help, and hilarity ensued. The lasting punchline was the lawyer trying to reassure everyone by saying, “I am not a cat.”

In our increasingly digital age, we’re only one click away from internet infamy. It’s not like we’re making more mistakes as a species. They just have a greater chance of being captured and amplified. In this sense, the most remarkable thing about the video is how unremarkable it is.

We are all cats. We all make mistakes that would be great fodder for internet memes. Fortunately, most of our mistakes aren’t live-streamed and tweeted out by a judge. Hence, we’ve never experienced 15 minutes—or in the case of the kitten lawyer, a week’s worth—of international fame for our foibles.

I could have easily been the “cat” during my years practicing law. I took myself way too seriously as a young lawyer. It didn’t take long before I made a bunch of mistakes and was brought back to earth.

I am not a cat! - Mini Acrylic Painting
A lawyer who got caught behind an animated cat filter in a teleconference meeting inspired the painting “I’m Not a Cat!” Acrylic on Stretched Mini Canvas by Heather Harrington.
  • I once wore two different shoes to court.
  • I talked about a case in an elevator when I shouldn’t have.
  • I drafted pleadings with obvious typos I didn’t notice until the moment after I hit submit.
  • I had one too many drinks at more than one firm function.
  • I made jokes I wished I could take back.
  • I showed up at an all-office, suit-and-tie dinner in business casual attire.

And I’ve made a bunch more mistakes in the years since.

And yet everything has turned out fine. There were times when I wished I could take back the mistakes. But I’ve come to realize that my mistakes are integral to who I am. They were the building blocks of my experience. They led me to be who I am and where I am today. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

During these difficult days of the pandemic, we should give ourselves more grace for the mistakes that we make.

Most mistakes aren’t fatal. They don’t define us. Sometimes, as we learned last week, they have delightful, unintended consequences.

No one wants to be a cat. But we all are. Nobody’s purr-fect.

Jay Harrington is an author, lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, and runs a northern Michigan-inspired lifestyle brand called Life and Whim. He lives with his wife and three young girls in a small town and writes about living a purposeful, outdoor-oriented life.