As a self-diagnosed recovering perfectionist, I've discovered a fantastic new life motto: good enough.
I recently decided to 'go back' to school by taking one course in anatomy at the local community college. After completing the necessary registration steps and procuring a student ID, I found myself in the book store reminiscing about old college days, exorbitant book costs, and ridiculously long lines. These days we have a thing called the internet where one might purchase any book, any or all additions, and have it delivered to one's door in two days. When I was last in school, the internet was for messaging your roommate across the room because it was so novel.
Textbooks are still absurdly expensive, but as a new student in my late 30s, school is a novel experience. Going back to school is one of those rare opportunities that one has to do it all over again, but differently this time. And even though I found myself with the same old stomach full of winged caterpillars on the first day, it does feel different. Mostly I just don't care nearly as much this time around. Teachers do not reflect who I am and test scores do not determine my self worth. I laugh in the face of extra credit. Ok, maybe my ears still prick up at the mention of bonus points--let's not get crazy, I said I'm a recovering perfectionist here. But I kinda feel like I'm 'playing' school, like it's a big game or an experiment--how well can I do with less effort? And I'm having fun--a word never associated with academic pursuit before in my life.
I woke up this morning thinking about my new approach to school, that there's a definite line between agonizing over perfection and stopping at good enough. This was not a part of my vocabulary in early school days. As silly as it may sound, I only knew how to strive without end, to study obsessively until you're certain you will know the answer to every question, to read a paper over and over again until your vision blurs--practices that seem verging on psychosis. At least, it's no way to live.
'Good enough' means putting in what is commensurate with what you are getting out. I'm finding I retain more learned information when I stop to consider it's actual relevance to me and my life, how it may benefit me or those in my circles. And that goes for everything in day to day life, work or play. As a reformed 'exceptional' student, it's astounding that it's taken me this long. I got good grades most of my life, but I studied for the test, I wrote what the teacher wanted to read. I was scholastically successful, but not life-accomplished.
It's just not worth measuring up anymore to anyone else's expectations. I'm the only one who will account for my life and how I spend my time. Good enough is whatever counts and not a second more. That's what I (now) call perfection.