killing the idealist in me


Chattanooga’s waterfront, where the Chattanooga’s first Ironman took place

When words fail, what do I have left?

This past week Jon and I went back to Chattanooga for his Ironman. It was Chattanooga’s first, and Jon’s, too, and was something he’d been looking forward to since before we met. And…

It was good to see his friends and family, and good to be able to help him reach his goal. His training hadn’t exactly been what it should have been (for a lot of reasons), and I was proud of him for finishing. But… then…

Why was it so hard for me?

Why is everything so hard for me?

My favorite professor in college once said, “Idealists will always be disappointed. Nothing in this world is ideal.” That saying has stuck with me. I am an idealist, and I am hardest of all on myself. While Jon was out swimming and riding and running last week, all I could think was, That should be me. I should be out there with him. I’m not good enough because I’m not out there with him.

I was taking a situation that had nothing to do with me and making it all about me. (I couldn’t have signed up for the Ironman if I’d wanted to. It was full long before I knew about it, and, truthfully, I needed to be there for Jon, anyway.)

The same, though, goes for my writing and daily routine. The reason I don’t post more frequently is that I don’t make it a priority. Sure, life is crazy, but whose isn’t? If I spent less time worrying about keeping our apartment perfect and making sure I’m perfect and that Jon’s lunch is perfect — if I put those things in their place — then maybe I could start writing more regularly again…

Except every post must be perfect, too. As a writer, I must choose topics and write well and in such a way that I touch you — all of you. Anything less is… Well, I might as well not try.

I allow my perfectionism, and my fear of my perfectionism, to control me. Hence, the very things that I am trying to control are, in fact, controlling me.

And I’m not meaning to complain or seek advice or sympathy. I just want to be a better writer and better girlfriend and better person. I want to reach out and touch you and tell you that you’re special and that we’re all more similar than different.

But how can I do that when all I’m concerned about is me?


Little Debbie sponsors Ironman? Irony, anyone?

*Note: This entire post has been written on my iPhone. Please forgive any mistakes. I am trying to, too.

17 thoughts

  1. I’ve been thinking about this too. Not writing, but Bible reading. I have a “One Year Bible” which I set out to accomplish. I’m almost two weeks behind. It’s not that I don’t have time, most days I have a few hours. I was trying to read it before bed, but my sleep schedule has been off for the last few weeks, and most nights I don’t have the energy once I’m in bed (I read my Bible in my bedroom).

    I was in a Bible study class yesterday, and the minister said something like, habits beat will power every time. So I guess the solution for both of us is where we put our goals in our daily routines. The solution might be to develop better habits.

    Good luck Jess.

  2. I feel your pain. I think it is some how biologically natural that we are each the center of our own little universe, and things are quite literally all about us.(Clearly I am not a scientist) And taking that center and putting it around someone else is a pretty painful process. But you are introspective by nature also so at least you understand what’s going on, and that makes it even more painful, whereas many don’t even realize that they have to make everything all about themselves and they go on peacefully in that ignorance. I think the pain is just part of the process of overcoming ourselves…

    • I think you are right, too, Sreejit. At least I am self-aware… I am getting better at taking “me” out of every equation and focusing more on others. Usually we end up happier when the people we love are happy, too, than when we only focus on ourselves and how a situation will affect us.

      Also, you might want to take a look at my recent post. I now think it is SO COOL that you used to live in San Ramon. Back when you first told me that, I knew nothing about the area. Now that I’ve been working there for the past seven months, though, and working with a lot of Indian students (who go back to India to see family at least once a year), well, it is just so cool! My job is right off of Bollinger Canyon Road and Alcosta Blvd. Do you know that area?

      Anyway, I hope you’ve been well! Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment!

      • Yes, I know right where that is. I worked for seven years on the corner of Crow Canyon Rd and Alcosta blvd. It used to be called the PG & E learning Center though while I was working there they changed the name to something I don’t remember right now. Something like the San Ramon Conference Center… not sure. I also worked at two of the Marriotts for short times, and the Target in Dublin, just down the street, and also the Big Lots and the pleasanton Nursing Center… wow, way too many jobs. I traveled every summer so I kept jobs that would let me come and go and then would always get extra side jobs to supplement not working the full year.
        Nice to hear from you. I’ll go and check out your new post

  3. You’re very selfless, Jess. Worrying and thinking about others, making sure they come before you. Which is nothing to be ashamed about but sometimes…we need time for ourselves and get away from it all. As you have mentioned in your earlier posts, life is about balance, or at least trying to find it.

    However, at the same time as we grow older, our priorities – maybe even interests – change. And that is a scary thing: since when did we stop doing that something we love so much? And why? Hope all is well with you, Jess. I always enjoy reading what you put up here :)

  4. It may help to know that I always enjoy reading your posts. Your honesty always manages to come through. I’ve always been more of an optimist (so I hope for an ideal situation as opposed to working toward one) but that leads to frustration too. We have to take the world as it comes to us and make the best of it. It isn’t necessary to be perfect, just to be a part. Supporting Jon was a wonderful and generous thing to do.

