Blake Whitmore, RMU Student
Four years ago I went to the premiere of James Cameron’s Avatar with my boyfriend, his brother, and their friends. They were all older than me. When we shuffled into the crowded theater with our arms full of oversized colas and popcorns, a girl from the middle of the theater called out to my boyfriend and his brother. I immediately recognized her, Gabriella from my Algebra II class the year before.
We scooted past Gabriella to the empty seats she saved us while trying not to brush our butts against her. It turns out she was there to meet up with the group. Apparently they had known each other for quite sometime. It shouldn’t have surprised me. High schools are a complicated web of intertwined awkward social circles.
When my boyfriend introduced Gabriella and me, I started to say we already met, but she extended her hand with a smile and said, “Nice to meet you.”
I sat next to this girl for an entire year and she did not even vaguely remember my face. I smiled, shook her hand, and simply replied, “Algebra II. Second period.” She squinted at me and tilted her head. It was coming back to her. Her eyes widened and the light bulb was flickering.
“Oh my god, you’re that super smart girl!” The smile dropped off my face. Gabriella went on and on about how I was amazing at math and that I was the only sophomore in that upperclassman course. My boyfriend laughed knowing it all sounded just like me, but I was not so delighted. I had so much more to offer, but my one defining trait to Gabriella, was that I was good at math.
In a high school of 2,557 students it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Everyone quickly rushed to their niche and tried to leave their mark. The theater kids all wanted a leading role. The athletes wanted scholarships and trophies. The band kids all wanted that rare solo. If my mark had been that I was good at math, what was I to do with the D I just earned in Honors Trigonometry that quarter.
This moment in the theater started me down a dangerous path. I wanted to be perfect in every way and I wanted to be remembered for my successes, not my shortcomings. I would do anything to be the best, no matter what it cost me. My physical health began to deteriorate and I just kept pushing forward. I had all A’s, was working on the yearbook, taking 4 AP classes, had a solo in the marching band show, and was nominated for homecoming queen only to land in the hospital a few weeks later, but I still thought I could be perfect.
My perfectionistic ways were hazardous. I never thought I was good enough. I didn’t think anyone would remember me or think highly of me. Perfectionism was my shield. I had it in my mind that if I was perfect in every single way I could avoid all shame and avoid being forgotten. I was living for others.
There is no such thing as perfect. For a long time I thought I had failed, but there are so many more outcomes than perfect and failure. That black and white thinking never leads anywhere enjoyable.
I was doing everything to please everyone else, but nothing to please myself. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and my head was pounding. Once again my health has caught up to me. My body is yelling at me to slow down, to take a break, and just relax, but this time I am listening.