Coldplay’s Parachutes was my favorite album the Summer after my first year of college. I listened to it on repeat that Summer and into the Fall, and then regularly for years afterwards. About three years ago, I listened to it again, and it was like I was hearing it for the first time. The music I still liked, but the words made me angry.
It’s a lot of, “So, I look in your direction, but you pay me no attention” and “I’ll always be waiting for you.” I guess I thought that was sweet before or I didn’t think anything about it at all, but suddenly I was like, “This is a terrible idea for you and this girl you claim to really care about. Go be a rock star and find someone who likes you too. Hint: her name is Gwyneth.”
My point in telling this story is that a few years ago, this strange thing happened where I realized through experiences like the one with Parachutes that I wasn’t the same person I used to be. The strange part about it was that despite being introspective to a fault, I somehow didn’t notice the change, and I was still writing about myself as the person I used to be, but things were starting to ring false.
I had a bit of an identity crisis. Just when things were finally starting to make sense, I realized I was back at zero. But I wasn’t really at zero. I had more confidence than before. Direction too. And that was confusing to me. I was used to doubting my abilities and being in crisis about what I was doing with my life. Suddenly, it seemed, insecure wasn’t a word that fit very well with me anymore.
So this happened again recently. I didn’t see it coming, but it was less of a surprise when I figured out what was going on. I wasn’t reacting to things the way I’d expect myself to. I told stories I would have normally kept to myself. I gravitated toward different music. I read things and thought, “I should really like this–I would have really liked this a year ago.”
The major change was easier to spot this time. It was as simple as realizing that I like myself a lot more than I ever have before. And and and, I am almost sure that has to do with finally letting go of perfectionism. I don’t know how it happened exactly, except really slowly, but I don’t hold myself to an impossible standard anymore. I am a great deal kinder to myself when I mess up. I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound entirely too dramatic, but self-hatred is no longer at the root of all of my problems. I’d like to say it never was, but I have 10 years worth of journals and there is a lot of evidence in them to the contrary.
Perfectionism used to be something I felt uncomfortable talking about. I felt like calling myself a perfectionist was the same as calling myself perfect, and I knew how incredibly imperfect I was. Now I realize that calling myself a perfectionist is more like saying, “I’m a person who wastes her time chasing an impossible goal, because I haven’t figured out yet that the thing I think is going to make me happy is actually the thing that is making me miserable.” It is still a mystery to me how many smart people buy into the myth of perfectionism.
I wish I could say how I got to this much better place where I am happy being me. Where I don’t blame myself for every problem. Where I know how I feel and don’t always need those feelings to be validated by other people. I know it had something to do with finally naming the problem and really dealing with myself, but the truth is that I am pretty surprised to be here and these new surroundings are unfamiliar.
I am less sure of what to write, and so many of the posts I have saved as drafts no longer feel relevant, because I have changed. But I am excited to explore this new territory, and I’ll figure out how to write about it eventually. Probably a lot of stuff about puppies and cotton candy.
And of course I listened to Parachutes while writing this post.