I came to the realization that my ideas of perfection were absolutely imperfect.
This realization took years to reach. It took fallen relationships, and lost opportunities.
I found that throughout the course of my travels, my ideas of perfection were as imperfect as my flaws. What that means is I measured my ideas of perfection on the wrong scale. I had no idea that perfection, itself, was not flawless at all. Instead, perfection is the ability to be flawed, but yet, remain and continue.
I thought perfection was a combination of the right job with the right wife. I thought it was the right house with the picket fence, and the right amount of kids, and the right car in the driveway. I chased the tails of the wrong dream for too long. I looked through the wrong eyes and saw through the wrong visions, which took me down the wrong path, and led me to a place where I was lost.
I thought perfection was the right crowd of friends with the right connections and the right circle of influence. I thought it was the right clothes and the right amount of money. And while I felt as if I were not perfect enough for this lifestyle, I allowed myself to succumb to certain treatment.
In a word; I submitted. I submitted to the wrong friends and surrounded myself in the wrong places.
I pretended though. I pretended to the best of my ability and I acted as if. I acted as if I fit in. I acted as if the insults never bothered me. I acted as if nothing bothered me . . .
And why did I act this way?
Because I wanted to be perfect, that’s why.
A long time ago in a life I left behind, I sat across from someone I once called a friend. I listened to him brag about his life. He bragged about his money, his girlfriend, and the fortune he was planning in the stock market.
“See Ben, You can’t relate to someone like me. We don’t come from the same advantages. We don’t have the same background. And that’s alright . . . I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with where you come from, I just don’t want you to compare your success to mine, because well, you don’t have the same things I have.”
In other words, “You will never be as good as I am.”
In any other world or with any other person, I would have defended myself. If not physically, I would have at least responded verbally. At minimum, I would have walked away. But I didn’t.
Instead, I listened to this young man—a man who had never been tested in his life. He was a man who was pampered as a child. He was given money, materials, and reasons why he was better than “The other half,” of society.
And me, I had already been tested. I knew what it felt like to sink. I knew what it felt like to have the waterline rise just beneath my chin, and I knew what it felt like to look around and pray that either someone throws a lifeline or I find some way to pull myself up.
When I decided to walk away from the white collar side of the working world, I traded in my suit and tie for a building engineer’s uniform. I began as an apprentice, which meant I had to start from the beginning. This meant that I was the clean-up boy. I ran for coffee. I ran for lunch. I swung wrenches and cut pipe. I broke open walls and cleaned the filthiest grime I could ever describe. Being an apprentice meant that I was supposed to be there with the right tools at the right time. I was there to set up before the projects began and I was there to clean up when the jobs were finished.
After my first week, my hands were ripped with blisters. I came home after a long shift to find my girlfriend waiting for me at the train station. This was a nice surprise until I leaned in to kiss her.
“You smell funny,” she told me. “What the hell is that smell?
I explained, “I was working on an old drain line.”
She kissed me with reluctance. Then she grabbed my hands and noticed dirt beneath my fingernails.
“Your hands are dirty,” she said.
“I know. I must have scrubbed them for twenty minutes and I still can’t get all the dirt off.”
She made a face.
Two days later, she broke up with me. There were other reasons, which were valid, but what I remember most is what she said.
She told me, “I don’t feel like you would ever be able to take care of me the way I want to be taken care of. And that’s what I want. I want someone to take care of me.”
She was not perfect. She was pretty—at least she was in my eyes. To others, she was overweight, but not to me.
Bottom line: I was not the right person for her, nor was she right for me. We both settled for too long. She settled for something less than what she wanted, and I was no different from her.
Three weeks into my apprenticeship, I went to lunch with a friend from the white-collared world. He was asking what my day was like. He joked about the type of work I did and laughed about the difference of sitting behind a desk or standing behind a shovel.
“Do they make you mop floors?”
I answered, “All the time.”
“So are you like a janitor now?”
I remembered the way he smiled at me. He smiled when he gave me the news that I was the topic of conversation, but more, he smiled when he delivered all the graphic details of what was said about me. This is when I entered the phase of, “NEVER AGAIN!”
I will never let someone speak to me like that again.
I will never let someone dictate my happiness or my success
I will never volunteer to be put down.
But most importantly, I will never allow the definition of who I am or what I want to hinge upon anyone else’s opinion.
I had to learn to redefine what I believed would be the prefect life.
My ideas of perfection are as imperfect as my flaws.
Like anyone, I have my cracks and breaks.
I have my faults and features.
However, I choose to call them characteristics rather than tag them as blemishes.
And sure, I have flaws—but yet, I remain and continue . . .
and to me, that’s perfect
Perfection is not the absence of flaw; it is the resilience of flaw.
It is the ability to behave or perform without regard for defect or weakness.
It took me a long time to realize that I am perfectly imperfect.
When I first said the words, “NEVER AGAIN,”
I said them with pain in my voice.
The pain is gone now. Now I say those words with a breath of freedom.
In this context, the words “NEVER AGAIN,” are motivational.
I see this as a quote of inspiration
to never again feel the way I felt before
and to never again fall below the level of my standards.