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Back to School and the Jacket of Perfectionism

This August finds me in a place I haven’t been in almost two decades, back in school. I’m adjusting back to this rhythm of packing my lunch, late nights doing homework and spending what feels like a monthly mortgage payment on books. I brace myself for all the new information I’m encountering through readings, group projects and discussions with my classmates. Its a bit like drinking from a firehose; and I love it. I love the energy on college campuses, between meeting new people and being wooed by new ideas, for a learner like myself, it's thrilling!

But being back in this school environment also makes me feel like I’m young again, similar to how you might feel like a teenager once again when visiting your parent’s house as an adult. As I sit down in that all-too-familiar chair that also has a small writing desk attached to it, I feel like I’m stepping into a time machine.

You see, as a kid, I was a good student - good grades, got along with others, always the “pleasure to have in class” kid, you know? I made sure never to mess up. Perfectionism was my jam. Perfectionism, for my younger self, was like a jacket that kept me warm and safe in spaces that I didn’t know how to navigate. If I did all my homework, aced every test, got involved in all the clubs, sat in the front row in every class, my small self felt it could control the future. But of course that wasn’t totally true. And as I grew, that jacket of perfectionism that once helped started to feel too tight; it began to restrict my movements. Even though it didn’t fit anymore, I’d still try to put it on from time to time. Throughout my adulthood, for special occasions — trying to get that promotion at work or at high school reunions I’d get that jacket out of the closet and try to squeeze back in. But it would always leave me more frustrated and exhausted.

So here I am, finally deciding that its time to get rid of this jacket. It served me well in my youth but I don’t want it in my wardrobe any longer. I’m embracing that I can’t control everything and its freeing. So if you need me, yeah, I’ll be doing my homework then goofing off with friends.

Now more than ever, can we cut ourselves some slack? Can we allow ourselves to make mistakes? Can we embrace our imperfection? We might be surprised by what we can accomplish when we’re not held back by our perfectionism.

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