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This, I Believe

I’m the type of person who needs practice at everything. Even life.

When someone makes a mistake, everyone says, well it’s just “human.” That’s what we do. Well I have more than my fair share of “human.” Worse, I’m a perfectionist. I’m the type who’ll go through eighty types of font because it has to look just right. Time has no significance as I obsess over the inconsequential. Now imagine dealing with life. Picture every failed social situation like a glaring font. Each one is an inkblot on my soul. Too soon, I turn black.

I remember starting college. In gruesome detail, I would force myself back to high school, back to memories of every mistake and mortification, of my crushing awkwardness, and I promised myself not again. This was my chance, a new place with new people. A blank slate. I would picture it, almost like new fallen snow, all pure, white, and untouched.

Time doesn’t stand still though. I took my first step—and another, and another until the same pattern of footsteps showed themselves, until I stopped short in horror to look back and see myself repeating the same ugly tracks, over and over.

I jump into things too quickly, or not quickly enough. I gossip, and it gets back to me. I say the wrong thing, shoving my foot so far down my throat that recovery is impossible. I’m endlessly suspicious. I hold stupid grudges, I let my temper flare, and worst of all, I say things that will forever hover in the air between me and whoever I messed up with.

Nobody can live like this, always hating themselves for the mistakes they made yesterday. I used to fantasize life being like the movie “Groundhog Day”. I’d just keep living the same day over and over until it was lived right. Well life’s not like that, and waking up with twenty years of mistakes weighing me down left me weary before even starting the day. How would I make it through twenty more?

I vividly recall a conversation I recently had with a friend, someone I deeply admire. He knows who he is, doesn’t apologize for it, or torture himself with backwards glances. One night, driving home, listening to me tearfully relate yet another faux pas, he actually pulled over and made me look him in the eye. He told me that obsessing over everything would only kill me or drive me insane. I was angry. I didn’t ask for a lecture. Resentful, I flung back “It’s not that easy” or “You don’t get it” before sitting in sullen silence.

It was only later that I really thought about what he said. It wasn’t a revelation—I’d told myself the same thing a hundred times. But somehow it was different hearing someone else earnestly try to convince me that regret was my drug of choice and that I needed to stop the addiction.

That’s why I’ve come up with this new philosophy for life. This, I believe: There’s always tomorrow. There’s always another chance to start over, to make things right, to be that better person, or to conquer what you just didn’t have time for today.

It’s a work-in-progress. I’m still catching myself more often than not sinking into black holes of regret. At night, I still stare mournfully at my ceiling, sleepless with anxiety. The difference is that now I know it’s ok. I know I can start over tomorrow if I believe in it. I know that I can work on my flaws, little by little, day by day, so that I don’t relive the past.

But most of all, I know that practice might not make me perfect, but that I don’t need to be.

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