The Demon of Perfect

Monday, January 21, 2013

I am sitting under a brown blanket on brown bedsheets in my dorm room, the first time I have seen the place in over a month, and I am sick.

If you take the 'everything happens for a reason' line of thinking, I suppose this could be signaling to me that it was a positive choice not to go to DC for inauguration, or that I am really not ready to complete my last semester at college, or perhaps that I should have heeded the warnings of the librarians last Friday when they said something was 'going around.' But, as I hack and sniff, I wonder if this is really just the latent effect of the work hard/play hard mentality that I took towards winter break. Though nominally a 'rest' period, this time for me was spent meeting up with friends and reading all the books I could and working and seeing all the exhibits/boroughs/TV shows that I don't get a chance to during the school year.

The fun blow-out felt necessary. To balance out the pressures of the previous semester, why not go on a 100% do-what-you-want spree? But somewhere in the second to last week before returning to campus, I started to feel like my energy was waning. An immense guilt settled itself like a bullfrog in the back of my throat: there was only a week left and I hadn't gotten through even half of my 'goals' for the break. I felt guilt over not reading articles, over not writing enough, over not spending more hours at work. The balance I had chosen wasn't giving me any rest - I had been caught by the demon of perfect.

I'm bad at rest, as I've written about previously. But when you're sick, all you can think about is rest. All you can think about is the presence of your body and how off it feels - what you normally 'feel' is an absence of body, something you can ignore until it drips or itches or aches. And sometimes it leads me to believe that sickness serves the purpose of slowing you down by force; it puts me in a reflective mood just by virtue of my lacking energy. And when I look back on the last month, I realize that my lofty goals were planned under the assumption that one does not have to sit still to replenish - that you can balance difficult academic pursuits by entering into difficult artistic pursuits, rather than putting a hold on any pursuits at all. But people don't always give themselves what they need.

I am sick at an inopportune time. A new semester of classes, with all its accompanying responsibilities, dawns tomorrow. I cannot even muster the energy to do the bare minimum things beyond feeding myself and browsing around on the internet. Yet the legitimacy it gives me, to feel tired and to slack, has allowed me to examine the wrong-headed guilt I've been feeling for the past few weeks. For that, I am grateful. As I am confined to my bed, I begin to dream up the connections between balance - this mythical state that we seek when looking for the best methods of productivity - and achieving perfect. Even when we're supposedly resting, it can take us away from what we really need.

I've disabled the comments on my blog from here on out, not to discourage conversation (which I hope you will take to my email inbox, Facebook page, or Twitter), but to let this place stand as a great writer-ly experiment without the pressure of garnering pageviews or comments as a proof of some arbitrary notion of 'success.'