On New Year’s Eve In 2010, I finished a manuscript for a novel that had taken me over two years to write. Before I finished stories much quicker and for a long time, it felt like I had been standing still until I reached this new accomplishment. It felt incredible at the moment but I came down quite quickly afterwards. It had been an accomplishment to finish something but it hadn’t brought me what I thought it would bring me. It wasn’t a cure for sadness and it changed absolutely nothing. The next day I was as depressed as I’d usually been and the clock simply kept on ticking. Lately, I’ve been starting to notice that accomplishments don’t make me happy – maybe a little bit at the moment, but this moment usually lasts just a few seconds. Does it matter to have won Superteams, a football cup, the award for the most improved player of the season? Does it matter to receive a first for assignments? Does it matter to be looked up to? To be praised by your peers for being good at everything? It doesn’t feel like it matters because no matter how well I do it’s never good enough and more importantly, it doesn’t bring me happiness. It means nothing because being successful is not what life’s about.
Artists are never satisfied, another artist said to me. If you created something 10 minutes ago and then read it back it won’t be good enough because 10 minutes have passed and in those 10 minutes you have been thinking and doing and developed as a person. Something is only ever perfect in the moment. Something can only ever be perfect when you’re standing still.
Humans aren’t made to stand still. We progress all the time – constantly, even if we try to fight against this. We literally age every day and we cannot stop time. But if I’m never satisfied because it’s never good enough then that implies that I’m seeking perfection, and I’m seeking perfection for two reasons.
For one, perfection is an ideal in society. I need to be good enough. I need to constantly succeed. I need to be the best at what I do. Only then, I’ll have value. Today’s world pressures us to constantly succeed.
On the other hand, I want to become a better person out of my own desire. I have this incredible drive to constantly be the best version of myself because I want to reach my full potential. Improvement can help you on a personal level. For example, I barely tend to hold onto anger nowadays as there is no need to be angry or to hold a grudge. This emotion only takes up valuable energy that I could use for something else and I am better off without it. As a result, I’m probably a nicer person to be around than I was before.
Sometimes I feel like I want to take a break – or a breath. Sometimes it’s tiring to constantly move and aim for the best. I think that’s also why I declared Aberystwyth as my ‘home home’ for the last three years. It meant that there was at least one constant in my life – something still. But even when I do stop and take a breath, I feel the need to set everything in motion again. On the sims, there is a trait called ‘ambitious’ in which the sims are ‘driven to move up the corporate ladder more quickly but fall prey to low mood if they don’t quickly receive the promotion they desire.’ It kind of feels like that’s me. But I’m never satisfied with either. When I temporarily reach perfection it doesn’t feel good and when I’m still on my way to reaching perfection it doesn’t feel good enough.
A friend suggested that I accept that improving means that I am not where I want to be, but that it means I will be someday. No one is perfect and I need to accept that neither am I. Theoretically, I guess I could have perfection if I started standing still in time, but I don’t want to stand still. Therefore, there is no need to be perfect and I don’t want to be perfect. I want to improve and grow and as long as I’m doing that, I can be content and maybe even happy with myself and the things that I do. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey – is what they say. It’s cliche but true.
‘Oh, why do
I reach for the stars
When I don’t have wings
To carry me that far?’
– Roots Before Branches