the perfectionism lie.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Back in college, as a prerequisite to graduating, we were required to spend several hours in the Career Center.  There were a variety of sessions we had to sit through, most of which revolved around how to write a cover letter and resume as well as job search strategies and networking.  In one session on interview skills, our Career Counselor told us that a good way to answer the popular “greatest weakness” question is to say that you are a perfectionist.*

“Weakness?”, I thought. “That’s my greatest strength!”.  Or so I thought.

I certainly did pride myself on being a perfectionist.  It was simply how I was raised.  In my household growing up, anything less than perfection in terms of schoolwork, job performance or behavior simply was not tolerated.  Mistakes were not just frowned upon, but unacceptable.  As I got older and moved away to college, I certainly internalized this, striving for 100% excellence in everything.

I was able to balance multiple internships, side work, and DJing/news-casting at the local radio station all while maintaining a very high GPA.  Perfectly executing every task in front of me, I thought, was the path to success and happiness.  However, I quickly found out that aiming for perfectionism is not only destructive but also counter-intuitive in the long run.  Why?

Perfection doesn’t exist.

Sure, you can put on the facade of perfection and you can certainly obsess over the most minute of details in every single project you ever work on.  But you won’t ever be perfect.  Your work won’t ever be perfect.

Eventually, you will start to realize this, but, like an addict, you will continue to reach for that thing that is just beyond your grasp.  And then procrastination, burn-out, stress and a crippling fear of failure or rejection (all common side-effects of perfectionism), will start to take over.

As I started dealing with those perfection related problems, I realized that chasing after such an unattainable goal was not only making me miserable, it was killing me.

The truth is, deep-down, I knew that perfectionism was a lie.  I never, ever held any other person to the standard I held for myself.  I loved seeing my friends and colleagues reach their goals and gain new skills and when they stumbled, I told them how these mistakes were simply life-lessons that would help them do better in the future.  Physician, heal thyself.

I’m still learning that being less than perfect is just fine.  In my more stressfed moments, many times on nights when my insomnia relentlessly keeps my awake, I have to remind myself  that life will continue to have ups-and-downs, failures, successes and setbacks. And that’s OK.

To being super human, not superhuman,
-C

*By the way, this was and still is horrible interview advise.  Telling an entire group of students to give the same, canned, played-out answer to a common interview question is ridiculous.  Seriously, don’t use this in your next job interview.

death, regret & lessons from the end.

Just as I started writing today’s blog post my phone started buzzing.  They finally found him, but it was too late.  He had passed away.  This young man, who I did not have the pleasure of knowing very well, was kind of like a distant sibling.  What we shared in common was our love and appreciation for our “second Mom” Tracie, a phenomenal woman who has a wide web of young people she has nurtured and mentored over the years.  We were both proud members of that extended family.

The last time I saw him was several months ago in Philly.  He showed me pictures of his daughter, telling me how much he loved her.  We told stories and shared some laughs.  He introduced me to his beautiful and equally sweet girlfriend.  We all talked about the past, overcoming obstacles and planning for the future.

Originally, this post was going to be a reflection on my time volunteering in hospice. But I think the one, big, life transforming lesson I’ve learned, both from hospice work and from mourning the passing of friends and family members, is the same:

We all have the tendency to spend way too much of our precious time and energy on the wrong shit.

A lot of people ask me what kinds of things the dying talk about as they near the end. God? Heaven? Hell?  In my experience, rarely.

My patients mostly talk about how much they adore their children and grandchildren.  Their pets.  How they love knitting, but can’t do it so much anymore because of arthritis.  The time they accidentally drank moonshine.  Family. Friends. Fun.

But also, lots of regret: the grudges held entirely too long, the friendships that could have been mended, the marriages that could have been saved, the fear that held them back from finding joy.

“I wish I had spent more time with my family.”

“I regret not making up with that friend.”

“I should have told my father I forgave him.  Now it’s too late.”

As an atheist, I don’t know if anything waits for us on the other side of death’s door, but I do know that we have this moment, right now.  Our time on this earth is finite. Sometimes we see the end approaching and sometimes we don’t.  But either way, I hope we can all spend a little more time creating great memories, spending quality time with our family and friends, forgiving trespasses and loving each other fully, without fear.

Love.
-C

vegan wings & the big game


Back in my vegan days, one of my favorite past-times was learning how to make vegan versions of some of my favorite foods.  Sundays, however, always presented a problem, as most game day foods usually didn’t lend themselves easily to vegan cooking.  A good friend sent me this recipe a few years ago for Vegan Cauliflower Wings, and ever since I’ve been trying my own variations on this very easy dish.

Somehow, I was able to muster enough strength to cook up a batch today, as to not show up at my sister’s place empty-handed.

It must be a “Big Game” miracle.  Here’s today’s version of Vegan Wings:

Gluten-Free, Vegan Wings

  • 1 cup flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Flour)
  • 1 cup milk (Unsweetened Original Almond Milk)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ancho Chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Hot Sauce (Cholula, or use your favorite)
  • Vegetable oil or vegan butter

Wash and cut up your caulifower into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Mix up your batter (flour through ground pepper) and then toss the cauliflower pieces in the batter to coat.  Bake at 450 on a greased baking sheet, for about 15 minutes, then put under the broiler for another 5 minutes.  Toss the wings in your hot sauce (slightly thinned with vegetable oil or vegan butter).

Vegan Wing Dip

  • 3/4 cup Vegan Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s)
  • ~2-3 Tablespoons Almond Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 pinches Himalayan sea salt, if needed

Combine all ingredients and serve.

Go Falcons! (Just for today),

-C

the importance of doing “nothing”

Most people who have known me for more than two seconds, know that I’m one of those “doers”.  Whether it’s my career, a hobby, a new topic I want to explore or some new project I decided I need to conquer, I’m always doing something.  I don’t tend to sit still, which can present a pretty significant problem – one that I run into fairly often.

I work hard.  I challenge myself. I try to reach new goals. I achieve many of them. But then, I get burnt out and I start to get sick.  That’s where I am today: sitting on my couch, drinking tea and trying to nurse myself back to health.

Lately, I’ve been funneling a lot of emotional energy (read: stress) and time into some of my life goals, namely:

  • Adopt a dog and train her to provide therapy for my hospice patients
  • Lose some weight/get back into shape
  • Work on my career goals/network
  • Save up for a trip to Italy
  • Learn self-defense
  • Bake more

While these are all good things to work on, they’re all for naught if I don’t take care of myself.  It’s almost as if the Universe is trying to tell me something:

“Pace yourself. Breathe. Slow down. Relax.”

Having a strong work-ethic is a virtue, but so is self-care.  Looking to the future is good, but so is living in the moment.  Wanting to grow is admirable, but so is appreciating what you have right now.  Maybe drinking tea and watching funny videos on YouTube is important and vital to me being able to achieve all of the wonderful things I want to do.  Maybe kicking my feet up and doing “nothing” is not only acceptable, but necessary.

Lesson learned, Universe. (for now)

Peace and Love,
-C

P.S. Adorable mini cupcakes coming soon…