  5. My writing schedule took a nose dive not long after Wendi and I moved to Lakewood and consolidated our respective lives. When I couldn’t figure out what it was, I realized I was fairly well content with life and didn’t have much to talk about.

    Lately, I’ve been trying to post something every day and have sort of made it a game to do so: how long can I keep this up? I’m not any less content with life, but now the insanity of the pace you have to have to prevent the two respective lives from running you over as you merge them slows and there’s time to breathe.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not here to demand new stuff to read; but to read what you write when you do. Cut yourself some slack and enjoy the life you have because you’ll never have this particular time again.

  6. Ditto. I don’t necessarily describe it as perfectionism or thinking about myself all the time, but I know how you feel. There are so many things we want to do in our lives, we end up being dissatisfied because we don’t master any one of those things. There’s always something else we could be doing, doing better. And then there’s something else. It’s been a struggle for me for years to try to figure out how to accept the time that I have in each week and figure out what’s most important instead of always being frustrated by what I don’t get done.

  7. Hi Jess kinda nice to ‘see’ you again, but my you sound strained to say the least with all these ‘must be better at’s’! You have always been a good writer, and getting better at that comes through practice doesn’t it? Perhaps for Jon you are already a good enough girlfriend, (he’s still with you right :)?) and unless you’ve done and keep doing something really wicked you’re already a good person. Maybe concentrate on who you already are and start loving that girl as she is. We all do you know. :)
    And this to maybe make you smile..
    “Don’t cook. Don’t clean. No man will ever make love to a woman because she waxed the linoleum – “My God, the floor’s immaculate. Lie down, you hot bitch.” ~Joan Rivers :D

  8. I think if we sat down a large group of people in a room and asked how they were doing…most would say they are floundering. I know I feel that I am and well…I know I am!

    I guess we have to be realistic. Life is not about doing everything you want. There is not enough time in the day for that. It is really about what you plan (or do not plan) to give up or lose to gain something else. The truly productive just give up a better ratio of things.

    For example, the winner of a triathlon gave something up to train and to focus on winning. Maybe he missed his favorite tv show while he was out running. You hope he did not put his family on the back burner just to win but it happens.

    So I am just trying to learn how to lose the right things…soda to lose pounds. A coffee to save money. No television to work out and to learn a new language. It does not work everyday but if I can get in a few pluses then it is a step in the right direction.

    Good luck and have a great week!

  9. Perhaps it is also your love of the challenge that IronMan presents that made you wish you were also a participant. I know I get the same way as a spectator. But I also know the Perfectionism conundrum. It is a downward spiral. Sometime I have to tell myself to just let go. Good enough is good enough and there is no time now to chase perfection. SO hard to do. Yet each day I strive for perfect and am getting better at settling for the best I can do. I hope you find peace with this Jess.

    Little Debbie sponsoring an Ironman?!?! WTF? Maybe there are some Little Debbie Organic Protein bars in the works???? YEAH Probably not……..LOL.

    Take good care friend


  10. I have felt the same, so I am not being trite when I ask this: have you read “Being Perfect” by Anna Quindlen? She is one of my favorite writers, and you might find some inspiration in this short little book. You are on a journey.

  11. You have spoken my mind. Why even bother doing anything if you can’t do it perfect? That is what my brain does to me sometimes and I can’t fight it. I end up doing nothing at all. I know there is never an ideal time to do anything but still my mind fights me, pushes me down, freezes my ability to do even the most basic of things.

    You have written a wonderful post here and all I can think of is myself and how I relate. Love reading your stuff. Keep doing what you do.

  12. Great post Jess. I’m very similar when it comes to posting. I don’t post nearly as often as I want because I am so busy with life. Now that can be an excuse and at times I guess it is but more often I do not as I’m also so very particular about every photo. It has to be just right it and sometimes I should just let go and post. Somewhere there is a balance and I have to find it. Take care!

  13. I wanted to write something eloquent and motivational and use the words I do have to make you feel special and loved. Because you are, special and loved. But then I read the comments left here by your friends. I hope you do know that there’s nothing wrong with thinking of yourself because even in your “selfishness” you are thinking of how you can be better for someone, how you can use you to help others. There’s nothing selfish about that, in my opinion and if you aren’t constantly working on yourself, what is the point? Hugs. Don’t over think it (Easier said than done, I know).

  14. I think human nature can be so self-defeating… I have the same fears, and most of my friends as well ~ sometimes I think it can be paralyzing, and only when we get older do we realize how wasteful and destructive our past worries of perfection were.

  15. There’s probably a very good reason why you feel a great need to be in control, aim for your own perfection at this time in life.

    I haven’t taken time to read the general changes in your life. But certainly as someone not coupled while living in Asia and living an independent life that was different than now.

    Are you happy with your job.. a means to make money or is it using any skills which you feel could be better used? And what are you doing now in personal interests that is different and how different is it now compared to 5 years ago?

    Do you feel you are free to grow in yourself? What is preventing you or slowing you down?

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