On Perfectionism, Failure, and My Monday Morning

Today, I stood in front of my class for three minutes and awkwardly tried to present an introduction to the following resolution: we should all adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.

As I got up, I warned the class that my introduction was ruined since we decided to expand the resolution to involve all people in the world, not just the United States of America. I also suggested that people ask questions right away because I sure as hell didn’t have five minutes worth of things to say. A nice classmate asked me how I was doing and my professor suggested that I start.

“ ‘I celebrate myself

And what I shall assume you shall assume

For every atom of me as good belongs to you’

These are the opening lines of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” a poem and man that defined Americanism in the 19th century.”

That is how I opened my introduction.

In theory, I would’ve addressed how Whitman took 35 years to write and rewrite the poem, changing titles from “A Poem of Walt Whitman, An American”, “Walt Whitman”, and finally “Song of Myself.”

In theory, I would’ve connected the ever-changing idea of identity and Americanism to “Song of Myself.”

In theory, I would’ve talked about how my generation (iGens, Millennials, Screenager) is in the process of defining ourselves- of shedding the preconceived notions that older generations have thrown upon us.

In theory, I would’ve brought up rebels throughout American history and how they were catalysts in advancing society to where we are today.

In theory, I would’ve labeled iGens as rebels, because we refuse to be labeled. We refuse to crumble to conditions we were born under, under no fault of our own. We refuse to fail.

In theory, I would’ve pitched vegetarianism as a social deviance that we could all get behind- that the rebels have found their cause.

In theory, I would’ve linked meat eating to climate change, evolutionary hierarchy, and social failure.

In theory, I would’ve killed it.

In actuality, I said the following (or at least I’m pretty sure this is what I said, with many pieces missing because I have already repressed them):

“ ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ is a movie about a guy with cool hair and a red jacket and a truck.”

“Vegetarianism could be our cause.”

“Our generation is constantly being labeled, but we can finally label ourselves.”

“As a dying Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.”

“Can I sit down?”

When I finally did make my way to my seat, people tried to bring me up by saying that my “delivery was good” and that I “sounded like a slam poet.”

What nice things to say to someone who virtually said nothing.

It was a combination of performance anxiety and being totally unprepared, but I bombed the introduction harder than I ever thought I could.

So, I went through the remainder of class embarrassed, defeated, and depressed.

I had roughly ten days to write that five minute introduction, why didn’t I think to take an hour and write one down? Why did I think I could pull an amazing introduction out of thin air? Why did some people not recognize the Spider-man reference?

These questions have been floating through my head all day and answers have been coming as well:

You prioritized Netflix over homework.

You have been busy.

You didn’t think five minutes was that long.

You are trying too hard.

You aren’t trying at all.

You don’t want to succeed so you don’t have to fail.

That last one hit me hard.

In the history of my life, I have constantly fallen short in times that mattered.

During high school, I did not do most of my assignments, nor did I bother to read the test questions, resulting in beautiful Scantron patterns and pitiful test scores. I dreamed of spectacular, edgy, and novel projects and essays, though they never quite came to fruition. Often, I’d create a document or write a few ideas in a notebook, and then think the idea to grand forms until the due date came and I have to face the reality that the idea never actually came to fruition.

In my mind, I was rejecting the flawed grading system and the notion that work could be valued on a numerical scale or some bullshit.

In reality, I had sabotaged myself in fear of getting a negative result.

Perfectionism is a bitch, but I think fear is what makes me perfectionism’s bitch.

Why are you oversharing the worst part of your day in a very public and permanent form?

That’s a good question and probably something I’m going to be asking myself for a while after I press “publish,” but let me try to answer now…

I am sharing this experience because I need to recognize that I do this and have done this often. I need to write and read it out so that I can actually take it in.

Yeah, cool. That answers why you wrote it down, but why share it with the worldwide web? Don’t you have a journal or something?

I am sharing this experience with the worldwide web because I think that I am not the only person with an internet connection that has issues with anxiety, perfectionism, and procrastination.

I am sharing this experience with the worldwide web because the only way we can truly connect with others is through honest, sincere vulnerability.

I am sharing this experience with the worldwide web because a phoenix will burst into flames only to rise out of the ashes.

That was going well until you brought up the phoenix thing. Stop being an asshole.

Fair.

Truthfully, I am sharing this because we all have flaws and things we want to work on ourselves. And I can only hope that by sharing this, we* can move on.

You’re doing the Holden Caulfield thing where you use “we” when you mean “you.”

Called out. Maybe I do mean me, but I also mean we.

We can only move on if we accept what we have done in the past and learn from it.

You’re really just starting to sound like a bad school counselor. Stop. Conclusions have never been your strong point.

Perhaps this isn’t the conclusion, but the introduction to something new…

Like what you read? Give Lucy Stevens a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.