My Problem with Perfection

As someone who has struggled with perfectionism, I started realizing about a month ago I am well on my way to ulcers and wrinkles if something doesn’t change.

I’ve been at a crossroads. I’m on the path to what could actually turn out to be my version of failure.

As someone who takes great pride in her academic career, I’ve met my match. I found a class that just might break my streak of success.

Not only that, I recently ended up at a spa with a lady who swore she understood something about skin and within a week I looked like a pepperoni pizza. I found myself bathing my face in apple cider vinegar, wondering about the meaning of life and if anyone could love someone who now smelled like rotting tree bark.

I woke up with the world’s most depressing thoughts on Valentine’s Day, which was totally abnormal for me because I love Valentine’s Day—like seriously love it.

So, I came home and put Maroon 5 on and started screaming it at the top of my lungs whilst wearing the manliest basketball shorts you’ve ever seen. Because in the interest of full disclosure, what happens when I am in the comfort of my own home is about as far away from perfection as one can get.

My struggle is that I need people (and even myself) to believe one thing—even if that one thing isn’t the biggest chunk of my reality and even if that thing isn’t my favorite part of the day. Because my actual favorite part of the day was those stupid basketball shorts and screaming in horrible harmony with Adam Levine, and eating wretched reduced fat Cheez-Its. But that’s probably not the thing I’m going to invite people into. I’m likely going to invite people into the less ridiculous, less weird, not as embarrassing version of my life because my name is Ashlin and I struggle with perfectionism.

But if I do poorly in a class, fail to eat a balanced diet, wear my dad’s clothes for pajamas, or have bad skin, I need to figure out a way to make that not the end of the world. Because making those things the beginning or end of anything makes them a level of importance they shouldn’t be. It makes them idolatry. It makes them more important than God’s heart, my vulnerability, my willingness to be honest about what my life actually is and what it isn’t.

So, I’m trying to figure out these days how not to throw out discipline, effort, excellence, while also knowing that sometimes you have just got to put on a sweatshirt that comes to your knees and have bad hair. Sometimes you’ve just got to let go of the GPA, hit submit on the assignment, and go give out-loud advice to the lady in the Hallmark movie who is about to ruin her life by chasing down that emotionally detached man in the ugly sweater vest. There’s a rhythm to this whole discipline and grace thing and I’m trying to grab the hand of God these days and ask Him to teach it to me. Step by step I am learning and perfectionism is lessening.

I’m Doing it all Wrong

Disclaimer: This post is a little different than what you normally see here. It’s something more personal that I felt I needed to share with those who have continuously asked me reasons for some current life choices. But don’t worry! We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

I took a break during my college years. I went exploring, made messes and spent too much money on coffee.

Now, I’m back in school and society has come knocking on my door to tell me I’m doing it all wrong.

I shouldn’t have waited. I’m way behind on career, savings account, and making something of myself.

Not to mention, why would I choose a major that a big chunk of my generation hates? Government? Who even knows if we’ll have one of those in twenty years? If most of my generation gets their way, we’ll all just pass around a “talking stick”, nicely share our opinions, sing Kumbaya, and then eat gluten-free muffins in harmony.

Not to mention, I’m a Christian, so you know…if most of them have it right, then why would I waste my time? Jesus is coming back in like 5 minutes, haven’t I heard? Why would I want to be doing something with government when they’ve literally just sent our country to “hell in a handbasket” with recent supreme court rulings?

I would have been much better off to have gotten in the game five years ago, maybe I could have done something of importance. But now, it’s too late and I’m just buying into this big group of old people who want to argue. 

I’m young. I should just want to do away with government, weave baskets, open a coffee shop and write opinionated blog posts that tell the world I’m smarter than all the generations who have gone before me. That’s the new mark of success for twenty-somethings.

So, here I am, doing it all wrong and it’s so not cool. 

It’s also not cool to bring back the ponytail, a plain face, and tennis shoes, but that’s pretty much my uniform these days.

I realized the other day that I was much smarter at nine years old than I have been in my twenties. I was opinionated, (God bless me, I don’t think I’ve ever been without that quality) but I loved listening. I consumed knowledge, wisdom, history and information. I wanted all I could get.

I knew that my short little time of being alive had not afforded me the wisdom I needed to do something that would affect the world. I knew that I was naive, I knew that my opinion (though valuable) wasn’t always valid, because I didn’t know nearly what those who had experienced years of trial and error had learned.

But then I got older, prideful, a few years of education under my belt and I thought that all my brilliance could outshine even the most genius who had gone before me. And I let little comments from people around me start to affect me.

I never watch the news. It’s just so, ugh, negative!

Presidential elections? Who cares? School vouchers, budgets, tax reform? What’s that? I’ll just vote for whoever sounds the most socially relevant!

Government? Nothing but a big recipe for intolerance. 

And like that, I just let years of blood, sweat and tears from wise men and women of the past be thrown into a box labeled: irrelevant and antiquated.

I gave up something that I knew in my bones was important, worth knowing, worth dirtying my hands with. All because most of the millennial generation can’t be bothered to sit down, shut up, turn off their phone and listen to someone over the age of 40.

None of them realizing that their tweets, blogs, opinions, and freedom to bash the government wouldn’t even be possible without our democracy and without people who care enough to maintain it.

If we did away with the structure of our government tomorrow, peoples lives would dramatically fall apart, whether they care to acknowledge that or not. The reality of no one taking the baton from our parents and grandparents generations and continuing the fight for the laws that govern America would be disastrous. But we just keep expecting those generations to handle it for us, become more relevant, listen to all of our opinions and just “make everyone happy”.

Y’all go and fix that, while we hike mountains and take pictures of our lunch.

Because we don’t want the responsibility of something that can look negative, something that stirs conflict, topics that can’t be explained in less than 140 characters.

I’m doing it all wrong. Because the news is boring and no one cares who becomes president! Didn’t I hear that I should be more consumed with venting my naive opinions on Twitter than I am about the beliefs of the men and women who represent our freedom and democracy to the world? People who put hard work in, do not fear conflict and take time to learn from the past in order to do something greater than take the perfect selfie.

I really wasn’t cool when I was younger. I cared far less about my outward self than inward, I welcomed responsibility and I had the sense to know when to listen instead of speak. Few people liked that girl. So she took some breaks and did the cool stuff: traveled the world, learned to make lattes, bought an iPhone. But I’m glad I did because I realized that none of that is going to make the world better, sustain freedom or be worth remembering.

So, here I am now, doing it all wrong and finally I’ve become perfectly alright with that.