I’ve spent the majority of my life working towards that magical point in time where all of my ducks would inevitably fall into a row.
You know the point I’m talking about – the one at which I’m working my dream job, dating my dream person, living in my dream city and pulling in my dream salary. At this mythical point in time I am rich in interpersonal relationships, my physical health is flawless, my hair is always perfectly on point and I never miss an important deadline or say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
I have it all figured out, at this unidentifiable point in time in the future, and the ‘having it all figured out’ is a permanent state. It’s one I can achieve and then stick with. It’s one that it’s impossible to meddle with.
It is very important to focus on reaching point in time, you see, because I have dutifully informed myself – in some strict office in the back of my mind – that it is the only point at which I’ll be allowed to be happy.
I’ll be happy when my career is thriving and my bank account is full and my body is toned and my personal relationships are plentiful. I’ll have earned the right to joy once I have simply achieved self-actualization and watched all of my dreams come true simultaneously. Then – and only then – I can take a moment to stop and appreciate the life that I’ve meticulously cultivated. Then, I will feel happy with all that I have.
But there’s a curious pattern I have noticed repeating itself over the course of my life: I work hard, I hit my stride, I relish it briefly and then something inevitably shifts. Something that was working stalls and falters. Something that seemed airtight springs a leak. And then life gets thrown into chaos once again. And the process of ‘I will be happy when – ’ continues on.
The older I get, the more I’m beginning to suspect that there is no such thing as having it all figured out at the same time. Life seems to be nothing but a continuous cycle of gaining and losing, of loving and leaving, of coming and going, of searching and finding and forgetting and remembering and mistaking and forgiving, over and over again.
We learn our lessons and then we unlearn them. And then we relearn them and then we learn them upside down and differently and backwards. We lose ourselves and find ourselves and recreate ourselves so many times that we forget what the original model even looked like. We succeed with flying colors and then we get tired of succeeding and we fuck it all up just for the hell of it.
Because the truth is, perfection is boring.
Even if we were to achieve it, we wouldn’t want to stay trapped inside of an absolutely perfect life. We’d find flaws within the perfection. We’d find the needle in the haystack of happiness.
The truth is that as much as we want to have it all figured out, it’s the not-having-things-figured-out that keeps life interesting. It’s deprivation that pushes us forward. It’s the wanting that keeps us alive.
Maybe the reason you’re struggling right now isn’t because you’re flawed or inferior or imperfect, it’s because the struggle is your route to understanding. The imperfections that riddle their way through your life are there to push you – to grow you, and to force you into bigger shoes than the ones that you were previously wearing.
Maybe the idea of ‘perfection’ only exists to drive you forward, but if you got there you wouldn’t want to stay anyhow. Maybe there’s absolutely nothing more soul-sucking than living a perfect life.
So instead of lamenting over the imperfections in our lives – convincing ourselves that we’ll be happy once we rid ourselves of them and rise above them – we ought to start appreciating them a little more fully.
The imperfections in our lives give us something to strive for. Something to work towards. Something to fill our days with ambition and meaning and purpose.
The kind of purpose that makes our lives matter. The kind of purpose that pushes us forward. And the kind of purpose that might even make us the happiest – if we’d only open ourselves up to letting it.