On Accepting Imperfection

Been a while. Not marathon training (though staying in shape for my final race of the year), so I haven’t had much to say. Writing about my career/educational focus over on my other site (the-sector.com; you should go there). I’ve already paid for another year at justinpbg.com so I might as well use it, though I think I’ll let it lapse next fall.

I originally bought this site so I could say what I was thinking, and way back at the start, it was ultimately an outlet for deeply hidden thoughts. I don’t really need to write all that stuff online anymore.

But I wanted to write about something that has made 2018 interesting for me.

So, for the first time in my life, I am both a serious amateur runner and a student simultaneously. I finished my MA in May of 2012, right before my first summer training (poorly) for a marathon that didn’t end up happening. Now I’m a doctoral student and still clocking miles (60 this week despite marathon season being over). And, without being cocky, I’m finding school to be an ideal addition to my life. Of course, like anyone, I get bored after the 55th theoretical article about the concept of teacher leadership. But the writing, at least thus far, has flowed. Not in the clunky overwritten way I used to write in college, or the way I mostly struggled to grind out adequate assignments in grad school, but it connects, and it’s cohesive. Is it the best writing in the world? No, at least not yet. I have a lot to learn and at this early point I think all I’m showing is that I have the capacity to become a strong researcher and, just as important, an effective communicator about said research.

In 2018, I have made great strides on emotional challenges I don’t need to go into here. But for much of my life, I swung from my heels, always trying to hit a home run, and if it appeared I wouldn’t, I settled for mediocrity. This is how I ended up stubbornly pushing through marathons where I should have recognized I would miss my goal, and walking all the end to the end of Boston.

This year, however, I had muscle cramps during both of my marathons - and now have a long, slow plan to correct these issues by the fall of 2020 - and, although I had brief moments of annoyance and wished they’d gone better, I accepted the imperfect result both times and focused on enjoying the experience. Sure, it was more fun to achieve goals and I will again at some point, but something not going the way you want can’t be devastating to me the way it once was, or else I’ll end up fencing myself in.

It’s a strange concept, but the lack of moderation in almost all of my decision-making prevented me from success. Now, I run a race that doesn’t go well, I know I worked hard and that there will be more races. I write a paper, I could be a perfectionist and make each word perfect, but there will still always be room for improvement.

This is not laziness, to be clear. This is not mediocrity. This is knowing and valuing the hard work you’ve done and being proud of your imperfect result, since all results are imperfect. In accepting imperfection, I feel I will grow much closer to perfection than I ever would have before.

Because, look, when it comes to my best races, those three BQ races in 6 weeks, those were great times. Great times. But I was basically immobile for seven hours after each race. That’s not “perfect,” sacrificing bodily health. There will always be something you would rather change.

Accepting imperfection also helps when weather is a factor. Yes, you plan accordingly, but your results will be the best that the conditions allow, and trying to pretend you’re immune to heat or sun or wind or whatever is folly.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all my assigments will be graded horribly and I will need to stress myself out much more than I currently am. Maybe this will just lead to my becoming slower and slower in my races since I’ve accepted imperfection.

But imperfection is human. Pretending otherwise is what led to so many of my internal struggles for much of my life. And I can find a way to excel in my own imperfect way.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality