Hi, my name is Emily. I’m in my 20s, I’m growing up, and I’m learning what that entails one day at a time. Overcoming perfectionism, enjoying life: this is my story.
For most of my life I have been hard on myself- grades, body image, social life- you name it. Eager to please, I am often afraid of what other people will think of me if I make a mistake, if I don’t follow the crowd, or if I don’t live up to what is expected of me, whatever that may be. I began my college career in the fall of 2006 at Purdue University. I struggled with the abrupt change from high school to college.
As a naturally introverted person, it was difficult for me to break out of my shell; I quickly became obsessed with what I knew I could control, eating right and exercising, as well as studying for hours on end. Over the course of my freshmen year, I became depressed. I called my parents and sisters crying, nearly every night; I wondered what I was doing there. I went away to a big state school because I thought that was what “I was supposed to do.” I was afraid of what other people would think of me if I did otherwise. Everyone tells you that college will be “the time of your life.” So what was I supposed to do when it didn’t feel that way for me?
By February 2007, I knew I had to make a change. While finishing out the year at Purdue, I began looking at other schools, and decided on Marian College, now Marian University, a small private school more suited to my needs. While at Marian, I joined the dance team, quickly made friends, and enjoyed my classes.
The small school was fitting to my personality, and although I was reaping the social benefits, by the end of my sophomore year, I still wasn’t sure what my education or career goals were. For my junior year, I was offered an RA position in the dorms, and a spot on the dance team for another year. Many people would be happy, but I felt trapped. I was confused and unhappy with my life, and the pressure from friends, family, and even myself, was driving me crazy. It was then that I made one of the hardest decisions I had ever had to make. I decided to take a semester off.
I needed a break from the pressure, from the demands of school. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, and I felt that continuing down the same path wouldn’t make things better. As I signed those papers to withdraw from Marian, I felt relief and failure all at once. Although my parents and sisters supported me greatly during this time, after I left school, many people told me I would never go back. This was one of the hardest things to hear from some of the family and friends whom I felt closest to. At a time when I felt people had little faith in me, I knew I had to find faith and hope within myself.
Somewhere deep inside, I knew I needed to be writing, something I’ve always enjoyed. I contacted the editor of a weekly newspaper in Indianapolis, and he agreed to take me on as an Editorial Intern. No pay, no college credit, just experience. I was ecstatic at the offer. During the fall of 2008 I learned more about myself than I ever had before. I stopped looking outward for reassurance, and I began believing in myself. I surrendered to God, to fate, and I stopped trying to control my future.
By December of 2008, I applied to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a large university in the heart of Indianapolis. I decided that I would live with my family in the suburbs and commute to my classes in the city, as I wanted the support of family and the comfort of home close by. At this time, my love life also took a turn for the better. It’s true what “they” say, you need to love yourself before anyone else can fall in love with you. After being single for most of my college career, on January 1, 2009 I took another leap of faith and went on a blind date; taking that risk paid off. Not too long after, he was “officially” my boyfriend, and we’re still going strong. Jordan and I on Mother’s Day, May 2010
Over time, I learned that letting go of perfection is more than being okay with a B on an exam or a bad hair day. It is about figuring out the root of the problem, looking for confidence and assurance within yourself, and being comfortable in your own skin. After taking a semester off of school, after taking some time to reflect, my path in life began to fall into place.
I recently graduated with my B.A. in Communication Studies. I’m pursuing a career in writing, figuring out how this “growing up thing” works, and in the midst of everything, letting go of the need to be perfect…because being “perfect” does not mean being happy.
Through this blog, I am capturing my moments of weakness, my moments where perfection still gets in the way, as well as the accomplishments and new adventures that growing up encompasses. I hope that many of you can relate, learn from, and enjoy this journey with me. Thank you for reading!