Paper Perfect

I’m back.

I had to go on a blogfast recently (about two weeks) because of piles and piles of paperwork.  I’m the only music teacher in our High School and we recently just finished the first grading period.  I had to check 800 test papers, fill in 11 grading sheets, and encode 800 grades one by one using this archaic grading program which is tedious and mind-tiring.  I swear, I almost came out of it cross-eyed.

The grades are just part of the paper work:  I had a blacklog of lesson plans. 

Now, before you teachers start tut-tutting and shaking your heads, I have a valid explanation for it but I’d rather not go into it.  I do acknowledge that I slacked off a bit on that department, especially with my school work demands.  While I was busy hitting the piles, I had this idea of writing about my being a perfectionist and how it interfered with aspects in my life.  I should have immediately written the witty words in my mind on paper but because of my self-enforced blogfasting, I held the idea off and am now certain will not sound quite as fetching.

Here goes anyway:

I am a perfectionist.  I think.  I remember writing an essay in elementary and crumpling my paper everytime I made a “mistake”.  (The quotation marks are there because these mistakes are often imagined.)  My seatmate made a wise comment: “Just go on with it.  We have to pass it soon.”  I didn’t listen and true enough, 5 or more crumpled papers later, our teacher asked for our papers and I got a zero for not being able to submit it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have something to say.  I did.  I loved essays and was never daunted by writing them.  But I got a zero because I couldn’t take a slightly askew handwritten word or a letter ‘i’ with its dot out of place.

Another instance: I was in college taking up Forms and Analysis.  Music.  I was no dummy in it.  But we had our midterms and I had a feeling I did terribly on it.  I had no proof since our professor didn’t return our paper until AFTER the final exams.  I just had a feeling I didn’t do well — so I slacked off.  I cut classes.  In my mind, I can no longer get a perfect grade so I dilly-dallied.  At the end of the semester, I got my mid-term paper: I had one mistake.  I still could have gotten a 1.0 (our highest) had I not slacked off after the mid-terms, but I did.  So, naturally, after all the classes I cut, I did poorly on the finals — for real, this time.  It was a miracle I still got a 2.0 and didn’t flunk the course after messing up.

This is my problem and I’m dealing with it.  I’m quite sure being a perfectionist results in procrastination.  My brain is still too fried from work to really make an in-depth inquiry about this so I’ll leave this for a while and tackle the issue once I get my brain bearings. 

It’s good to be back, though.  See you around, peeps.


10 thoughts on “Paper Perfect

  1. elementaryteacher says:

    Just before coming to your blog today, I was reading Penelope Trunk’s blog, where she writes about “the crippling burden of perfectionism.” I thought these comments would interest you, too.


    “Work anywhere
    The British-born author Hugh Lofting wrote Dr. Dolittle while in the trenches of WWI. As shrapnel burst around him and his friends died, he wrote this lovely story about a guy who talks to animals. So if Hugh Lofting can do that, you can concentrate on a big project when you’re at a train station. In fact, I recently realized my work sometimes improves when I’m in chaos. It somehow lessens the pressure — it removes the crippling burden of perfectionism — which is key for writing.”

  2. Jose says:

    That’s pretty serious. Wow. Well in my humble opinion, you might want to consider laughing at yourself more often. Always works for me :-). If not, then I don’t know what to tell you. Nice to see you ’round. Peace …

    Not really. Going through life as a perfectionist doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humor. I thrive despite my foibles especially because I laugh at myself. Eventhough it’s honest, I didn’t even consider the entry serious.

  3. repairman says:

    Lizzie, I think we’re all perfectionists at heart in that we want to do our best. The challenge is to recognize the elements of whatever performance we are attempting, define our goals, and then step out, keeping in mind that whatever we do will be imperfect, but that we cannot improve it unless we have something concrete to improve upon.

    We have to have an imperfect first draft of a writing piece before we can revise.

    Does that make sense?

