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The perfect moment

| Thursday, January 31, 2019

“What do you mean you haven’t seen ‘Forrest Gump?!’” my friend’s dad shouted incredulously.

This specific instance occurred over winter break, but he is not the first to judge my movie novice. Considering “Forrest Gump” the “greatest American film ever made,” my piano teacher once refused to teach me a new piece until I’d watched the cinematic classic. My friends roll their eyes when I plug my ears to avoid spoilers whenever the (25-year-old) film comes up in conversation.

Why haven’t I watched the movie if I know it’s so highly lauded? Am I a Tom Hanks hater? Do I think that my friends’ reviews aren’t reliable? In truth, the reason is much simpler — and much more ridiculous. I have no qualms over the quality of the movie. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is precisely because I have such high expectations for the film that I haven’t seen it. I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment.

A natural saver, an innately sentimental girl and, admittedly, an idealist to a fault, I’ve spent much of my life paralyzed, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. I’ve never drunk coffee, never flown a kite, never seen “Forrest Gump.” I dream up a perfect situation in my head and then feel afraid to settle for anything less. If I’ve gone 19 years without coffee, I shouldn’t just throw away the first sip to a cheap cup of brew from someone’s dorm room, should I? If I’m going to fly a kite for the first time, it better be in a grassy meadow with a light breeze and some fluffy clouds overhead, right?

I spend so much time dreaming and thinking and waiting for the perfect moment, I miss out on the wonderful messiness of the everyday.  When I was younger, I refused to eat my sweets because I was saving them for when it really counted. By the time I went to eat them, they’d be stale or spoiled. Last semester, I refused to spend my Flex Points because I was afraid of being invited to the perfect lunch and having to decline due to a lack of funds. I ended up having to blow through 200 leftover points in the last week of school. I still haven’t replied to a heartfelt email my third grade teacher sent me three years ago because I want to wait until I can craft the perfect response.

My stress for perfection often leaves me with nothing at all. I desperately wanted embroidered jeans during the embroidered denim craze a year ago, but I spent so long searching for the perfect pair, the trend was over before I found any. I spent hours poring over comforters this summer, dreaming of how I’d stumble upon a duvet cover that embodied the quintessential dorm room look and was so afraid of settling that I still have yet to order a cover for my comforter. Heck, I didn’t even have a Notre Dame sweatshirt until Friday, because I wanted to wait for the perfect one.

While there’s nothing wrong with trying to fulfill the full potential of a situation, it’s important to gain perspective. It’s better to have done something than nothing at all. It’s better to have tried and failed and made a mess and laughed. To have shaken off the chains of perfection and made the best of what we’ve had. How many of us give up journaling because we missed a few days and now it’s all over? How many people scrap a drawing, because they mess up a small part and now it’s ruined?

When I first started playing the cello, I remember prizing my rosin, the glossy amber-like block string musicians use to prepare their bows for playing. I spent the first five minutes of my music class just gazing at its perfect finish with pride. Thus, I was horrified when my teacher asked to borrow the rosin for a class demonstration, and, much to my chagrin, he took out his keys and created rivets and jags in its once pristine surface.

That day, I learned my first lesson as a string musician: rosin’s only useful once it’s scored. See, the little chunks that break off are what actually make the magic happen. An untreated bow will slip right over the strings, not making a squeak, let alone a symphony. But a bow coated in rosin? That creates a powdery layer just sticky enough to cause friction, to make music.

A life without mistakes is like my perfect rosin: pretty, but useless. If we want to flourish, we have to accept failure as a necessary part of success. We have to scuff ourselves up to find our music.

My strive for the perfect moment has taught me to realize that there is always room for improvement, always a way to better oneself without having to settle. But I’ve also realized there’s something beautiful about imperfection, about the off-center, the helter-skelter. There’s something wonderful about reveling in the humor of a face covered in chocolate after a satisfying Fudgesicle.

I’ve realized, much like well-used rosin, the best lives are messy — full of PowerPoints with their pictures off-center, of pushing doors labeled pull just to see what happens. The best drives are the ones where you get lost and take an extra hour to go home. The best races are the ones where you run as hard as you can, even if it means you might get a cramp. Even if it means you’ll be out of breath. The best blocks of rosin are the ones that are scuffed up.

I don’t need to change my standards or lower my expectations; I just need to see the beauty in the imperfections around me. I need to create the perfect moment out of the perfectly imperfect now. I can’t change who I am overnight, but I can watch “Forrest Gump” today.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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