It’s hard to focus on the bright side of life when you’re too busy trying to be perfect. My first two weeks of university have been challenging, exciting, interesting, and overwhelming. That on top of coming to the other side of the world, painting and cleaning a new house, switching on to the news, trying to understand how New Zealand works, and learning to drive on the left. I’m trying hard to do all these things perfectly, getting exhausted and not having much fun in the process. But no matter how hard I try, I’m still miles behind the fantasy perfect version of myself.
In the morning
The dream: I wake up fresh after a good night of sleep. I shower and get ready quickly to have time for a healthy breakfast and some quality time with my fiancé over coffee. My lunch for the day is ready because I conscientiously prepared it the night before. I arrive at uni at 8 am (half an hour early) to avoid traffic and find a parking spot right away. I use this half hour to read the local paper, the national paper, and the online news.
The reality: I wake up tired and grumpy because I haven’t slept enough. I beg Nick to put some rice on for my lunch while I get ready. I spend too much time in the bathroom, and would rather be late than sacrifice eating breakfast. I end up running out at the last minute, leaving a big mess behind.
I arrive at uni at 8.15 and park miles away. I still have 15 extra minutes that I spend checking my emails, Facebook, and Twitter, or texting friends in Europe.
I go jogging twice a week and attend at least one yoga class a week. I go out sometimes but never drink too much and always go to bed at a reasonable hour. I blog once a week, and stay active in the WordPress community. I compose memorable tweets several times a day, but also make room for romantic tête à tête with my fiancé and cook regularly.
I haven’t been jogging for 6 weeks, I haven’t updated my blog for 2 weeks, I don’t have enough mental energy to check my friends’s blogs and comment on them, I never know what to write on Twitter, and I don’t even remember last time I cooked. Nick has to deal with my mood swings and my bad temper in the morning. I often have one more glass of wine, and eat too much chocolate.
I ask intelligent questions and make thought-provoking comments in class. I pass all the tests with flying colours. I have tons of ideas for news articles and start working on them right away after class.
I’m anxious about saying anything in class because of my accent and my general ineptitude. We had a news quiz last week and I scored half. A point. Out of ten. I have 3 ideas for possible articles, but I just don’t know where to start. Meanwhile, I’m reaching proficiency level in finding excuses not to call my contacts: there’s too much noise around, it’s too late, it’s too early, I probably won’t understand what they say on the phone with their kiwi accent, and they won’t understand what I say either- what’s the point? I’d better give up journalism altogether if I’m realistic.
Whatever I achieve, my failures always take more space in the picture. As soon as I get a new skill, it becomes normal. Maybe I should focus on my abilities and achievements instead of comparing myself with a fantasy perfect version. It’s okay to skip a reading if I listen attentively in class and catch up on the reading later. It’s okay not to know where to begin reporting on my stories- I wouldn’t need to attend the course if I was able to fire off amazing articles already. And I might not have been cooking or exercising enough lately, but I painted a whole house afresh, found a job teaching French at the local Alliance Francaise, and got used to driving on the left.
So next time I’m getting exhausted running after the perfect version of myself, I’ll try and remember to look on the left side of life- what I achieved, like learning to drive on the left.
Besides, perfect-me is boring, competitive and serious. I wouldn’t want to be friends with her. The editor of a local newspaper gave a little speech to my class this week. He was enthusiastic about journalism and told us it was hard work. But he also said: “Being a journalist is the best job in the world. Some journalists are too serious though- remember to have fun, too.”
Fun. that’s the element my perfect-me is missing. If I were perfect, fun would be planned and timed. But fun doesn’t work like that. And fun is important because it’s often in the spare moments that things become clear: hearing about a potential story while out for dinner, understanding a media law concept while reading something for fun, and laughing enough with a friend during a break to renew the necessary energy to be attentive in class.
I probably won’t stop running after perfect-me. But I’ll try and remember to look on the left side, and to have fun.
(My big friend Andrew helped me with the concept and title for this post. He agreed to help me only on the condition that I share the link to his latest comic here. Friends shouldn’t blackmail friends. But I’ll post the link anyway because his comic is super sexy and funny. Check it out here!)