You know that person who seems to have it all? Well, that’s me. I am, and always was, considered the “golden child” and am living a life that many would consider “perfect.” A dream filled with a tree that grows money, the ability to eat cake and not get fat, and relaxing afternoons lying on a hammock. An existence where nothing goes wrong and I seem to float effortlessly through it all.
Except that’s not true in the slightest.
Despite the harsh fact that my life is quite the opposite of perfect, even bordering on chaotic at times, the idea of flawlessness has followed me throughout my entire existence. I was the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect girlfriend. Over and over again that ideal shows up as a description of my being as though my soul knows no other way of existing. Part of me can understand why.
On the outside, my life is perfect. I’m married to a wonderful man who easily and openly communicates with me on a regular basis. We both are highly educated, have well-paying, steady jobs that include health and retirement plans. We live in a two-bedroom apartment on one acre of land that provides more than enough space for our American Bulldog to run around. What’s even better is that our rent is way under market value considering we live in a highly regarded area of New Jersey and I can actually walk to a park that regularly holds summertime festivals. We are both healthy and extremely fitness oriented with a focus on daily exercise and good nutrition. This, in turn, allows us to be considered “desirable” and “attractive” by American cultural standards. We’ve also managed to pay off the majority of our debt except for my graduate student loans. Now, I don’t mean to be bragging (although it could definitely seem that way), but to many I may just be living a life out of a story book that people think they’ll never achieve.
What everyone forgets, though, is that just because I’ve managed to create a stable existence that everyone can see on the outside doesn’t mean I don’t face my own barrage of trials and tribulations. More than likely, I’m living a life very similar to all those around me except I’ve had the word “faultless” stamped on my forehead at a young age. While this type of pressure used to cause me great stress, it’s also taught me many lessons. Here are seven things I’ve learned from having a so-called perfect life.
1. Everyone’s definition of perfect is different and, therefore, there is no such thing as perfection. The actual definition of perfect is “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be” (thanks Google). On the outside, that’s absolutely what people see in my life. It is definitely desirable and filled with amazing qualities. However, that’s only a small portion of what it really is to be me and live my life.
Here are a few quick facts to help you walk in my shoes:
- Both of my parents were deceased before I hit the age of 23. Add in a slew of other untimely deaths and I’ve become the go-to friend for helping others learn to grieve.
- In college I suffered from bulimia after a less than wonderful relationship at the time whittled down my self esteem and caused me to try and take control in a not so healthy way. Lots of therapy (that I regularly go back to when needed) was my only way out of that dark hole.
- My husband suffers from severe anxiety that was so bad at one point it was causing him to be physically ill on a daily basis. In turn, it made our first year of marriage one of the most difficult times of our life.
Now, that doesn’t sound perfect to me, but that doesn’t mean others don’t yearn to live a similar life based on what they think my life is like. It also doesn’t mean that my life is horrible by any means. It’s really quite amazing actually and I wouldn’t change it for anything!
Everyone’s idea of what a perfect life should be varies greatly. Remember the old adage of walking in another person’s shoes? We should think about that before we start throwing around words that hold such a heavy weight with their perceived definitions. True perfection requires looking at the whole picture, not just the parts we want to see. I rather enjoy my slightly messed up life as it’s perfect to me.
2. To get to the good, you have to trudge through the bad. My so-called perfect life has come with quite a few awful times as mentioned above. Most people I talk to seem to forget any of those bad things ever happened to me though. However, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without experiencing those events. I would have never learned how resilient I am or the amount of love you could hold for someone even when they drive you crazy. I now know what it feels like to truly lose something (or someone) and it has helped me take things for granted less often than I used to. In order to appreciate all the amazing things in life, you have to be taught a few lessons and make a few mistakes.
3. People think you know the answers to everything or that you know nothing. Depending on which end of the spectrum you’re on, perfection either means you’re a genius or you’ve managed to skate through life relatively unharmed and lack common sense and experience because of this. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground with that thought process. I’ve learned to act accordingly based on whichever type of person I’m talking to. In all honesty though, I’m just like everyone else. There are some things I know a lot about and other things I know nothing about. Most of my understanding comes from different life experiences mixed with textbook knowledge. Just remember that I and all those other perfect people are human beings too and don’t live in a vacuum that consists of zero negative occurrences.
4. It can lead to the fear of failure. Being labeled as the golden child put a lot of pressure on me. I didn’t want to let anyone down and for many years I really didn’t know what it was like to fail. It scared the crap out of me even just thinking I might not succeed. It also stopped me from doing new things that I probably would have loved because I was so worried I’d mess up and ruin everyone’s perception of me. Thank goodness I got over that stage after high school and now have a slew of mistakes and failures under my belt that have taught me many great lessons. As my favorite saying goes, “never let your fear decide your fate.”
5. Hard work is often confused with hand-outs. That fear of failure that was driving me to work so hard led me to another very poignant learning experience about privilege vs. hard work. There is definitely such a thing as privilege and I’ve taken advantage of it. I’ve known the right people at the right time. I’ve probably been given opportunities over others because I’m white, well-mannered, and overall look like a very sweet and pleasing young lady. But, I’ve also worked my ass off. I am so successful now because I’ve learned to combine my well-timed opportunities and privileges with good old fashioned hard work. Do not mistake perfection for ease or lack of failure. I’ve failed many times (once I learned to accept it as a natural part of life) and often had to take the hard road to reach the top. I just managed to do it with a smile on my face.
6. Being happy takes constant work. It’s often assumed due to my optimism that I am always happy which must also mean my life is perfect. The nerd in me just wants to remind everyone that correlation does not equal causation. Just because I smile doesn’t mean I’m living a flawless life. In the same regard, just because I’m grumpy doesn’t mean my whole life sucks.
I don’t believe anyone can ever truly be happy all the time. Sure, you can pretend to love every aspect of your life, but that’s most likely just a mask you’re wearing so as to not stir the pot. We all have feelings, some of which are negative, and it’s ok to express them. While the majority of my life is blissful, it’s also been plagued by lots of sorrowful and stressful moments. It takes a lot of consistent hard work, self-understanding, and time to live a mostly happy life. This doesn’t come as easy as most people would like to believe.
7. It doesn’t matter what other people think as long as I’m living the life I want to. I used to get really hung up on the need to portray that I had a perfect life because that’s what everyone always thought I was doing anyway. I never wanted to be the girl that was anything less than successful and strong. To some extent that’s still true, but now when something goes haywire I jokingly remark, “What would life be without a little adventure?”
I’ve learned to embrace the flaws of my life because that’s what makes it worth living. Whether you think I’m perfect or not, each day is a little piece of the puzzle that describes who I am and what I do as I wander around this earth. It doesn’t really matter whether someone else just sees the corners that are easy to fit together because it’s my job to fill in the messy middle whatever way I want.
In the end, though, good or bad, perfect or flawed, the most important thing I’ve learned is that life is what you make it. And let’s be honest, perfection is boring anyway.