I usually post a quote on Fridays and wish you a “Happy Weekend”…and don’t worry I’ll get there. But, first, I learned one of life’s biggest lessons this week. And if I don’t put it into words or share it with anyone, I’m afraid I will slip back into my old ways. So, please bear with me for a moment or two.
I admit that I am a perfectionist. I always have to give my best efforts in everything that I do, and I try to do it as perfectly as I possibly can.
For a long time, I have struggled with this trait of mine because sometimes it would drive me to the point of utter exhaustion. I’ve seen this most apparent in my schoolwork, especially in high school. School has always been important to me and during those four years of high school I pushed myself really hard. I had a goal to get into a certain college, that college had certain criteria that had to be met, and I was going to do everything I could to get there. Because I knew that if I didn’t get into the college I had hoped for, then I could live with the fact that I gave my best shot and it just wasn’t meant to be. Luckily, I ended up getting into my college of choice and I could not be happier here! My goal was reached.
Unfortunately, there were costs involved in reaching my goal. During those four years of high school, I was consumed in work. I tended to put school before relationships with friends and family. (Ask any of them…I pretty much disappeared during my junior year in particular.) This wasn’t the way I wanted it to be. In my mind and heart, my family and friends were the most important to me. But, in my actions, they took a back seat to my schoolwork.
I was taught many times that in the long run, good grades, final exams, and SATs aren’t as important as they may seem to be at that point in my life. I was told that I wouldn’t look back on high school in thirty years and recall the grade I got on a particular test. I was told I would look back on high school in thirty years and recall the times spent with my friends and my family. It sounds so cliché, but that’s because it is! We have all heard it. And every time I heard it, I agreed. But, I chalked it up to the fact that the people teaching me this lesson had already been through high school, been through college, and could more easily make a final exam feel insignificant. So, I continued the same pattern telling myself that I eventually would reach the point in my life where I, too, could easily make a final exam feel insignificant.
Well, I thought I still had at least three more years to go until that would happen. But, that lesson has finally sunk in. In fact, it really sunk in on Monday night of this week. Thank you, Tom Shadyac.
It was the first class we had in the month of February: Black History Month. So, naturally, we watched a documentary on Martin Luther King, Jr. No matter how many times I watch, hear, or learn about the Civil Rights Movement, it still gets to me. It is so powerful and well…moving!
At the end of the documentary, Tom introduced an old friend of his, who happened to be an actor that performed an insanely good MLK impersonation. He delivered a speech to us entitled “The Drum Major Instinct”. When I closed my eyes, it felt like Martin Luther King, Jr. was in the room delivering that speech to the class (the actor was that good). One particular part of the Drum Major speech really hit me.
Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator—that something that we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning.
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school–that’s not important.
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
Well, that stopped me dead in my tracks. And I realized that being a perfectionist wasn’t my problem. It’s what I chose to be a perfectionist in that led me to a state of exhaustion. Don’t get me wrong…academics will always be important to me. But, it is not as important to me as my family and my friends. I don’t want to say “no” to celebrating a friend’s birthday because I have a test to study for. I don’t want to let my phone go to voicemail when my family calls because I’m in the middle of writing a paper. I can find other time to study for the test and to finish the paper. But, I can’t get back the opportunities that I pass up to spend time with my family and friends. So, instead of being a perfectionist in my academics, I want to be a perfectionist in my friendships and relationships. Because when I am on my deathbed, those are the people I want to spend my time with. I won’t be asking for someone to dig out my transcript so I can look at it one last time. It’s about time that academics take the backseat in my life.
After class, I went back to my dorm room and was reading a blog that a friend had recently suggested to me, and I stumbled across this quote.
Begin doing what you want to do now.
We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.
And that was the moment I decided to stop putting it off. I am going to begin doing what I want to do now. As for you…
I hope each and every one of you have a happy weekend!