Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Lure of 100%

You'll be happy to know that even though I've had a long six month break from blogging, I'm returning just as neurotic as ever.  And to prove it, I'm going to show you just how nuts I can get about perfectionism.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that perfection is a dangerous plaything.  It's a shiny bauble that the three-year-old in me is always reaching for, tempting me with its beauty and elusiveness, convincing me that once I have it in my greedy hands I'll be well and truly happy.  Being aware of the truth of perfection is possibly the only thing that keeps me from diving headlong into the pursuit of perfection with abandon.  Reality keeps me grounded, at least to a certain extent.

The problem is those rare occasions when something presents itself in which perfection is attainable.  I know I'll never be the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect Mormon or Republican or Whack-a-mole player.  All of those things are subjective, and perfection isn't possible.  But if achievements can be quantified or measured against an absolute, then maybe a person can be perfect.  You know where I see this in my life?  School.

School, with its multiple choices, true/false tests, grade point averages and SAT scores, is my perfectionist's nirvana.  Every day I have the chance to turn in a piece of homework or take a quiz and get in return a piece of validation.  There is nothing that thrills me more than seeing a paper declaring "100%" or, less clinically, "A+."  You may as well slap a gold star on my forehead, it makes me that happy.

My adolescent lit professor made the mistake of indulging in my fantasy of getting a 100% not just on one test, but in an entire class.  She was an extremely liberal grader - every paper or project we turned in would get 100% if the requirements were met, but any bit of creativity that was above and beyond the requirements would earn extra credit.  I figured that a little bit of extra effort would put me on easy street for the class, and it did.  By the end, my grade was over 100%.  It's no wonder that this was one of my favorite classes ever.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to replicate my feat in any other class, and even though I know I am being completely unreasonable, I still go into every new semester thinking that this class I'll ace.

Yeah, I know, I'm messed up.

I learned that lesson in school, too.  My American Lit class was discussing something off-topic, I don't remember what, but I mentioned that I put my A papers on my refrigerator, just like my kids' good grades.  The teacher stared at me and said, "You don't really do that, do you?"  Well, if backwards bicycling was an Olympic sport, I would have qualified right then for how fast I backpedaled.  "Oh, no, I was just joking," I assured her, realizing for the first time that not everybody takes their grades as a measure of self-worth.

Today I'm shaking off the lure of 100%.  I'm working on a group project with two other classmates (aside- I am convinced that people in Hell always have to work in groups.  Or on committees.)  I'm already feeling antsy about the outcome of the project, since I'm not convinced that everyone is on the same page as to what the teacher is asking of us.  Then yesterday, I forfeited my assignment, putting together a slideshow of Vietnam War photos (which would take maybe an hour to do, tops), and instead took on the writing assignment, which is definitely the harder part.  Why?  Because I got a 95 on the midterm paper, and the girl who was originally going to write only got a 91.  Now I'm seeing the emailed slideshow that this girl is putting together and I'm tempted to polish it up a little, you know, tweak it here and there to improve it.  Why? BECAUSE I AM A CRAZY PERSON.  And a control freak.  And completely unable to even fathom the idea of getting anything less than an A on a project with my name on it.

Someone needs to help me.  Seriously.  Maybe I need to take a super hard class and fail utterly so that I learn that failure is not so bad.  Maybe I need to quit school and move to a Zen monastery where I can learn how to live in the moment and embrace pain and what not.  Although, knowing me, I'd be waiting for the monk in charge to give me a silent nod of approval at my excellent lotus position, which is at least 4% better than my Zen-mate's.

I definitely have a problem.

1 comment:

Luisa said...

I'm right there with you sister!