I currently have 7,209 unread emails across all of my accounts. It does not come up often in conversation, but when it does, people are quick to pass judgement and preach their efficient email handling strategies in an attempt to right the apparent wrong that they see in my lifestyle. When I look at my performance in school, I do not see the highest marks across the board. When people hear that, they tout the importance of GPA and academic performance in an attempt to right the apparent wrong that they see in my lifestyle. Do you see a parallel here?

The common thread between these two things is the culture of perfection in which we live. From the time that we are little, we are constantly barraged by an endless stream of evaluations and cut-and-dry situations that train us to see in black and white. Assignments are either turned in on time, or they aren’t accepted. Teams either win or lose. You either succeed in your endeavors or, ‘obviously’, you fail. But that isn’t how the real world works. As I’ve grown older, more of the imperfection in the world has become clear to me. The people who preach these ‘perfect’ lifestyles are always inherently imperfect; the idea that perfection is attainable is naive at best and duplicitous for all intents and purposes.

The severity of this misguided belief has become especially clear to me as I enter the college application process and my peers and I start the arduous task of summarizing our lives in a sales pitch to these institutions. It seems as if there is no hope of getting accepted anywhere good unless you’ve perfectly done alpha to omega and found a cure to cancer while you’re at it. If that is the case, then I am a lost cause, because no single aspect of my character and my academic profile are perfect. Instead of attempting to attain the unattainable, I have lived by a simple creed: do your best in what you love and the best outcome is the only one left. Why spend any precious time on something that you don’t love, on something that doesn’t make you happy or expand your knowledge or fit into the person who you believe you are?

While my optimistic feelings may sour as I face hardships in the future, and as I inevitably question how I could’ve acted differently, I can at least take solace in the fact that my life has been good. I’ve been free of the stress brought on by doing something, anything that I don’t absolutely love, and I can take pride in doing what I love to the best of my abilities. So as your responsibilities in school and in life grow, take care to handpick what matters to you, because the truth of the matter is that no matter what you do, you will be the same person inside. No external force can change your character and your soul, and no matter what you achieve or don’t achieve, it will be wrong if it isn’t coming from the person behind the perfect mask that you don every day.

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