My first job after college was as an English and Drama teacher at a small private school in Maryland. I studied theatre (yep, of the -re variety) at Syracuse University, and I knew I'd need to come home, get a job and save money before making The Big Move to New York. For a long time, I wanted to be a writer, but I allowed a college counselor to convince me that the only way my magna-cum-laude-high-school-grades-with-several-AP-credits-and-some-very-mediocre-SAT-scores would matriculate was through performance; at that time, I'd been a professional actor for a good portion of my life and this college counselor was an authority, so I believed her.
No one has asked me that question in almost 20 years. The counselors and the advisors let go of that refrain when college graduation neared. The time in which I was really, truly making decisions about how I'd spend my days, earn an income and trudge towards retirement was left entirely up to me. In retrospect, perhaps my field of study answered that question on my behalf, but in reality we know only approximately 27% of college graduates actually work in a field that relates to their major.
We bought our house right before the winter holidays in 2019, and my partner, James, has been spending his quaran-times setting up his basement woodworking shop.
Earlier this week, I was making dinner when he came upstairs, paused the podcast that was accompanying my preparations, and presented me with this. James was excited. It took me a moment to grok what I was looking at. When I understood, I got a little misty.
In my silence, James proudly placed this beautiful, thoughtful piece on the counter. He ran his hands over it, explaining that he was setting up the CNC machine and, using some Uproar swag as a guide, he made me a shingle.
And then, James hedged.
From one breath to the next, he explained that it wasn't perfect and he was still getting things calibrated. It's a remnant piece of wood so there are drill holes and rough edges and a pencil line and some older test-runs on the back, and, and, and...
... And I was trying to pivot my thoughts from taco toppings to this incredible gift of support that was displayed before me. I told James I loved it (I do). I told him I was very moved (I still am). I told him it's perfect (It is). We somehow resumed our previous tasks, the shingle relocating to a place of honor on the dining room table where it still rests.
Why do we do this? Why rapidly point out perceived imperfections? Why downplay our accomplishments? Why is it so scary to be brave?
I protect myself from discomfort before discomfort can actually be a thing. I don't take compliments well because somewhere along the way I decided that being demure about success is either more ladylike or more agreeable (right now I can't remember which, though both are pretty gross). I want to do it right, and somehow right equates to perfection, and if it's maybe not perfect... well, I better be the one to say it first.
The problem with perfection is that it's an external construct that is entirely unrealistic. Quite frankly, it's also boring. The focus becomes the outcome instead of the journey. We neglect the opportunities to grow and explore that can pop up along the way.
I'm striving relish the imperfections: the rough edges, the hard experiences and the unexpected lessons. I'm exercising my bravery muscles to gain strength in saying thank you and you're welcome, instead of deflecting or shrinking back.
I'm gonna manifest my business shingle: coming from a place of love, positive intent and trying to get it right. I will be perfect in my imperfections, and I'm sure as shit not gonna pre-emptively apologize for it anymore.