The Pursuit of Perfection
We all are in pursuit of perfection. We are chasing an idea that has been sold to us of how our lives should be. The pursuit begins from childhood, in school and at home, where we are told that we need to fit in. Be obedient, but take risks. Pay attention and don't day-dream, yet be a dreamer. Be a part of the right social circle, attend the right school, get the right job, marry the perfect partner, have 2.5 children and continue the lather, rinse, repeat cycle of life. As children, we believe the people that surround and care for us and begin on the path of perfection.
For most of us, the path doesn't feel right, and at some point we all deal with this. Some people find solace in the arms of addiction as a tool to numb the pain and uncertainty of life. The outstretched arms are so inviting, they accept you as you are, here you can hide from pain.
Many never venture past the coddling grasp of addiction because they fear the loneliness and rejection of changing course. However, those who realize that there is something better decide to make the journey inward to uncover what they truly want. They make the decision to be authentic to themselves. Authenticity to self, not perfection, is the key.
This path is not an easy one, it can be lonely at times. However, the joy and satisfaction that lies on the other end are truly amazing.
Some of you may be sitting there thinking, "That’s great, but I can't do that. I will disappoint too many people. I am safe where I am ." I want you to know that I get it. I understand the fear of disappointing people, the fear of not fitting in. It's difficult to overcome at times, however, it is doable and liberating.
For me, the pursuit of perfection ceased when I went through a reclaiming of my identity two years into college. You see, I was the child that everyone spoke so highly of. I remember friends of the family would meet me and remark of my greatness. They would dote over me and coo, "Wow! How amazing she is. She can surely accomplish anything. " I was the girl with the Midas touch. It was a lot of pressure.
Undoubtedly, the people in my life didn't mean to place pressure on me, however, it is hard not to place certain expectancies on yourself with such praise. They didn’t know they were doing it, and I am not upset about it, but it happened. I felt obligated to fulfill this life of greatness that everyone thought I should live, but I had no direction. So, I chose the only direction I knew, engineering and construction.
Everyone in my world worked in this industry, so I thought I should too. I set on this path in middle school, continued through high school and into college. Everyone was so excited, that it pushed me further down the course.
Fast forward to high school and the pressure was on to get into the right school. Everyone around me wanted me to go to the University of Florida. I had close friends that were going and many of our family friends were alumni. It seemed natural, though I knew at the time that the reasons I wanted to go weren't my own.
I ended up getting into UF, but I had to start in the summer session. I remember being terrified to be up there all alone. See, the people I knew that were going to UF wouldn't start until the fall, and in the back of my mind, I knew that our friendship would not continue as they had been in high school. I ended up clinging to new relationships and getting lost. While in my first summer semester I fell in love with a boy that still lived back home, which was three hours away.
I spent the next two years living a split life. During the week, I was in school. I attended classes, got a job, tried to hangout with old friends, but spent so much time alone and missing my life and the boy back home. On the weekends, I would pack all of my things and make the 3 hour drive back home to be with the boy. I was clinging to a life and boy because I was scared. I was clinging because I lost who I was, but wasn't ready to rediscover myself. I wasn't chasing perfection, I wasn't chasing anything.
However, as does each time I have avoided something in my life, where I have clung to something I knew wasn't right, the voice in the back of my head started to get louder and louder until I couldn't ignore it anymore. I will never forget that moment, I was sitting in myCalculus 2 class. My professor was writing something on the board, though I can't remember what, and it hit me. A voice in my mind told me that I wasn't in love with the boy. It took everything in me not to break down in that moment and cry.
In that moment, I realized that the world I was building in my head, the life that I had been living until that point, was not the one that I wanted for myself. It crippled me. In that moment I felt guilty for what I knew I had to do, but didn't have the courage to do. I didn't feel strong enough then, but I knew I needed to rebuild myself.
Over the course of the next eight months a lot changed. I moved home, started to reconnect with my family, and focused more on me. I was becoming more comfortable and changing, though the road was not easy, I was taking steps to mend myself.
At the end of the eight months, I finally mustered up the courage to say something to the boy. It wasn't perfect. There are a lot of things I wish I had the courage to do differently. However, it was at that moment that I started to live life for me and not for other people.
Now, I will be honest and fess up to the fact that the path to where I am now has not been a straight path. I have faltered again and had points where I lost focus on myself. However, each time I have realized that I was in pursuit of someone else's perfection and not my own, and each time I have refocused and regrouped.
The truth is that we all falter, even the best falter. However, what makes them different is that they choose again. They recognize the twists and turns that lead them off course and in pursuit of someone else's perfection. They recognize them for what they are, forgive themselves and choose to get on the path to their own truth and authenticity again.
If there is one thing I know, it's this, the pursuit of perfection is a futile endeavor. The promise is all the riches of the Lost City, but the price is your identity and happiness. The best versions of life are the messiest. There are the unbelievable highs and the lowest of lows, but you never truly appreciate the good without experiencing the bad. Authenticity to yourself is the key. Get to know yourself so you can know what is important to you. Pursue that with the passion and zest of your childhood self discovering things for the first time.