The advent of a New Year isn’t always an easy time for me. This year, January 1st found me consumed not with excitement and joy for fresh starts and brand new opportunities but with melancholy for another year gone. Instead of looking forward, I dwelt on the mistakes of the year: paths not taken, chances not chanced, opportunities discovered too late. Unfinished projects. Drifting friendships. Lost memories.
But then I chanced upon Neil Gaiman’s lovely New Year Wish post. This year, Mr. Gaiman wishes for us all to make mistakes, because that means we’re doing new things; learning, living, expanding:
“So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.”
This sentiment knocked me off balance. Throughout my life, striving for a sense of perfection has been both a guiding principle and a source of great disappointment. My quest for perfection pushes me forward, forces me to create and learn and achieve. But my quest for perfection also paralyzes me when I fall short, as of course I must. Perfection is an albatross hanging around my neck, a punishing reminder that nothing is ever good enough, beautiful enough, creative enough; never, ever enough. And if perfect can never be reached, what is the point of striving at all? But here is Mr. Gaiman, hero of my heroes, encouraging me to abandon the misguided principle of perfection and embrace imperfection. Embrace the inevitability of stumbling on this journey we call life. Stop worrying, and just do.
I’m not much of a New Years Resolution person. Too many times I have made a resolution at the New Year only to find that resolution soon forgotten or lapsed. And in my opinion, breaking resolutions makes me more disappointed in myself than never making them in the first place (perfectionist, remember?). But this year, I think I will make a resolution, of sorts. An anti-resolution, if you will.
This year, I resolve to let go of the idea of perfect. I resolve to dream outrageously and dangerously and not worry about whether or not my dreams will come true. To take the despair of failure and use it to make myself stronger, wiser, and kinder. To look behind me and see not the things I didn’t accomplish, but the things that I did. To value my mistakes for what they are; necessary symbols of growth, exploration, and living. I resolve to gaze resolutely forward, reveling in the capacity of the future rather than floundering in the immutability of the past.
And all the things I’m scared of doing? I resolve to do them too. Now and forever.
Do you fear your own imperfection? Do you embrace mistakes? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!