Being back in school at the age of 34, I’m learning more than books and such; I’m learning how to try at something.
In my younger days, I never studied for school and often did my homework at the last possible second, but my grades were always above average. Yes, that’s great, but I developed a nasty habit; when I was faced with any adversity, I’d simply quit. Better to not try at all than to fail, right? Totally… I’m sure I never missed out on any character-building life experiences with that attitude.
Now I’m back, though, and I’ve decided to try. But that way lies madness…
I’ve aged into a ripe old perfectionist, which you know if you’ve been reading my blog at all. This character trait has caused me just a little bit of anxiety, and that was before I decided to try at things. Now, instead of being able to tell myself, “No one’s judging you! it’s all in your head!” I have instructors who are in fact judging me, and it’s not all in my head.
So I give every assignment my best effort. And apparently my “best effort” borders on the psychotic.
First, I start each assignment as early as possible, just to draw out the torture. It might be “finished” within the first couple of days, but then I proofread. I proofread and proofread and proofread and proofread. I re-read the assignment parameters and proofread some more.
When I finally convince myself that making any more changes would be excessive, I simply gaze upon the completed assignment. Is it perfect? It looks perfect. It gives me an excited feeling inside…
Excited feeling? Why? Well, here’s the real secret: I want my instructor to look at my work and immediately know that this assignment is A MASTERPIECE.
Have you ever seen A Christmas Story? Classic holiday movie about a kid named Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun.
Stay with me, here.
There is a scene (linked below) where Ralphie turns in “A Theme” to his teacher, and he’s sure it is the best theme his teacher will ever see. He fantasises about her reaction to his work, which results in a grade of A++++++++++++…
I want that. I know it’s silly, and people don’t dress like that anymore, but I want that. For every assignment I hand in ever. I want to know the instructor has never seen anything better. It might even change their very outlook on teaching, on life, on the mysteries of death and the afterlife.
No, it doesn’t escape my notice that I share the same fantasy as a fictional 9-year-old boy. The heart wants what the heart wants.
So I gaze. And I fantasise.
And I doubt. And I second-guess.
And I proofread, because deep down I believe that perfection is possible. If only I could choose the right word here, and use a semi-colon correctly there…
So how can I give myself a break? How can I break the habit of thinking that perfection is actually possible? How can I stop this need for excessive validation?
Perhaps I need to fail at something. Fail, and not give up. (Oh, the horror of it…)
Obviously this is not an experiment to be taken lightly, nor one to be performed on my school work (I’ve got a GPA to maintain). I can think of a few things I might try out, though… I’m not any good at painting, so I have some painting supplies languishing unused in my storage room. Maybe it’s time to pull out the ol’ canvas and brush, even if the result is a total fail.
Maybe it’s time.