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I recently read this article on The Power of 'Good Enough' in The Atlantic. I am a perfectionist and often find myself surrounded by other perfectionists. Certainly I was raised in a home that far too often taught that I must be perfect - perfect grades, perfect behavior, perfect perfect perfect. I learned early that anything less, any mistake was all my fault and that I should have somehow known better. Learning was not a process of making mistakes but rather knowing the right answer, every single time. Now in fairness to my parents, they too are perfectionists raised by parents who also taught them that they had to be perfect, had to measure up, had to meet their expectations. I know that for my mother, her mother's amazing, ceiling breaking career instead of inspiring her gave her a sense of not measuring up and for my father, failing to make real his mother's expectation that he become a doctor resulted in a man who again never measured up, never quite made it. So the concept of "Good Enough" is truly foreign to me in some ways.
On the one hand it makes perfect sense (yes that pun was intended!) that we have to make choices and that most of the time good enough is enough, probably even more than enough. After all there is no perfect mate, perfect marriage, perfect career, perfect faith. Most of life, and certainly the most important things life are messy and imperfect. Yet how many of us are plagued by the disease of perfection? I know in my religious circle of Unitarian Universalists we are a people of perfection. For all our embracing of a diversity of faith, we are communities of professionals - academics, doctors, lawyers, community leaders and with that comes a sense of high expectation and we are not very good at learning to embrace mistakes. I remember once in a UU setting someone posted a disparaging joke in an email, without the intention to do harm but the impact was immediate. There was an immediate and swift response to the email that included statements that they didn't know if they could be in a community where such things were posted. My response to this whole situation was to know that I could never make a mistake within that context for fear that repercussions would be fast and furious. Again the expectation in some places is that our anti-oppression work must be perfect.
So one of the things I realized as I read this post is that I have been paralyzed by thinking that there is this one perfect job or career out there - the one that will use my gifts and skills and pay me well and that I will enjoy and oh that is my calling. Oh no pressure there! I have written repeatedly on this blog about vocation and really wrestling to listen to my life, to realize that maybe the Holy is less concerned with the specific job or career and more concerned that I take my whole, deep authentic self to the work - whatever it is. I wrestle over and over again with this idea that there is a job out there that I am supposed to have and be doing and that I just have not found it yet. I know that I have found a number of jobs that don't work, or no longer work. Oh and that is the other thing I wrestle with - that once I find this ideal job or career I am supposed to stay in forever, it is supposed to be the perfect thing forever. What if it is really ok that each job or career has been the right job or choice for that period of time but now it is time for something different, something new because I am different, I have not remained the same.
What would it mean to have a good enough job? What is the job that is good enough for now? What is most important to me at this stage of my life? I know that we want to be settled into a location for the long term and we have decided that place will be Richmond, Virginia. I know I want a job that will support the three of us and that we stop living on the edge financially. I know I want time to pursue things like forming a Georgetown Alumni Club in Richmond (there is no Alumni club anywhere in Virginia - what is up with that?!). I want to join a book club. I want to take yoga and work out. I want to cultivate friends and community.
So what is this good enough job? I know that I am an excellent teacher, facilitator, program creator and director, writer and speaker. I know that I love technology and love learning new technology. I love the ways social media and technology connect us around the world. I am working with a start up Maker Space and one of the reasons this excites me is that it is about bringing people together to create and learn together - learning that involves mistakes, learning through finding out what doesn't work. That is exciting to me!
So I am working on embracing a good enough job and wondering what might happen if I open myself to all sorts of possibility. What if I can really learn to let go of perfection? What if I can free myself from the pressure and restrictions that the quest for perfection brings with it? Because the reality is that perfection is paralyzing. I get so worried about getting it wrong, or being found to be less than that I put things off, don't put myself out there, become highly self-conscious. In my quest to be perfect and not get anything wrong, I put my light under basket.
So maybe my true calling is to discover the gift of "good enough." And maybe, in finding the position that is 'good enough' ... I will find myself being proud of the work I do, my gifts being useful and my personal life more fulfilling. Perhaps, then my light can really shine brightly.
What do you think?