I was going through some old notebooks and journals the other day, and found another note that my teenage self had written to the grown up me. There are a few of these gems scattered in my things — messages I wrote as a teenager that were aimed at my thirtysomething self. In fact, my lifetime of journaling contains more than a few items that comprise a dialogue between me and myself, across decades.
It’s weird, and wonderful, and probably one of the best things I ever did for myself — remembering as a child to give instructions to the Meredith I hoped I’d become one day.
(And then, of course, there are notes to girlfriends; messages to myself about what I want to think; margin marks about my teenage life…and I remember that I was thirteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty five when I wrote these things.)
But more than one of these notes says, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” As if my young self knew that the perfectionist instinct — that weird hamster churning its wheel in my head — would derail me more than once in my adult life.
I wish my younger self hadn’t cared so much about judgment — by the world and by grown up Meredith. And I wish my marginally older-but-perhaps-not-wiser self hadn’t cared so much about perfection; form over substance. There was a time when I thought my life would be complete with the right bag or dress; my marriage would have been happy if I’d just had enough spoonulas or the right color of matching tea towels; my household would be full of love if I just selected the correct Diptyque scent.
My life is messy; imperfect. I’m starting to accept that.
And in accepting imperfection, I realize how wise my younger self was.
There will be (many) days when I still wish my life were perfect — when I resent the puppy and the shag carpet that sheds and the tub that backs-up and the neighbors whose dinner is stinking up my apartment.
But then I remember — I do — that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor…and I think about letting go.