The Infection of Perfection
Every day I consider dropping out of university, because the idea of excelling with and failing at my dissertation are equally frightening to me. If I think of 'dissertation' once before I fall asleep, I will be awake for at least another hour hugging myself tightly until the shakes stop. I won't drop out, but I do not want the thought of that or failure (which is anything less than perfection, and thus the inevitable) to trap me into feeling terrible about myself. I want to fix that part of my brain.
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Sometimes I picture cuts along my arms, but I remember the bone-deep scars on my leg that I received without choice from doctors, and I recognise my thoughts as a cry for help - 'help me, someone needs to see exactly how much pain I'm in inside'. I drop everything and meditate, try to find that 'perfect', grounded, centred, balanced, self-compassionate, sane
person that I feel I'm supposed to be - have to be.
Sometimes I cannot tell which part of the roller-coaster is my 'true' state and which is the distraction, the temporary fix - the up of a peppy self with shows and stories or the down of a frightened student with deadlines and panic? Sometimes I have the clarity to understand that neither is - that they're both just states I pass through, whatever the elusive 'I' is; often, I miss these lucid moments.
Sometimes I wish people would insult me more, because even though it hurts, I feel stronger then; the pain comes from with-out. When I am complimented, I attack myself; the pain comes from with-in, where the walls are weak or not present. I often attack myself most for being too weak to gracefully accept the middle ground: constructive criticism.
Sometimes I hate the positive qualities people tell me I possess because I feel the need to (and paranoia that I won't) succeed in continuing to showcase those qualities. Sometimes, I wanna be grammatically wrong without the fear its gonna makes me come off stupid and I don't wanna fear that acting stupid makes me stupid.
Sometimes I wish I hadn't gone through the stuff I've tackled and resent that it's the reason for my present strength of character - whenever I believe I possess such a thing. Sometimes I wish none of it had happened: that I'd kept dancing, kept straightening my hair, kept not particularly minding what marks I got, kept going with the flow, kept my voice and self to myself, kept avoiding the itching, agonising feeling of overwhelming personal growth as a trauma-induced larger self grows out of skin that can't stretch. Sometimes I wish my sense of self didn't stem from something so painful, that people didn't 'oh' and 'aw' about my story and how it has created me because they tell me they can't imagine experiencing that sort of pain at that age. Sometimes I wish my story was run-of-the-mill - that I was run-of-the-mill. Sometimes I blame myself for drawing in the attention.
Sometimes I feel good enough despite my imperfections, and I hate the guilt that I feel when I think such things. Sometimes I feel the need, this hounding, heavy requirement
to not be good enough because being comfortably imperfect is wrong, 'too perfect'; equally, I feel an opposing (or a masked and assisting) force pressing me to be perfect because no one, least of all myself, will have me if I'm not: 'fake perfect'. Sometimes I feel I'm not allowed to be imperfect, perfect, whole or broken, but something impossible: something illusionary, something unreal, something ethereal
and untouchable. Sometimes I wish I could be so I would stop feeling the weight of this on my shoulders (too wide), my thighs (too fat), my stomach (too flabby), my scars (too present), my hair (too much), my beliefs (too out-there), my whole personality (too wrong, overpowering, underpowering); the weight on my mind to stress these and not learn to accept them as they are (and me as I am). Sometimes I feel I am balancing an impossible see-saw puzzle, trying to find balance between having to be 'more perfect, fewer imperfections; stress the attaining of the unattainable' and 'more imperfect, fewer perfections; stress the self-flagellation and inherent wrongness'. The balance between trying to follow expectations and arguing that they are wrongly ascribed, I suppose.
Sometimes I don't think any of this is what I think, and that I don't know what I think, or that it changes as soon as the thought is gone.
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Dear Senior-year Self,
I know your pain. I know how unsure you are. I know you feel you need to do this because without it you fail to do what is expected of you and let down a world of people. I understand because I am there. I neither want to appease the expectations nor crumble before them, yet lack the strength to see them for what they are: symptoms of a problem we all seem to share and project.
I would still love you if you didn't go to college. You would not be less intelligent, even if less knowledgeable in some areas. In time you would have worked up equal knowledge in different ways and perhaps different fields. You would have disappointed and surprised some people who expected certain things of you and projected you along certain paths in their minds. If I made certain decisions today I would do the same. However, this is 'their stuff', and what you need to know is that I would love you anyway. And that by knowing this information, you and I can love me for however I make it through this because what we need to focus on is naming our own expectations and delusions, and living beyond them - not letting them control us, even where our path agrees with their jurisdiction.
I am learning to not be held prisoner by my expectations, which I have unintentionally and unwillingly picked up from others. I am learning to disregard this system that confines me to feeling perpetually wrong
between two polar and equally displeasing ends. With the strength from you, the years before you and the years after you, I am learning to see the system around me and take a step to the left, find my own balance and my own two feet, one fibula and three hips. It is a unique balance.
No matter the pain I experience in this place in time, thank you for getting me here. I do not blame you for the pain I now carry with the hurtful thoughts of my mind. Some day I will thank you and your steps in my story for helping me transcend these painful games.
You did not always do your best (for 'best' is a flimsy thing) and you were certainly not perfect. But you were you, a creature of carbon and stardust stumbling along a path of infinite possibilities, and I love you for it. I am a fleeting step on our shared path and I love me for it, as I will love the me who reads this next.
We'll get through this together - imperfectly (the only form of perfection) and with love (which is the part that matters).
Third-Year (Seniorx2) Kiwi
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That is me, trying to be Real. I wish my need-to-digest-my-thoughts moods wouldn't occur during such unreasonable times (5.21am), but I've been in this one for hours, and there it is. Sleep time to tackle a new tomorrow.
You are free to worry about me if you wish, but know that I am okay - in the 'okay' that I won't do anything to harm myself. I am fine, better for considering these thoughts and allowing them passage out of my brain. Part of this message comes out of my need to not stress people or get people down (being perfect so no one need worry about me), but most if it is just my trying to express the truth because I know at least a few of you are worry-warts and have (kindly) taken me under your wing; I am grateful. But please don't worry about me if you can avoid it - writing all this out is my way of being okay, and thus I am well on my way. There are many more out there who need the worry and help much more than I.