    I used to teach my students about the “pitfall of perfectionism” in our time management and organization unit. We fall into that pit (and it’s a deep dark pit) when we continue to strive for improvement after it’s obvious that our cost (in terms of money, time, or energy) is monstrously disproportionate to the incremental improvements that are then attainable.

    The secret lies in recognizing when something is “good enough.”

    Glad you’re back! 🙂

  4. Jose says:

    OK in that case, good because I was getting worried, especially after your “sometimes reluctant” entry. It’s nice to see a teacher struggle and push despite her own insecurities and “imperfect perfections”. Keep it up …

  5. wpm1955 says:

    I am missing you! Please come back! We need you!

    “Madame Monet”
    (aka Dedicated Elementary Teacher, Eileen)

  6. Hi Lizzie! Just touching base — hope all is well.

    Hello, Hugh. 🙂 All is well. I hope all’s well with you, too.

    It looks like you’re doing well, tho you’re really BUSY! I am getting married to my British love in the spring. ^^ I am beyond excited! Perfectionism nearly did me in during my first marriage. I’m no longer a perfectionist in ALL aspects of my life. that would have likely killed me. lol. No, I mean it. *hugs*!

    Congratulations, Wendi! 😀 To lessen the pressure, maybe we see ourselves as perfectly imperfect? Haha. I wish for you all your British love all the best in life. Hugs to you, too! 🙂

  8. Chris says:

    I can tell you have lots of fans. Not that I’m surprised, however. 🙂

    And, you’re a perfectionist too! 🙂 Why didn’t that cross my mind? No wonder we passionately speak of math and precision as if there’s no tomorrow. 🙂

    I’m afraid I don’t have the stamina to last very long, though. 🙂

    Think I’ll go pick my guitar up now and strum some. Maybe hit a little D minor or something. 🙂

    Friends, not fans. I’m no rock star! LOL! 😀

    I knew it: you’re a musician in minor! D minor! I, myself, prefer A minor. Of course, I tend to go for atonal music. Do you like atonal music?

  9. Chris says:

    When playing the guitar, there’s something about D minor that when I hit the chord, strange energy shoots up my fingers and into my whole body. Weird, I know.

    And then, I turn green!!!

    Just kidding. 🙂

    I like A minor best when playing the piano though. I do play the piano too, by the way. Although, I’d better stay away from it when you’re around. 🙂 I have an old one that I gave to a friend when I left Atlanta. It’s an 88-key Yamaha concert electric. I think it was.

    Funny you should mention atonal music. One of my friends in L.A. is a film scorer and a professional musician who loves atonal jazz. I remember us hanging out in his recording studio listening to his collection of atonal CDs all day. Like those obscure Pat Metheney albums that never gets airplay cuz they’re a bit, uhm… off center? No pun intended. 🙂

    Well, I could probably last a day listening to it. But after that, I need to rest a bit. 🙂 I’m a little more crazy for melodic hooks. What can I say? I’m simple. 🙂

    You ‘gave’ the keyboard to your friend? Wow. That must have been really hard. I don’t know if I could part with my instruments. It’s weird but they all have names and genders. I can’t really describe how I choose their gender and name, but it’s based on intuition (and quirkiness).

    It sounds like you listen with your whole body and not just your ears. That’s a gift and a skill. 🙂

    I’m not a huge listener of Pat Metheny but I appreciate his work. I love atonal music but my iPod tunes are all ‘rock’ and ‘alternative’. 🙂

  10. Chris says:

    I’ll give anything to anyone if I feel that they have as much passion for it as I do. I had a banjo that I left with another friend before I moved. He loves bluegrass. We used to go see bluegrass concerts a lot. I thought he might appreciate the gesture. 🙂

    On listening, my ears are the doorways but my body is where music comes in to dwell. And sometimes, wreak havoc! 🙂

    And so, you like rock. I know a little rock music myself. 🙂

    My taste in music is eclectic. Strangely, I look forward to silence, and I prefer not to listen to country music. 🙂

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