Being Perfect: Is It Possible?

Will Nuelle   Ask anyone who’s been in the High School for the past year – sorry, freshmen, that excludes you – who best exemplifies perfection as defined by the community’s ideals; the vast majority of responses would be Ian Spear of the class of 2013. I’ve heard guys say it, I’ve heard a few teachers say it, and I’ve heard more than a few girls say it: Ian Spear best displays, out of all students who’ve come through Latin recently, what most Latin students aspire to be – perfect. That’s not a slight nor is it a glowing endorsement; it’s an objective statement that the Latin community holds him in very high esteem. (Ian, if you’re reading this then a: I don’t really know why you would be, b: sorry for talking about you in this way – although, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard it.) This discussion, though, gives way to a more interesting one about what perfection is in our community. At Latin, there exists the notion that perfection is a must; that perfection is even attainable; that perfection even exists in the first place! But at our school – or anywhere – is perfection real? The short answer to that would be yes; there are numerical indicators in our world that would suggest that a person can realistically be perfect. There are perfect scores on tests – they are always referred to as perfect, which means that if a person doesn’t get that score, then they are imperfect; there’s the idea of the perfect kid whose morals are unbending and who never falls prey to the pressure of his or her peers; there is the idea of a perfect athlete – can you run a 4 minute mile and also do 200 pushups in a row?  There is the idea of a perfect life where everything is laid out for a person and they will never have to do a day of work – do I even have to begin to address all the ways in which that one is wrong? But the truth is that none of these things matter. Even if your ACT says 36P, you probably didn’t perfectly fill out every bubble on the test. Even if your report card says all As, does it include a full record of all your sleepless nights? It’s time to dismantle the idea of the perfect high school student. The way in which a lot of us think about perfection might be through the same lens as a college admissions officer sees perfection (the more I think about it, the more I realize that everything in our culture is so influenced by college). I worry that we see getting accepted into Harvard or Yale or Stanford as synonymous with flawlessness. I haven’t ever met anyone I’ve thought was totally perfect; if you have then I apologize. With that being said, the obsession with perfection still plagues the halls. Junior Chris Quazzo said that there is no doubt in his mind that Latin students are “perfectionists,” arguing that part of it is because we hold ourselves and our peers to extremely high standards. He said he “[didn’t] think it was a good or bad thing,” but thought that “perfection as a standard definitely exists within the student community.” Maybe the reason that there seem to be high stress levels during school is because many of us including myself, carry the “perfect or bust” mentality. As much as I don’t want to quote Voltaire for fear of it sounding corny and contrived (seriously, I really don’t want to), I am going to. He offered a word of advice in saying, “don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good” (or something along those lines). And well, I think perfection is the enemy of the good at Latin. There certainly is a fixation with getting the A- instead of the B+, which hypothetically could only be the difference of a couple tenths of a point on a person’s grade. But does it really matter that much? (I probably am in no position to even pose that question because I am probably the poster child for being too harsh on myself, but at least I see my own faults.) In the end perfection does nothing but make everyone freak out. The amount of work and effort and time to become “perfect” might not even be worth the benefits of it; what’s the difference between that and very good, anyway? It’ll eventually cost you more than you’ll gain from it. So, step back and take a breather because you’re not perfect, neither am I, and we’re never going to be; so settle for being very good and happy.]]>