This I Believe

Dia - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Entered on April 25, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: setbacks

I Believe in Imperfection

I believe in imperfection. I believe that I am flawed, blemished and lacking. I believe that sometimes, my best is simply not good enough, and I will never be able to do everything flawlessly. My abilities have limits and at crucial points in life, my most well-rehearsed plans may backfire. I know that I might fail. I believe in imperfection, and somehow, therein lies my strength.

Early in life, as a privileged, precocious child attending a private school, I was the “model everything”. I wore the biggest bow, an immaculate uniform, and completed my homework without fail. I made myself the perfect child so, of course, the teachers adored me. In spite of, or perhaps because of their constant accolades, I lived a life of constant apprehension.

When a child thinks she rules the world, she begins to worry that she rules the world. In every situation, I agonized over imagined failure. The one and only time my mother arrived late to pick me up from school, I burst into tears, a sobbing, pitiful, inconsolable mess. When I wore a costume to school on the wrong day, my embarrassment was absolute and enduring. One day when the teacher, who was my constant, my protector, and my savior, was absent, and a substitute teacher reigned over the class imperfectly. My classmates were running rampant, up and down the room, and over and under chairs and tables. I cowered in my desk, wanting only to follow the given instructions—to flawlessly (as always) complete the assigned dot-to-dot. However, Thomas had taken my entire pencil box, and I was left tool-less. Cacophonous alarm bells crashed in my head. I could not finish the assignment and I had no justification or explanation for my perfidy. The panic welled up like a bubble in my chest and as the room got noisier, my anxiety grew almost tangible. My pulse quickened, my blood chilled and I ran to the front of the classroom to exercise the one choice that remained. “Mrs. Teacher!” I all but screamed in my terror, “I am going to THROW UP.”

Needless to say, the apprehensive substitute whisked me from the chaotic classroom to the sanctuary of the calm, dark nurse’s office and shortly thereafter, home. There, a perceptive mother put me to bed—not for an upset stomach, but for mental anguish revealed by tearstained, chubby cheeks and swollen, red eyes.

Herein is the paradox: My obsession with perfection inhibits my ability to formulate solutions to problems, making me unable to reason and to improvise. I can control the mechanics of my world with clockwork precision—but when an unforeseen cog falls into the works, pandemonium ensues.

In third grade, reality yanked me from my comfort zone and dropped me into absolute disarray – Tulsa, Oklahoma. The second day of arrival was also my first day of school, and buses were a new enigma. While I tried to explain to the harried bus driver that yes, I had perhaps picked my bus randomly (they were all yellow) and that no, I had not speed-memorized my address or telephone number, another lesson hit home. Failure is a possibility, and imperfection just might be manageable.

It does not matter—somehow, somewhere, mistakes are made and once I admit my failure, (I don’t live anywhere near here…) I can finally figure out where to go from there. I don’t have to be perfect at everything, because learning from my weaknesses builds strength.

Time and time again the foibles of living challenge the imperfect me. At seventeen years old, I’m exploring me, and slowly learning how to acclimatize myself. The joy found in spontaneity is elemental. When I forget my school uniform on the locked, chartered bus, I resolutely leave all dignity and inhibitions behind and squirm adroitly through the window. I have discovered that there is an incredible adrenaline rush that comes from the excitement of living on the edge only by my wits. This rush is almost worth making purposeful mistakes—just to explore the possibilities of peeking, tiptoeing and maybe even dancing outside my box.

When I wiggle through a challenge, I may emerge rumpled and reprimanded, but I am ultimately triumphant (with uniform in tow!). I have learned I can only improve when I make mistakes and therefore, I believe my imperfections to be the most important and vital part of my character. They keep me humble; they keep me laughing, and sometimes, when I let them, they make me stronger.