Becoming Human Again

My name is Rebecca and I am a perfectionist.

Before finally admitting this to myself, I judged people who made this brand of declarative statement. Maybe I’ve only ever heard it said as an afterthought—tacked on as an excuse for an uninvited suggestion to improve something. I usually just kind of rolled my eyes.

After all, isn’t calling yourself a perfectionist is the equivalent of saying you’re too committed to your work when asked what your weaknesses are in a job interview?

I didn’t imagine it was the fear of failing (or worst yet, the fear of being rather unremarkable) that kept me spinning wheels around my intentions until I realized it was the source of my procrastination. As a young professional, I operate in extremes. I’m either overly committed, too scared to stop moving lest all the plates I’m spinning come crashing down, or I’m coasting and putting off my creative pursuits in exchange for indulgent comforts.

As the rest of the world ushered in 2018 with excitement and gusto, I was too aware of how uninvested I was in my work. I felt listless and longing to be challenged again. Two weeks into 2018, my boss took another job that guaranteed less travel, the publisher offered me her role and I went from what was a glorified data-entry position to managing two B2B publications in print and digital. This new role requires me to travel to trade shows across the country (and occasionally, globally) approximately every 6 weeks. I was home for all of ten days in February which was a worthy induction to the insanity that the publishing industry is usually characterized by.

And I absolutely love it.

The job demands more planning than I’ve ever had to account for but I’m delighted to work directly with contributors, pay them fairly, and elevate these publications with fresh voices.

My excitement aside, the work is a behemoth. Yet, the challenges that stretch my limits, for better or worse, engage me most. When I’m under-engaged, I’m bored, and that usually means I stumble into some sort of trouble. (We can talk more about that as we get to know one another.) Lately, I’ve been grieved by how few of my life’s moments I’ve absorbed in the present or counted as goals achieved. They do count, as they’re passing I guess, but just as quickly as they’re checked off the list, I move on to the next seemingly impossible rung. You’ve likely figured out that I need to work on balance.

I finally got around to hanging up picture frames in my room over the last few weeks and I created a gallery wall that I refer to as my dream wall to no one except myself because it’s terrible branding.

In the center, there’s an old photo of a bridge that looks like somewhere in Eastern Europe. I bought the framed picture at a market that appeared each Sunday in a playground adjacent to the church I attended in Brooklyn and it cost $10. It remains a mystery where the photograph was taken but one of my new dreams is to find that bridge and see it in person.

In clockwise order around my mystery bridge hangs a photo I took from the Top of the Rock in New York City overlooking Central Park, a photo I took of a street in Havana as a vintage car zipped by, a sweet reminder that I completed a marathon once, a framed postcard featuring the Eiffel Tower, a memory from the time I was introduced to a white horse named Titan in Puerto Rico, my favorite photo of a pier in the Netherlands from what used to be a commercial fishing town and finally, a photo of my boyfriend and I. Each of these images represent something especially meaningful to me, whether they’re things I once dreamed of (like the face of the man I’d eventually fall in love with), or places I still long to be.

Whatever that drive is in me that pangs to fulfill the terrifying dreams that I long for in the middle of the night between wakefulness and sleep when the world is quiet and undemanding has cost me a lot of pain in private, even the achievements and accolades.

I neglect acknowledging any gains I make towards my dreams because as I reach them, the finish line just gets further. Do you know what I mean? And if I fall short, I take failures as final. It takes me years to shake them off and find peace again because I haven’t quite internalized the idea that this bag of skin and bones isn’t defined by failures or triumphs. It’s just the home that lets me travel through this world, loving, growing, falling, trying, breathing, being. I’m trying to live like I believe it.

I’m ready to talk about my failures again, which I think is necessary to be an honest writer.

This all brings me once again to this new job.

I received a copy of the magazine I’ve been working on the last few weeks today. This work consisted of editing over 20,000 words in three weeks, on-boarding the person that took on my role, traveling, and surviving the flu. Yet, when I read through the printed copy, all I could see were the two typos I missed in my own words.

Cosmically, I imagined God laughing.

I framed the editorial as a signpost to remind me not to take myself so seriously. Aren’t the mistakes what make us human? And that’s what keeps me writing—this conviction that amidst our differences, we are all deeply, irrevocably, purely, and remarkably human. The common experiences, the shame and the victories, as well as the deeply ordinary, are worth sharing. Even with a typo or two.

Author: rebecca marie jo

Leave a Reply