Last Sunday my father and I packed up my bags, got in my car, and drove 2500 km across vast and desolate terrain to a dirty new world.
‘Why?’ the question has been asked…more than once…and sometimes even by me. The answer was partly that I’d been offered a plum internship as a Media & Communications intern, and partially that I simply wanted an adventure. I was ready to expand some horizons, move out of my parent’s basement (at least for a while), and prove to myself that I wouldn’t crumble into a sobbing mess in the face of adversity.
The first two (of course) make for great rhetoric; the last has historically been the possibility that terrifies me.
I hate change, and I hate failure. The first forces me out of deep ruts of habit and security, the second forces me to admit that I, in myself, am ultimately inadequate. I love ruts of habit and security because they give me confidence and they allow me to excel. I hate failure because I am a perfectionist; I cannot be happy if any area of my life is less than excellent.
Moving across the country is a great way to dispel your networks of security. My mechanic, my insurance agent, my library, my friends, and much of my family are beyond reach; I am more alone than I have ever been, in a city I do not understand. If I fail, it will not only be deeply embarrassing but also potentially catastrophic. The ruts I have worn so deeply in my home are gone. I am standing on virgin earth.
A friend once told me that we all should work towards precision, not perfection, since perfection is impossible and the pursuit is self-destructive. I tightened up, and, with some anger, replied, “I believe in perfect.” You will never be the best, he said, and therefore you will never be perfect. The best you can hope for, he said, is that you will achieve some level of precision.
I remember that conversation because I know my friend is ultimately right, even as I work to prove him wrong. Yet the search for perfection, especially in a situation as risky as my present endeavor, is exhausting. There are dozens of things that could have, or still can go wrong, from leaving my credit card at a gas station to suddenly diminishing oil levels in my Altima (been there, done that). I control very little of the world, and my illusion of control has been pierced by the changing variables of my life. How do I achieve perfection when I can barely find my way to my new job?
I am working full time for the first time in three years. I am living outside my home province for the first time in my life. I need a different bank, different gym, different friends, and different church. I have no constants, only variables, and I am realizing how foolish I have been to think I have had control.
I believe in perfection, and yet I cannot accomplish it. When the veils are removed, when the blinders are torn from my eyes, I realize my life is absolutely reliant upon a greater and more terrible power (and I am afraid). For I am a man of unclean ways and I live among a people of unclean ways, and we are satisfied with the phantoms of our own pride.
My friend would laugh at me. “Of course!” he would say, “of course! It is not yours to control!”
“We must be people of faith!” he would say, “And we must live with open hands and great humility.”
But I am afraid, and fear is what makes a drowning man cling to another man until both go under.