Burdens of Perfection

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Dear Younger Self,

 

I currently live in a household with three people that are all very impressive. My mother has obtained a very prestigious job, my brother is very bright and has an excellent job, and my father is all around the most helpful and useful person that I have met. As a result, I have made it my personal goal to keep up with them and to fail as little as possible. I hold extremely high expectations for myself, and when I don`t meet my expectations I fall into a deep rut. I struggle to climb out, and when I try to escape I just sink deeper and deeper, like quicksand. My only hope of escape is to grab onto the little vine of success that I can see and to use brute force to pull myself up out of the sinister trap. Although, this drive for success has lead me to where I am and has propelled me through all the tough classes and challenges I have been faced with, the drawbacks are still apparent. I know in the back of my head that I am scared to stumble and be trampled over by the crowd behind me, like an injured gazelle being chased by a lion, destined to fall behind and be pounced on. In a way, my expectations limit me in what I learn, what I try, and how I live my life both in and out of school.


Throughout the last 11 years of my life, I have sat in countless amount of classrooms, and they all appear the same.The drab walls sit lamely bare, with their faded white paint chipping away piece by piece. The repetitive, heavy tick delivered from the 1990s wall clock is heard daily, and is complemented by a vibrant ring of a bell every 3600 ticks. I sit in my assigned rickety vintage desk, and pick away at the peeling laminate top.For some, the bell is a signal to the beginning of an hour-long sentence in the most unpleasant of punishments; for others, it signals permission to enter a haven of knowledge and free learning. I generally enjoy going to school, but my opinion changes just about every seven days. Most days were fairly calm, but the tension in the room on this particular day made itself apparent, as indicated by sweaty palms on laminated desk tops, foot tapping on the cold concrete floor, and irritating pen clicking.  As the dated projector hums to life, the teacher begins to give last minute advice. Today is test day. Although I studied for hours the night before, I still don't feel that I will be able to achieve my goal of a 93% or better. As the instructor passes out the test, I begin to doubt myself. When the freshly printed stack of paper is passed to me I take one and begin my test as quickly as possible. All goes smoothly until I look up and realize that time is running out; my heart begins to race. My tan skin begins to shimmer against the light as I start to sweat. All of a sudden, every inconsistency in the room is magnified as I focus to complete the test. I can feel the scars and callouses on my hands run against the smooth walls of the pencil. I feel the static in my thick black hair as I brush it back with my hand. As I struggle to reveal the answers for final problems I reconsider my choices leading up to the test.


I shouldn't have gone to work this week, I wasted all of that time that I could have been studying. Maybe if I would have stayed up a little later, and studied a little harder I would not be put in this situation. I can't screw this up; my “A” depends on this. Come on, Luke, you have done this before. Why can't you just get it right? Shoot, people are starting to turn in their tests. I must be falling behind. Why can't I remember? What am I going to tell my family and friends when they ask how it went? I don't want to look stupid. Five … Already, we just started? … Four … Hurry up!… Three … Everyone else can do it, why can't I? … Two … Just write something down! … One … I am such an idiot! … Zero. Alright everyone, turn in your work!


Notably, the feelings of self doubt, hatred, and superiority towards myself that showed up during the test are a few of many types of feelings that appear when any challenging task arises. Not just in school, but also at work, robotics, trap, stores, and in everyday communication these feeling make themselves apparent. These thoughts serve almost as a reminder that I can not allow myself to screw up. Not only that, but because I try my best not to ever fail, I feel that I let many opportunities to learn slip away, in addition to many new experiences in life as well. Because I get so wrapped up in trying to never be wrong, I only focus on what I have learned up to a certain point, which limits my ability to learn new things. Even though I know that failure is a key component in learning new skills, I try my best not to fail. I have known that my need for success has actually limited me for about the last seven years, but despite my attempts to repress it, the feeling grows stronger as I get older.


For these reasons, I would advise you while you are young to not be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail; failure is a normal part of life that should not be avoided. Also, do not worry yourself with small things, such as getting a question wrong or not being able to do something quite as well as another person. By accepting that it is not possible to be the best at everything you will make your life much more enjoyable, and you will probably learn and experience more things in your life than I ever could have hoped. Do not make the same mistakes I did; live life to the fullest and cherish every aspect.

 


Sincerely,
Your Seasoned Elder






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