..so I’m going to re-run an old post. Originally from March 2009, titled “On Perfection”. Look for happy fun italicised text explaining WTF I’m talking about in some places. Have a lovely weekend!
Once again, Charlotte makes me think. This post didn’t quite go where I thought it was going to – but I’ll try to tie it in a little at the end.
I am a recovering perfectionist. I still fantasize occasionally what my life would have been like if I had shunned everything and decided to really try for elite gymnastics. I wonder if I would have given it another 6 months of 100 hour weeks at my last job, if I could have finally turned it around and got the support and recognition we needed and deserved. I wonder what fitnessy pursuits I could have undertaken in my 20s if I wouldn’t have been so anti-athletics and gained a billion lbs. I wonder what life would have been like if I really dedicated myself to pursuing the acting bug that really caught me in college instead of being scared of being another diet-pill-addicted waitress in LA looking for her big break for the rest of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. Really. Sure, I could pick out 10 or 20 little things I’d like to change, but mostly it’s the lazy stuff like more money, less stress from stupid shit at work that could be avoided by communication, a maid, a butler, a helicopter, etc. I love that I have a stable job in an industry I love and I get to do amazing things like audition, cast, and then direct professional actors. I love the wonderful Zliten I ended up with and nothing in the world could make me happier. I am proud of taking this big lumpy lump of clay that was my body 2 years ago and molding it into a pretty darn nice sculpture (if I may say so myself), and it can do things like run races and lift heavy things and dance for 3 hours and keep up with anyone doing just about anything. I have a group of great friends who are a hell of a lot of fun. I have a house which I am still seeming to be able to pay mortgage, so that’ a bonus.
But, truth is, I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake. I guess I’m lucky enough to have a variety of hits on my name that are actually me. I’ve enjoyed some mild internet fame as Sapphyra the drunken barbarian being interviewed on gaming websites and participating in podcasts. The pinnacle of my fame was a for real magazine distributed nationwide in the millions interviewed me and did a 2 page spread on my 3 year old game – which is actually a miracle. However, I really had (have) this big huge desire to be famous in some way. I want to leave my mark on humanity, and I want people to know my name as being truly excellent at…something. This drive is what causes me to really dig into something I love and want to be good at, and can make me crazy because I WANT TO BE THE BEST AT IT.
Instead, I am not the best at anything. I never got past level 8 in gymnastics. I never even got to state in diving (argh, by one place, both years!) and didn’t get an athletic scholarship for college. I had mostly bit parts in college theatre and sometimes didn’t even get cast. I’m middle management instead of overlord of my own project. I don’t have the fanciest car, best decorated house, and I can’t make it to all the cool parties I see and want to attend because I really enjoy my sleep in my old age.
After many years in life of wishing I could be really, really good at something and berating myself if I couldn’t, I came to a realization. I found that to be the best in the world at one thing (or even attempt it), you have to also give up being even moderately good at mostly everything else. Elite gymnasts have no lives outside the gym. People who live and breathe their jobs usually end up burnt, unhealthy, and sometimes alone. If you want to be good at something, you have to work for it. Extraordinary results require extraordinary effort (or something like that), and effort = time. Time is something we have a finite amount of, even if we are, in fact, perfect.
In the wisdom the comes with old age (yes, I’m going to milk this until it gets old…like me…zing! note: this was just after my 30th birthday, tee hee), it is apparent that I can only control what I do with the 24 hours I get every day, and just about nothing else. If I want to become a better runner, guess what I need to spend some of those hours doing? If I want to sell jewelry on Etsy, guess what I need to spend my time doing? It’s certainly not zoning out to TV and laying on the couch for hours…
I’ve already realized that if I am NOT something, there’s no use dwelling on it. Instead of saying that I’m a horrible person because I forgot to get my doctor visit in before 30 and I’m lazy and stupid and I’m now probably going to die because they didn’t catch a rare disease with no symptoms early enough (ok, now I AM starting to freak myself out so I should stop that…tee hee), it’s first on my list of things to do and I’ll get to it when I can (note: took me until November…). Same with running a 10k (note: took me until April – see where my priorities are?). Same with finishing 10 jewelery items and selling it on Etsy (note: never did this – maybe someday). I’d say same with getting myself some new clothes/workout clothes, but I really don’t seem to have ANY problems with that.
If more people could treat themselves like their friends treat them (or like they SHOULD treat you if you have crappy friends), then we’d all be much better off. Next time you start having perfectionist thoughts berating yourself for not being something you think you should be, start coming up with a plan to become it. You can’t change the past, so it’s useless to lament over things that are there and will never be again. Chances are, it will either seem silly once you start scheming about how to become an elite gymnast at the age of 30, or it will lead somewhere you never thought you could go. I’m still working on it, but I’m not perfect. And that’s becoming more and more ok with me.