My heart was beating wildly. Slowly, the teacher made her way around the room. She stopped at my desk and handed me a white card. Taking a deep breath, I flipped it over. YES! Straight A’s!
My parents expected nothing less. This could be due to the face that my mother was a teacher. I remember going on full lock down to study for finals. When I say “lock down,” I mean that we would study for five hours straight. Seriously!
If I received an A-, my mom would grill me asking why it wasn’t an A+. She was not overjoyed like many of my classmates’ parents would have been. I was held to a much higher standard.
I was not expected to attend an Ivy League college, but I was to do my absolute best every day. Often times, this meant missing out on doing things with my friends. Education came first.
Mom revealed to me more recently in my adult life that the reason she demanded so much of me academically is because her mother never took an interest in her schooling. She knows now that she went overboard, but to me, the damage has been done. I have carried that pressure for perfection with me into adulthood.
Upon graduating from college, I was so excited to enter the working world. I saw myself getting a fantastic job that I would absolutely love. I would continue to work hard like I always had and would be financially rewarded. I could look at myself in the mirror every day and happily know that I was successful.
What I soon discovered was that the working world is not the same one that my parents had. The job market was scarce for people with journalism degrees. People who had retired were having to come out of retirement due to the failing economy. And those that have the fantastic jobs continue to hang onto them for dear life.
My work ethic and positive personality were hardly ever appreciated by my employers. And certainly not by my co-workers. It seemed that I was the “problem child” that “made everyone look bad.” The dream world that I had created in my mind shattered.
The perfectionist programming did not help me achieve my dreams. Instead, it made me feel like a huge failure. I was doing everything that my parents had told me to do, following all of the rules and still getting nowhere.
I began to criticize and internalize everything that I did. I must not be working hard enough. My best must not be good enough. I am not good enough.
In 2016, I self-published my first children’s book, Priceless Penny. The story chronicles the amazing adoption journey of my tripawd Chiweenie, Penny. I thought that the book would become an instant best seller. Visions of television and book store appearances filled my head.
I worked tirelessly on Penny’s social media accounts. I created and maintained Penny’s website, making sure to upload photos and videos almost daily. Networking became like a second job. I was always promoting Penny and her story.
Yet, Penny was not launched into the ranks of animal superstars like Tuna, Nala Cat and Lil Bub. I could not understand it. Penny’s story is so special and (being the biased fur mom that I am) she is beyond adorable. What was I doing wrong? What I should have been asking myself was why am I comparing Penny to other animals?
Perfection is a dangerous thing. It makes enjoying life nearly impossible. I realized that I have spent most of my life beating myself up over things that are beyond my control. Worse than that, I have been trying to live up to the expectations of others. I have even gone so far as to actively seek approval for the decisions that I make.
Happiness has not been attainable for me because I have been chasing someone else’s dreams. The cut throat working world is not for me. My husband and I have even talked about the possibility of me becoming a stay at home fur mom. I would love to start my own animal rescue, The Duchess of Spots (named after my and my husband’s first dogs). My focus would be to rescue differently-abled and special needs animals.
I also want to continue to write books about the animals that I have adopted. Telling their stories and promoting adoption is something that I am very passionate about. I want to be a voice for the voiceless. And I would love to devote more time to volunteering both as a certified therapy dog handler and as a humane educator for the APA of Missouri.
We are not made to be perfect. We are made to be perfectly imperfect. Being an individual is what life is all about. We should chase our own dreams and follow the path that feels right for us. While I know that my parents may not always approve of my choices, I do know that they love me more than anything in the world, flaws and all.