When I made the decision to take summer classes, it was a pragmatic one. I have to finish my studies within six years since I will need student loans and grants to do so. I expected during my first summer course to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. What I didn’t expect was what it would teach me about myself.
Going back to Sacred Heart University has been one hell of wild ride from the beginning. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around the fact that one day my RA was in full-blown flare and the next, through the power of prayer and God’s grace, it was in remission and has remained so. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around the fact that I was able to talk my way back into the school at all. But it happened. I excelled where my teenage self once failed so miserably. I earned my way off academic probation and onto the Dean’s List and even managed the somewhat dubious honor of being on both at once. So after being granted academic forgiveness and being freed from near impossible expectations, I should be celebrating and I did, for however brief a time.
I started my online course and that took some getting used to. I argue online all the time but I’m not used to doing it for actual points. But what really got to me was the midterm. The test was true/false and multiple choice, open books but very detailed. I had three days to complete it. I sat down and did it all in one five-hour marathon. I couldn’t stand having it hang over my head. Once complete, I submitted it and my grade was available instantly. 96. A 96?! That’s it?! What I did I miss? How did I miss those two questions? I spent another forty minutes looking up what I got wrong. Then I looked at my overall grade in the course: 94.32 and the feeling that welled up inside was a deep disappointment.
I have an A in a difficult, super-compressed summer course at a university that wasn’t even going to let me back in and all that after a chronic illness that had stripped away so much of my life miraculously went into remission and the feeling I have is disappointment? Yeah, something is seriously wrong with that picture. I recognized it immediately. Well almost immediately. “Immediately” being defined as the moment in which I put down the three books and the lecture notes I had frantically read through to see what I got wrong. Upon realizing that this was not okay, my initial reaction was to crack jokes, always my best defense. So I posted on Twitter:
If you score a 96 on a difficult midterm & are disappointed, you’re:
B) honor student
C) taught by nuns
D) all of the above
Ha ha ha – yeah it’s not funny. It’s sad. When I first went back to Sacred Heart, there was a legitimate use for my perfectionist tendencies. Nothing less than perfect was going to cut it. But that’s no longer the case. I’m free to do reasonably well without any external demand for perfection and yet I’m still pushing myself for it. Why?
I’ve been asking myself that for a week. It’s been an emotional week for the nation and for me. But time waits for no one and I took two more quizzes this week. I posted my arguments and should be writing a paper as I type this. My quiz grades were perfect and my overall grade is now 95.43. I had told myself I would be happy with a 95. Now that I have it, I want a 98. Why?
How good is good enough? And why can’t I accept that what I’ve done is good enough? I don’t know. But I know where to start.
My name is Christine Pelfrey and I am a perfectionist.