Have you ever looked at an old picture of yourself, pursued your lips and seethed out, “Oh God!”?
Secured in a shoe-box in our dark attic, hidden from the eyes of the world, is wallet-sized a picture of Cindy and I posing in front of a lacy white curtain for our 1997 Junior Prom.
I look like a cardboard cutout of a 12 year old boy forced to wear a tuxedo. Half-smiling. Uncomfortable. Desperately awkward. Like most prom picture poses, my left arm is positioned like a tea cup handle. Cindy’s right arm laced through the handle. She’s holding a bouquet of flowers my mom bought her. She’s forcing a smile while trying to look natural and her hair is big and curly and looks like something that crawled out of Greek mythology.
I’m sure before she sat down in the stylist chair, Cindy had high expectations. I’m sure she spotted some perfect hairstyle in a magazine, doggy-eared the page, showed the stylist, they both nodded and the stylist began creating what I’ll call an “experimental” hair style. A hair style that, many years from now, will be put behind museum glass for preservation, for the living people of the day to gawk and and point and stare in amazement at the eccentric designs of the past. A replica wig is on sale in the museum gift shop for $39.95.
Last week I told you I started a personal writing project and I’m currently reading my old writing– looking for project worthy material. And in doing so, I now know the dissatisfaction, the discomfort, the heartburn Cindy feels every time she sees that junior prom picture.
How often, when we look back at our past self, do we only see imperfections?
Reading my old writing is weird. Like a kid going to the junior prom, it’s stiff, tries too hard, and is unsure of himself. It’s also littered with spelling errors, forgotten words, and misplaced commas.
In one post I wrote… I scratched my stubbled chin and began to thing real hard…
In another I wrote.. it’s a small word after all…
This week, my favorite album, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, turns 45 years old. As the story goes, Springsteen was in utter agony over the sound of what would become one of rock’s greatest albums. Initially the album failed to live up to his own expectations. Even when record executives announced it was a hit record, all Springsteen could only hear musical flaws. Springsteen pleaded with producers to not release his album and to give him more studio time. When they didn’t, like a rock star, Springsteen threw the album demo in a hotel swimming pool.
Learning to accept imperfections is a theme that jangles through the album–“I’m no hero and that’s understood.” As if Springsteen is trying to make peace with his own imperfections. And ironically, singing about his own imperfections, he created one of rock’s most perfect albums.
Born to Run is an album brimming with tramps, bums, outlaws, and restless hearts. Imperfect characters who, while desperately searching for earthly satisfaction, inspire us to sing, to dance, and celebrate all that is imperfect with this earthly life.
As the old saying goes– “it’s close enough for rock and roll.”
For years, this personal writing project collected dust, like that junior prom photo, because I wanted it to be perfect. So to avoid this “perfection” pressure– I conveniently never began.
Our modern, Instagram life conditions us to think if we do not achieve perfection then we’re a failure. So we try to make everything perfect only to toss ourselves into crisis. The pursuit of perfection dooms our happiness, self-sabotages our efforts, and promotes complacency.
Progress not perfection is a maxim we must adopt in order to achieve our potential. You have to get comfortable with your flaws or you will never find peace until you make peace with your imperfections. Until you can look in willingly mirror and firmly announce—“I’m imperfect.”
Whether it’s a questionable prom hairstyle, writing your musical masterpiece, or reading through your old writings— understand that perfection is an immortal myth that dooms the living.
So I will keep working on my project. It won’t be perfect. I will make mistakes — every now and hen.
Thank you for understanding.
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