I wrote the first draft of this post back in early to mid-December, right before deciding which academic job to accept. When I started out on the job market, I had no idea what would happen, like if I would even get any initial interviews. I felt some sense of relief when I started to hear back from schools, and soon enough one college in particular rose to the top of my list.

This college felt perfect to me. I loved its location, its atmosphere and the collegiality of my specific department, and its purported values system. Even though the three-day-long in-person interview tired me the heck out, I still walked away thinking, okay, yes, this is my top choice.

When the department chair called me and extended me an offer to join the college, I felt so relieved. Though I saw positives in my other options, this place rose to the top. However, a few days later, as the high of getting the offer faded, I noticed some imperfections about the position. Nothing toxic or egregious or dramatic if you work at the college I’m writing about trust me I’m ecstatic about where I’m heading lol, just a couple of features that made me pause and reflect on how I would contend with some of the challenges of the position.

Processing these imperfections made me reflect on other areas of my life and how I tend to idealize perfection. Driving back from a tennis match, I tried to think about my life’s imperfections. Take Boston: while I’ve enjoyed my time here, I had idealized it because Caroline Knapp lived here. The truth about Boston is that it can get as cold as heck and the cost of living is ridiculous and there are a lot of racist people who think that they’re not racist because they identify as liberal and have attended higher education. Listing these imperfections helps me feel more at peace with the imperfections of my upcoming job. My life contains many other imperfections too – both of my best friends live in different cities than me, I’m not affluent enough to afford to consistently color my hair, I have yet to find an emotionally intelligent and social justice-oriented queer man of color to [REDACTED] my [REDACTED], and more.

When I more deeply introspect about this tendency toward perfectionism, I think about my mother. The therapist I saw when I lived in DC wondered if my mother may have OCD, and when I looked up the symptoms, they matched a lot of what I observed from my mother. While I don’t have OCD, some of my perfectionistic-adjacent characteristics align – my meticulousness, attention to detail, and preference to have everything in its place. This orientation benefits me at times, like how it helps me get my many work tasks done and still have time for hobbies and friends. At the same time, my perfectionistic tendencies contribute to my lack of spontaneity and how I can expect too much from myself.

I suppose there’s a fine line between accepting the inevitable imperfections of life and settling for something that’s truly not good enough. I think this job situation lands in the former category because when I considered my other options, their imperfections outweighed the imperfections of the job I accepted. And I’m trying to remember that I’m not a child in an abusive home anymore; if I find myself in a situation I don’t like, I have the resources, determination, and privilege to leave. While my mother demanded perfection from me growing up, nowadays I’m freer to sit in life’s imperfections and find some enjoyment in the mess.

How have you coped with perfection or imperfection in your life? What influences your striving for perfection or lack thereof? General reactions to this post? Also, on the topic of perfection, have you all listened to “OMG” by NewJeans?? Literally the perfect pop song like?? I have a plan for a new blog post in my brain and NewJeans is heavily featured (: Until next post!


Filed under Personal

3 responses to “Perfection

  1. My mind is going crazy at your redacted parts of your blog. But alas, I’m sure you meant “… to pay my bills.”

    Liberal and educated people can also be racists – so true.

    The best way I’ve found to deal with my imperfections is to acknowledge them and close the day telling myself that I did what the best I could today. I used to just drive myself crazy playing back the what ifs and should haves.

    Have a great day!

    • I would not mind a queer man of color paying my bills! Yes, love the idea of acknowledging your imperfections and still affirming that you did your best. We love this active approach in preventing rumination. Hope you are doing well (:

  2. Sorry I’m so late reading this one, I’m soooo behind and have had to delete a lot of blog posts I’d saved to read! Anyway, weirdly, I am in no way a perfectionist. I think I realised early I would never be good enough for my parents, so I’ve been happy being mediocre here and there (also of course I’m White, cis-gender and middle-class and have never really worked in a male-orientated industry so I haven’t had to work twice as hard for half the reward like anyone who is not those things). I have a friend who excels at every single thing she does and I do admire that but also it’s exhausting. I’m happy to be a slow runner, a poor tennis player, to not push my career into a company with employees, to not read the latest literary or experimental novel, to not bother to cook fancy or dress up. I’m very glad of that as it takes an exhausting level out of my life. So I hope you can embrace the imperfect, too!

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