perfection… ?

2011 March 20 § Leave a comment

Whenever I am going through a hard time in my life, I block out the sounds of the world and fill my mind and my heart with music.

A long time ago, I struggled to stay afloat in a world that was spinning out of my control, taking what was most precious to me out of my grasp. My family moved away from the only home I’d ever known, from my two best friends. I didn’t fit into a new school where everybody knew everybody else, and I was the outsider who didn’t belong. My parents had terrible fights downstairs when they thought my brother and I were asleep. I still remember the sound of shattering glass through the protection of my pillow, and how hard I tried to stifle my crying so my mom wouldn’t come check on me.

Then, and in the  not so recent past, I dealt with my pain by closing my eyes and surrounding myself with music. Sometimes, it is a piece of prose I’m writing that resonates with the music that’s drowning out everything else in my life; other times, a piece of music will inspire a piece of songfiction, one that drags me out of bed to write feverishly until I finish pouring my story into a notebook or into a word document.

When the music sings in my soul, it takes me on a journey of reflection – on the past, or on the future.

Today, my reflection is about the past.

It’s been hard for me to resign myself to the knowledge that much of the time, I’m not the daughter that my mom wants me to be: I was a tomboy; I was unladylike; I didn’t have an iota of fashion sense; I wasn’t financially responsible; I never shared my feelings or thoughts with her. I wasn’t this, I wasn’t that.

I remember constantly being compared to C and S, her visions of the ‘ideal daughter’. It was worse when the beacon of perfection was a female relative only two years older than me – it seemed that in my mom’s eyes, I could never be good enough.

And even though I tried not to let it bother me, I molded myself to those visions as much as I could bear.

Those emotional weaknesses added little cracks to the chinks in my metaphorical armor whenever I came up short. Every time I ‘failed’, every time I made a mistake, every time I ‘could have done better’, was a blow that was harder and harder to bear because I couldn’t be what I thought she wanted of me.

I was reaching for perfection, an illusion that didn’t exist except in my own mind.

When I look back during that time of my life, I wonder just what it was that I thought I was working towards. Perfection should not be the goal, because there is nothing after that. Even more telling, perfection is subjective – and when it comes to people, how can you possibly rank a person out of 100 points?

What can you do when your good isn’t good enough?
When all that you touch tumbles down?
‘Cause my best intentions keep making a mess of things
I just wanna fix it somehow

But how many it times will it take?
Oh, how many times will it take for me?
To get it right
To get it right

These words could have been from a page in my own life. When I reflect on my story and turn back to that chapter, I see how lost I was, floundering without a foundation to build character, strength, and confidence.

I know now that I’m perfect as I am, because of my flaws and imperfections. I almost want to say that I was foolish back then, and not so much now. But, if you ask if I regret all of that internalized pain… the muffled tears in the bathroom when I messed up yet again… the tight feeling in my chest and burning in my eyes when I pretended I didn’t care – I don’t.

I’ve stopped looking for perfection, but to this day I will still labor for hours over a project or task so that I’m happy with the results. Perfectionist? Maybe. Still, it’s not the end result itself that I care so much about, but the end result of all of my efforts.

Today, I’m strong enough to realize that I don’t need perfection to be proud of myself. It’s a message I wish I could have given to a younger me, and to everyone who thinks that being happy comes from being ‘better’ in comparison to someone else.

Thoughts inspired by the lyrics of Get It Right (Glee Cast).

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