Good Person Award

I’ve been 30 years old for 20 minutes, now. My friend Julie asked me to tell her how I felt when I woke up on my thirtieth birthday. She said she felt “as grand as a god but as dumb as a kid.” She wanted to know if I would feel the same way. Well, I certainly feel something. A long-brewing, more painfully complete understanding of myself. (I think I’m going to allow myself to wax philosophical on myself, despite the narcissistic implications, since it is my birthday)...

Hello. My name is April Rose and I am a perfectionist. 

I deeply want to be acknowledged for being good. I feel like love must be earned through hard work. That discipline is its own reward. I am so concerned with what I should be doing that I don’t even know what I really want. All imperfections live in the foreground of my awareness so that I can’t even see what lies beneath them. People relaxing and enjoying their lives can bother me. I often think there is only one right way to do something. I neglect my needs in favor of appearances. I want to change all these ways of thinking and being. This personality disorder of perfectionism is the source of my resentment and anger, which has been mounting lately. I’m angry. I feel trapped. I’m sad. I can’t see the beauty that is my life. 

I realize now that no one is going to recognize me for being a good person. That the mundane and significant dramas of life do not care about my hard work and excellence. There is no trophy to be won. No stability to ultimately achieve. Change, risk, and the unknown are ever-present. Some people will always find fault with the way I am, the way I choose to handle situations, the way I teach, or the art I make. It shouldn’t bother me so much, it shouldn’t make me so sad and angry.

Now that I’m 30 I realize what I have to do. I need to give myself the seal of approval and recognition that I so desperately desire. So, I made myself a ribbon that says: “You are a good person.” 

There. That does it. For good.

I am not perfect. Like, in the real way, not the cliche way. I have a tendency to be controlling. I am stingy with love and compliments. I withdraw my affection from people who have behaved out of line with what I deem proper. I can be hyper focused on what is going on in my life and projects to the detriment of my personal relationships. I am not willing to compromise very much. 

Now, on my birthday, with a flood of awareness I realize these things. And like a gust of wind, I’m ready to change.

I suspect my epiphany has been sparked my the confluence of many things. Most recently of which has been reading, The Enneagram, a book that my friend, Megan, gave to me. And the movie I watched on the airplane home tonight from Cues and Tattoos in Seattle: Phantom Thread. I chose the movie because I’m super into grown-ass Daniel Day Lewis and he’s my airplane-movie boo. When the movie ended I was angry, because I didn’t get it. Then I listened to Elliot Smith and cried (one of my other favorite things to do on planes, I’m observing.) When I finally got home after an extremely long day at the end of a marathon of work, I nearly flipped my shit about an ugly plastic kitty litter box that my husband left on the front porch. Ok, I did flip my shit. Luckily, the world was asleep and no one had to witness it. When I finally calmed down after some toast and a bowl, it dawned on me: OMG, I am Daniel Day Lewis in that movie. And the woman he falls in love with, but pushes away with his neurotic perfectionism, is everyone who has chosen to stay in relationship with me. 

Okay, so spoiler alert…

Rather than leaving him, she poisons him with wild mushrooms whenever he starts really acting like a dick, in order to subdue him with bouts of sickness that make him vulnerable and open to her love. 

So, if you’ve made it this far into my self-indulgent “good person award” ceremony speech, this is what I have to say to you: thank you.

Thank you to all the folks in my life who have chosen to stay in relationship with me. Who have not cast me aside for not being perfect, or for being a perfectionist. Who have been willing to work out a disagreement, who have turned a blind eye to a anxious email I’ve sent you, who have forgiven me for my pettiness, and disregarded my judgement. Thank you for feeding me poisonous mushrooms and hanging around while I lick my wounds and return a more humble person. Thank you for coaxing me out of the studio to play. I am really sorry for all the times my personal neurosis has hurt you. I am so gonna deal with all that. I am dealing with it. I already forgive you, too, for your neurotic tendencies (whatever particular type of ego delusion it is).

And to the few, but memorable, people who have deemed me to be a shit person. I understand where you are coming from, but I am going to go ahead and disagree. I like myself, I am kind, I am generous, and thoughtful. I do see gradations of gray, rather than black and white. I can look past, and even value, imperfection. When I feel safe I am quite good to others. Thankfully my neurosis makes me a good teacher. I care about transmitting precise and correct information. I believe the truth is paramount and can change lives. I am willing to be wrong. And while a vague shadow of doubt is still present in the far corners of my mind: I am a good person.

So, I’ve been 30 for about an hour now. The one thing many people have told me is that I will give less fucks with each passing milestone age. I understand what they mean. I think I’ve gotten to the first level of giving less fucks. It’s quite liberating. I am going to stop looking around for recognition from others. I am going to stop expecting rewards for doing what I think should be done. I am going to start trying to listen to my needs and figure out what I desire.

Hello 30. I feel as grand as a god and as dumb as a kid.

...(I love you, Julie).

April Rose