Anybody else here a perfectionist? I’m more of a perfectionist than Martha freakin’ Stewart or Tom sexy Brady.
With my blog posts… I’m not happy unless I’ve gone through it again and again, looking for errors like a chimp looking for delicious, delicious ticks in the poop-smeared hair of its playmates. I’m not talking simple spelling errors, either. I comb through and search for subject confusion, poorly structured sentences, and general lack of awesomeness. I often strike entire sentences and paragraphs from the text, because they… well… suck.
When I lived in Hawaii as a pimple-faced college freshman, I had a Creative Writing teacher who required us to do a weekly essay. She was the sweetest Nazi of a lady I’ve ever met. On the first day of classes, she explained that each weekly essay we’d be required to write would be worth 40 points, and that in her 30 years of teaching, she’d only ever handed out two perfect scores. Before her beautiful forbidden lips had even stopped forming the words, I stood on my desk and vowed before classmate and God that I would get a 40 before the semester ended. I was about to continue with, Oh captain, my captain, but my classmates started booing and throwing husked coconuts at me.
Every week I bled and sweat all over those stupid essays. Every week I turned in what I thought was perfection, and every week I’d get back a paper with a big, fat, dark red 38 or 39. She’d always compliment me and tell me she was thoroughly impressed or that my writing was incredible. Horse crap. With every affirmative statement she gave me, I just wanted to roll those essays up and jam them into her fingernails. I needed that 40, even if it came as a result of torture.
But, I never got to take it to those extremes, because it was a religious institution with very strict rules and an even stricter honor code that would make Gandhi quiver. The weeks passed and the perfect essay opportunities were drying up fast. One week, the assigned essay was to be a character build-up of somebody unique we’d known in our lives. I was going to get my 40 with this one, damn it, and so I did what nobody in that school had ever done, and I wrote an honest essay. I used the words damn, hell, and a few words much stronger than those. Why? Because those were the very words that my character constantly used. I couldn’t have properly highlighted him as the person he really was had I used G-Rated words like heck, darn, and shoot. Just like the sentence above, you would have had no clue how serious I was about it if I had simply said, “I was going to get my 40, darn it…”
If I swear while writing, it’s because it’s crucial to the honesty of the writing. Every time. If I swear in real life, it’s just cause it’s fun.
I finished the essay, and marched it into her office, slapped it on her desk and declared, “this is my 40, Sister Monson.” I didn’t wait for her to respond. I kept my head high and and marched right back out, leaving her the definitive signal that my terms were to be met.
I waited and waited. I didn’t know if she was going to march that essay straight to the Dean’s office or burn it. I knew what I was risking turning in a paper that colorful, but I also knew that great risks bring great accomplishment.
I didn’t get thrown out of school. In fact, three days later she handed back the essays and there at the top of mine was a big fat 40, with a note next to it that said something like, “Thank you for being real, Dan. Amazing writing.”
I won’t lie. The giddiness that hit me when I saw the 40 made me pee a little. I had achieved the impossible. Here we are, 12 years later, and I bet she she still gives the same Nazi rant at the beginning of each semester, only now she tells people there have been three to achieve it instead of two.
So there you go. Now you know about my imperfection in perfection. In what area of life are you a perfectionist?
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS, I am actually writing this at 2:30 in the morning. Ironic because every time I do that, I wake up and reread it, immediately noticing the glaring errors that lie throughout. I’m sure there will be plenty in this one.
PPS, does anybody have the old zip disk reader that works? I’d sure LOVE to get my old college documents off of my zip 100 disks (remember those? Haha) but I have no way to do it.