Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh hey, about that "challenge" that was supposed to make me write more...

Oh, hello there blog. I remember you, I think.

So about that challenge. Maybe I'll finish it someday, maybe not. Maybe when I feel that I lack inspiration, I'll do the prompts that actually strike me as interesting.

I'm here today, however, because I have a confession to make. My name is Siobhan, and I am a perfectionist.

I know what you're thinking - perfectionism is generally not seen as a flaw. It's generally one of the things behind the kind of obsessive drive that results in greatness. In it's lesser forms, it at the very least means that one is organized, or dresses really well, or got straight A's.

If you knew me in my younger and more self-assured [read: self-righteous] years, you probably heard me espouse the belief that the most offensive thing you could say to a person was that you thought their life was perfect. It seemed to neatly wrap up everything I hated about a mindset that my middle school philosopher friends and I referred to as "Comparative Suffering." Which is to say, that I may know, proverbially, that children are starving in Africa, but it doesn't make me feel better about my objectively more trivial problems. Or whatever problems pre-teen girls throw around to make their lives seem more important than they really are. The point is, to turn to someone and say "Oh, what would you know, your life is perfect" just seemed so... wrong, so ignorant, so disrespecting of all the complexities of another person's life.

But here's the catch: I have lived my life in pursuit of being, as they say, perfect. I'm not proud of this, actually, as there is an extreme degree of arrogance goes along with such a quest. But I am competitive to a fault, a result of an unrelenting desire to be the best, to be right, to do it better, whatever "it" is in a particular case - be it grades, acting, singing, skating, or just about anything I've ever cared about.

By late high school I had at least started to accept that I could make mistakes - of the life varietal - and they did not constitute huge, epic personal failings. But it wasn't until early sophomore year of college that I had a teacher sit me down and pinpoint this perceived "strength" of mine as my greatest weakness.

We had begged for individual conferences on our acting, which somehow, as this sort of thing always does, quickly became quick but disturbingly accurate portraits of our psyche as assessed by this still relatively new to us acting teacher (a man who I now refer to as "one of my favorite people on this earth"). I forget what I told him that day, and not much of what he said stuck, except this - Geoffrey: "You're a perfectionist aren't you?" Me: "You could say that." Geoffrey: "It's no good, Siobhan. You've got to drop that. You'll be so much better that way." You'll notice he deliberately omitted whether or not he meant as an actress or a person...

Over the next two years, Geoffrey would continually ask me to stop being perfect. He meant it unfailingly as - well, an insult. He's that kind of teacher, you see. But it was a hard lesson to learn, for a girl so paralyzingly afraid of failing as I was then, that you could in fact fail, and fail grandly. But somehow the lesson clicked that day, in spite of years of hearing my mother telling me that I did not, in fact, have to be the perfect child, of my dad telling me I was entering a business where no such thing existed, of my friends telling me I was just a liiiittle too hard on myself. I spent that year, and the next, dedicating myself to a lot of things in studio, but the big one was as much a personal lesson as an acting lesson - I learned to fail grandly.

The reason I'm thinking about this all now is because I'm falling back into an old pattern. Auditioning is a competitive game, and again, the urge to win and be the best is something that I've found second nature for a long time. And now I sit at auditions and I see that I'm not as pretty as this other girl, or my headshots were printed at Walgreens and really how amateur-ish is that, or what if my singing isn't absolutely one hundred percent on point today, or how I have to get this one not for me, but because my friend already got some audition.

Do you see the problem with this logic? I do. To be able to correct all these problems would make me technically "perfect" but they wouldn't make me "good." And yet I'm scared. I'm more scared now than I've been in my life and I worry about what I will say at my next high school alumni event, because I was supposed to be the girl who skyrocketed straight to the top of the world. Again. THAT IS NOT THE WAY I SHOULD LOOK AT IT!

I don't want to be perfect. Or more accurately, I want not to want to be "perfect." It is, after all, so exceedingly boring. Thirteen-year-old me had a lot of things wrong, but maybe I wasn't so wrong about the offense of being "perfect." Maybe I should let "real" me be just as offended by the assumption that I won't be good enough until I've glossed over those flaws and those details. It'd make things a hell of a lot easier, after all.

Resolved, that I will go back to knowing how to fail gloriously. If graduating was jumping out of an airplane, I've been suspended in the air in a lovely yet ultimately ineffectual way for several months. In the beginning of November I think I finally actually hit the ground. It's go time.