Photo by Megan Tieu

Accepting imperfection

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If you asked me to draw a straight line without a ruler or a perfect circle without a compass, I’d be able to do both with minimal effort.

Although that may sound impressive, the truth is my brain was always wired this way—I can’t help but automatically focus on the littlest details.

Ever since I was little, I’ve always felt the need to make everything perfect. Some of my most vivid childhood memories include putting misplaced items back on their shelves while shopping. My parents told me even as a toddler, I was neatly arranging toys and bursting into tears whenever someone knocked down even a single figure.

I spent my childhood wondering why my parents always criticized me for being so meticulous. As I grew older, I realized I had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), explaining my drive to do things over and over until I’m content. These days, I don’t cry over knocked down toys, or go out of my way to put misplaced items back on shelves, but I still try to perfect other aspects of my life.

As of right now, I’m beginning to manage my OCD after it got out of hand in junior year. Almost every night, I’d be up until 3 a.m. redoing notes, erasing diagrams until they looked like ones in textbooks, and going all out on PowerPoint projects. I wanted each of my assignments to look more impressive than the last. As a result, my physical health worsened: the lack of sleep caused chronic inflammation in my immune system, and my mental health declined as I never felt satisfied even if my work clearly displayed my efforts. 

Eventually, I stopped turning assignments in, assuming my teachers would be disappointed to see assignments less well-done as they were at the start of the year. My grades dropped as I prioritized perfection over completion. 

However, things changed when my mom scheduled an appointment for us to meet with my counselor when she found out I was failing half of my classes. I opened up to them about how I was struggling in school due to a number of reasons, one of which was not knowing how to handle OCD.

My counselor advised that I told my teachers why I was falling behind and over the next few weeks, she’d call me in to check on my progress of making up assignments. From weekly visits and advice on how to manage my time better from teachers, I began figuring out ways to deal with my OCD. 

On the second to last day of junior year, a conversation with my favorite teacher set my mindset for the following summer at a college  program and my senior year. Despite not doing too well in her class, she was willing to listen to my problems and completely understood why I was overwhelmed with it all.

Most of the things Mrs. Wright told me that day ultimately changed the way I go about things in life now, but one quote in particular sticks with me everyday: “It doesn’t have to be perfect. As long as you did your best and you know that, that’s all that really matters.”

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