There was a time that seemed so long ago. I remember this time. In fact, I remember these times very well. And looks were everything back then. Life was different. The world was a different place to me. Then again, I was different then too. I was young and wild, crazy, and eager to be someone.
I had all the hopes but no direction. I was working at my first gig at the time. Dear God, I must have looked like a 12 year-old in a suit. I was baby-faced and carried a briefcase. I had hopes to make my first million by the time I was 21. The only problem was I never really knew the work this entails. Plus, there wasn’t much money or hopefulness in the business I was in.
I was a woven label salesman in the garment district. The job was not much different than that which was similar to a telemarketer. My job presented a few setbacks and discouragements. My boss was an old man. He was cheap as they come. He had a voice that was similar to Jimmy Stuart and an intellectual snobbery that would sting me sometimes.
Nevertheless, I worked there for a few years. I never amounted to much or opened too many new accounts. The pay was never much. I tried to quit a few times but the boss would offer me a raise and some new incentives. Then again, looking back, the raises and the incentives were puny. Perhaps the reasons for staying were more out of fear or discomfort. Plus, I never worked very hard. I left early. I never sold much and the boss never bothered me because he was afraid of a connection between me and an ex-girlfriend’s father. I remember this very clearly. As well, I remember the nights and the life of living as a young, hopeful man.
Sure, I had insecurities. I had self-doubt galore but I also had a nightlife. I might not have been at the top of the food chain but I was certainly not at the bottom. I wasn’t the coolest or the worst. I was enough to fit in at least slightly and find a crowd to be crazy with. Also, I was enough to be the designated driver. This of course is because I chose sobriety at a younger age.
I remember the time I spent on my outfits and how many times I’d change my clothes before I eventually settled on what I’d wear. And then we were out. I was citybound in a carload of people. The bunch of us were screaming and howling like young dogs. And yes, we were dogs. We were crazy. We thought the nights like this would last forever. I never expected to be tired or be like I am now, ready for bed at say, 8:00pm on a Friday night. I never expected that I would feel old or feel pain or pay attention to things like the price of gas or the evening news.
I remember the drives into the City. I remember heading over the 59th Street Bridge and going inbound to see a sign that stood tall over Long Island City. The sign was in blue neon lights and read, “Perfection is not an accident”. Perhaps this meant something different to me then. Of course, it did. Everything meant something different to me then.
My height of romance was one night stands or hooks-ups with some random girl whose name I never knew. Everything was about the look and the story. We were all so surface-level then. And I had to be this way because I knew the depths of me were shallow. Or perhaps it would be safer to say that my understanding of self was only that of a young man with countless worries and endless insecurities.
I think of this sign sometimes.
Perfection is not an accident. No, it really isn’t. Perfection takes time. This takes hours upon hours of practice and learning. Even our personality takes time to properly develop until one day, we find yourself and realize this is us. There is no need to try on a thousand different outfits. There is no need to compete or compare to others. We are us and in each way possible; being us is the only thing we can do absolutely perfectly.
It took me more than 48 years to get where I am. This took blood and sweat. I had to fall. I had to mess up. I had to lose to learn how to gain. My perfection is imperfect but still, my perfection is me. And no, this most definitely is not an accident.
I have earned my place at the table. I have been working on some ideas for a long time now. Perhaps there are others that have been working on similar ideas for much longer than me. Yet still, no matter what; they could never be me and I could never be them. It took me a very long time to understand this. It also took me a very long time to be fine with this. I have learned to celebrate this fact instead of fear it. I have learned to nurture my differences instead of hide them or worry about their lack of appeal.
I remember helping someone get prepared to head into detox. I set them up with a trip to the hospital. I set up their intake and with a few calls, this person was on their way towards changing their life. I received a call from them five days after our meeting. I could hear the withdrawal and the heroin had slightly left their voice. The person told me they figured out what they were going to do with their life.
“I’m gonna do what you do,” they told me.
“I think I’d be good at it.”
The client asked me “How long did it take you to become a recovery specialist?”
I told them, “My entire life,” because this answer is true.
It took my whole life to be where I am. This is me. These are my experiences. And moreover, this is who I am. It took me a long time to learn to be comfortable with this and not try to dress myself up as anything different.
By the way, I hear ideas like this from clients all the time. I have clients tell me they want to be a life coach. I have them tell me, “I think I’ll be good at it.”
I hear people ask, “How hard can it be?”
“You’re right,” I tell them. “Give it a shot.”
What I have learned the most in life is everyone wants a title. Everyone wants the role. They want the salary and the position but perfection is not an accident. This takes time, work, dedication and above all, perfection is a level of awareness and personal understanding that no, none of us are perfect. And we don’t have to try or pretend to be either. All we have to do is be ourselves because in itself this the most perfect thing we can do.