I got a D in my 6th grade Social Studies class.
Right now you’re probably gasping and saying to the computer, no! You? A D? HOW?! I know, I know, strange right? Especially considering that anyone who truly–or hell, even slightly–knows me, knows that I was an A student. It still baffles me to this day, but I did in fact receive a D on a progress report sometime in the fall of 1998. And when I took it home to Wham Bam (that’s what we call our mom), she scared the living bejeebies out of me and told me that I was to get all As or say goodbye to my dance career. And there was no way, in the name of all that is sequined and holy, that I was giving up my dance career.
Wham Bam, being the rad mother that she is, found little ways here and there to sweeten the deal for both my sister and me. She would reward us each time we brought home an assignment that we aced with a dollar. If/when we got a perfect report card or progress report, the family would go out to dinner at a restaurant of the little student’s choosing.
Commence Operation ‘A’ Streak.
Mmmmhmmmm. I got all As for the rest of my grade school career. Started collecting dollars and more Joe’s Crab Shack meals than I could count. Recently, I fondly recounted this time in my growin’ up days with my sister. She rolled her eyes so hard I thought she was possessed and said, “yeah YOU probably remember that time fondly. I remember finally bringing home a 100% and Mom told me she stopped that little reward system because YOU were earning too much money.” Wham Bam had also stopped the restaurant of our choice deal because my parents could only watch those servers at Joe’s dance the Macarena so many times before they lost their ever loving minds. I had exhausted the reward system before Caitlyn could really take advantage. My poor little [intellectually inferior] sister.
And that conversation got me to thinking. Thinking about how I learned the importance of hard work to get what I want at such a young age. Thinking about what a strong, successful role model I have been for Caitlyn. Thinking about who I am, and why I am who I am.
And I concluded this: I have been an overachieving, wet blanket wearin’, nerdy little suck up since that D.
I was in therapy for a short while about a year back. And at that particular time in my life I was in desperate need of the proper tools to sort out how I relate to others, and, more importantly, how I relate to myself. So, I talked about my feelings. I talked about the nature of my conflict. I got the tools and I did my best to immediately start enacting them in my real life. And lo and behold, the particular conflict I was experiencing slowly began to dissipate. I proudly went back to my therapist and explained, “I’m all fixed! I did what you told me to do! It worked! I feel great!” To which she responded, “you don’t receive a grade in therapy…but if you did, you’d get an A.” I beamed with pride. I aced therapy! The little Kirstens running my brain began shaking hands, passing around bubblegum cigars, and congratulating one another on yet another job well done; until my therapist said, “now let’s talk about your perfectionism issues…”
My brain has done this weird thing for as long as I can remember. When I’m faced with a task–whether deemed important or trivial–my ability to complete said task falls into one of two categories: Succeed or Fail. There is no broad spectrum by which I analyze my performance. And this perfectionism has contributed to many personal successes, yes, but it’s also the reason I’ve been known to obsess over my thin, bodiless hair for hours on end until it falls “just right” (only to be disheveled the moment the wind has the audacity to cross my path); the reason I have, on more than one occasion, bought a new day planner because I didn’t print neatly enough in the first one and subsequently “ruined” it; the reason I’ve insisted that Captain Kev-merica play me in 38 simultaneous games of ping-pong so that I could hone my skills and win one (1)…I could continue, but it’s a nauseatingly long list.
Long list short, my need to be annoyingly perfect has made me, drum roll please, f***ing crazy. And not even the ballsy, live-it-up Lohan kind of crazy. More like the kind of crazy that surrounds hoarders or old cat ladies. The kind of crazy that keeps people from truly living.
And yes, my loyal Love and ADD fans, I know a change is needed. It’s life or death. And so, I’ve begun to actively choose the path of least perfection. It all started a couple months back when I was still living in my father’s basement. Late one night, after a particularly stressful day, I snuck into the kitchen for some comfort food. I fumbled through the cabinets in the dark (because I was way too lazy to turn on the lights) and ended up grabbing a jar of peanut butter. When I snuggled back into my bed (where I planned to eat said peanut butter), I noticed that I had grabbed my dad’s jar of Jiffy goodness instead of my own. Upon further examination, I noticed it was the chunky kind…the good kind. And it was completely unused, which meant I wouldn’t have to reach that far into the jar and get my knuckles all peanut buttery (because, of course, I was too lazy to grab a spoon and planned to eat with my hands). It was the perfect snack. I had a dilemma though: I had, thus far, prided myself on being the perfect roommate to my father–respectful and mature as was expected of me. And eating this peanut butter would change that fact forever. He would know I ate it instead of my own, and he would likely know I didn’t even use a spoon. It was too risky, so I decided against it. But just then, an overwhelming force came over me and I thought to myself, stop acting like a boob and eat the damn peanut butter. It’s about time you started taking some risks. My heart was racing. The vein on my forehead (affectionately named Dwayne) began to emerge as I slowly removed the lid of the jar and peeled back the freshness seal. And then, I just ate it. And I didn’t use a spoon. It was perhaps one of the most exhilarating moments of my overachieving, wet blanket wearin’, nerdy little suck up life.
And so, a couple weeks later, I quit my job and moved to California: the craziest, riskiest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve begun to approach daily life differently. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve experienced an interesting variety of panic attacks. Slowly but surely however, I’m mellowing out and starting to live a little. Some days, this once little straight-laced Midwestern gal feels about a hop, skip and a jump from a dirty hippy. I’m anchoring myself to the present and harboring far less paranoia about my future. The transition into California Kirsten has begun.
And I plan to make this transition perfectly.