One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Red Maier (Loyola University ’23), who lived in 1503C during their senior year. They were heavily involved in ISP.
“No more excuses.”
“I need to make this perfect.”
“It’s not good enough.”
How many times do we hear these phrases every day? How many times have you uttered it?
Don’t lie to me, I’ve heard you.
I know you.
I am you.
IMSA is an opportunist’s playground, full of resources for us to take advantage of. We have a dedicated student research department, accelerated courses, teachers with their office doors wide open, and more alumni connections than you can shake a stick at. The student culture here, while it can be fairly chill, also have some very heavy undertones to it. There is an emphasis on perfection, an emphasis on sacrificing all that is necessary in order to look perfect to others. But, at the core of it all, there is a sickness. A disease that permeates us all, regardless of if we recognize it: the inability to know when enough is enough.
It is sought after to be a ‘tank’, to be a ‘god’, to look as though you are effortlessly doing everything at once perfectly, regardless of the actuality behind the scenes. And this leads to things ranging from copping to stress mods to all-nighters to just plain giving up.
When teachers pass back that B-paper or that C-test, they don’t think of you as the ‘kid who didn’t try hard enough’ or ‘that kid that slacks a lot’, they see the all-nighters you pulled to finish that paper, they see the tired, anxiously messy kid that poured their heart and soul into something and didn’t get the results they expected. And that’s okay.
Perfection is something akin to the Holy Grail. It is sought after, fought over, longed for. And yet, it forever remains out of our reach, even to those we view as near-perfection. And this is precisely why the lack of it is so beautiful.
You see, our imperfections are what make us who we are. Cliche, I know, but it’s true. Our imperfections keep us from all melding into the same, perfect person. Sure, maybe Joe Schmoe over there goes to bed at 10 and has a 4.0, but they might envy your emotional strength and friend support group. Sure, maybe you can’t stay up until 3am through sheer willpower for the sole purpose of finishing that essay, but at least you got an adequate amount of sleep and didn’t crash the next afternoon. By striving for nothing less than perfection, you achieve nothing but hurting yourself.
And, by giving others that coveted pedestal of perfection, you’re also hurting them. Jane Smith, after hearing about how ‘perfect’ and ‘smart’ other people consider her, is now afraid to take risks and fail in an environment where failing should be encouraged. John Doe, after three years of hearing about how idealized he is, never quite grasps reality fully, tricked by his own peers. You have made the golden calf believe that he can never be eaten, so he wanders into the lion’s den, unaware of the danger. And, if you think you have achieved perfection, you make yourself the golden calf.
And that is how we end up here. So you’re not perfect… What now?
Go make mistakes.
Make as many mistakes as you can while you’re still in a loving and forgiving environment. IMSA may seem rough and like the end of your ability to do anything, but the post-IMSA world is also hard. Make as many mistakes as you can, and keep making them. Keep hitting your head against that wall because, eventually, you’ll break through it. Make so many mistakes you feel like everything is falling apart, because you will be able to pull yourself back together. Make mistakes with friends because time with friends, regardless of the activity, is well spent. Make mistakes at 4 p.m and make mistakes at 4 a.m because imperfection has no curfew.
And, at the end of the day, hold all of your imperfections close to your chest with love. They make you who you are. They have exposed you to imperfect people. They have brought you to imperfect places.
Live because of your imperfections.
Not in spite of them.