In my ethics course this semester, we had a unit on Buddhism. One class, we had a great discussion together about the cause of human suffering. Buddhism suggests that the cause of human suffering is desire – desire for anything that one does not have. You could desire to have a yellow Lamborghini, not have the money for it, and that would cause suffering. You could desire to be married to Channing Tatum, realize that he’s out of your league, and that would cause suffering. You could desire to be the President of the United States, never get the chance, and that would cause suffering. Granted, there are many different levels of suffering here, but all suffering nonetheless.
After finally completing my time at community college by finishing the most stressful semester of them all, I have come to the conclusion that my perfectionism has been the cause of alot of my suffering. It is a disease; my downfall, my cross to bear. Constantly desiring something that is out of reach (perfection), drove me mad. This semester was the worst of them all, not because I had five classes that I wanted to ace, but because it was the time where I had to figure out my next move. I had to figure out which university to transfer to, what to major in, and what career to strive for.
In my mind, this was chaos. It seriously seemed to me that I had to decide what the rest of my life was going to be. In my mind, I had to figure everything out within the span of a few months…EVERYTHING!!! My university, my career plan, my future employer, my future house, my future husband, my future kids….etc etc etc.
Naturally, me being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to figure everything out and I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted the perfect university, the perfect area of study, the perfect roommate, the perfect apartment, the perfect career path and the perfect future.
After many tears were shed, I finally got it through my thick skull that this does not exist. I was striving for something I would never find.
Does this mean that we should not strive for anything in life because of the chance that we suffer along the way? Should we try to eliminate any desire from our mind? My professor asked this of us, and followed up with a story. He told us a greek story called the Myth of Sisyphus. The myth goes that a man named Sisyphus has been condemned to a meaningless life by one of the Gods, and he has to push a boulder up a hill, let it fall down again, and repeat for eternity. Push the boulder up, let it fall, repeat.
Is this what we are destined to do if we are to eliminate desire? Live a meaningless life?
My class concluded that, no, we should not eliminate all desire; we should only eliminate unrealistic desires.
Unrealistic desires like…perfectionism.
Goals are great, I have many. Everybody has goals. Everybody has thier own boulder they are pushing up thier own hill. Sure enough, once that boulder reaches the top, you will have to push another boulder back up the hill again. And repeat!
We all desire to get our own boulders to the top of the hill, and we suffer for it. Why do we do it?!
Well, in the words of Miley Cyrus, it’s all about the climb.
I realized this semester that I was not enjoying the climb because my perfectionism was limiting me. My sociology teacher commented that I was “limited by a path that promised success; a path that kept me safetly in the box.” I needed to fix that or I would be a wreck. My hills were too tall. My boulder would never reach the top.
This semester, I changed that. I stopped letting my perfectionism control me and just focused on going with the flow, rolling with the punches, and letting a free-spirit grow in my soul. I learned the virtue of contentment. I learned to be happy where I was. I learned that if you shoot for the moon and miss, you really do land amongst the stars! I finished my semester with good grades, not 100%. I have been accepted into a great university, though not my first choice. I found an awesome roommate, and a sweet apartment. I decided to stick with my major in Psychology despite the fact that I didn’t really have a clue what I wanted to do with it. There are all kinds of people out there, doing all kinds of things. People from all walks of life have great lives! Wherever I end up, I will be okay, even though it will probably be far from perfect.
So why do we stress ourselves out and push boulder after boulder up the hill for eternity?
Because the feeling that we get at the top of this hill is so worth it.