On Not Being Perfect: Why Perseverance Counts
The funny thing about being Facebook friend with relatives is that they sometimes say pretty profound things. My one cousin posted last night that “It’s impossible to be perfect” and that she was the “Queen of Mediocrity.” That struck a chord with me. I’ve long identified myself as a “jill of all trades,” and “good at lots of things, truly great at nothing.”
Not that I think that’s a bad thing. I like that I’m pretty good at a lot of things. But sometimes I wish I had more culinary training or had had formal lessons at knitting or had taken a digital photography class. And I could go out and do all those things if I really, really wanted to. But I don’t.
Why? Well, we’ve talked on this site before about learning by doing. And I think that’s a pretty good philosophy. Because it makes it okay to fail and to make mistakes. And you learn best from mistakes you’ve made. If you fail at something, it makes the lesson of why you failed really stick home. And if you’ve got enough gumption, you’ll do it over to make sure you really learned the lesson.
My friend Heather is a relatively new knitter. But she is frustratingly fantastic at it. She can look at a complex pattern, read it through, and just do it. She might make a few mistakes at first or have to do a few parts over, but mostly she’s really good at it. Like ridiculously good at it. (Heather, if you read this, try not to get a big head about it, okay?)
I’ve been knitting for a long time. But I’m not generally the kind of person who will sit down at a project and focus only on that project until it’s done (like Heather does). I like to knit while I’m doing other things, like watching TV or listening to the radio. Because I don’t like doing either of those other two things without having my hands busy. But I also like to actually kind of pay attention to what’s happening on either of the tubes. So I can’t concentrate on super-complex patterns without making tons of mistakes.
I know I’ll probably never be able to read a pattern and just knit it like Heather does. But she’s inspired me to try something a little harder in my knitting. I know I’ll probably make a lot of mistakes. Heck, I knit on the fly a lot, and I recently had to rip out a shawl I was making because I made it too wide to have enough extra yarn to make it actually shawl length. But I didn’t get upset or frustrated about it. A little resigned maybe, but not upset. I just made a little note in my head that if I only have 420 yards of yarn (2 skeins), I can’t cast on 60 stitches on size 13 needles and expect to get very far.
When I first started knitting I made a lot of mistakes. Some rows were tighter than others. The starting end of my first scarf was narrower than the finished end because I started out with really tight stitches but eventually relaxed. I had finished my scarf and it was a pretty color and I was proud of it and wore it as-is for a while. But eventually, as I kept knitting, I got better at it. So I unraveled the whole thing and knit it again. And it was much better. And because I did it over and learned from my first mistakes, the scarf not only looked better, I loved it a lot more. I wore it for a long, long time, until it started to get scraggly and ratty-looking. And then I made another scarf. And I kept making scarves and then tried shawls and started trying a few different simple patterns. Now I have lots of beautiful scarves and shawls that serve me well once cold weather sets in.
I know I’m not perfect. I’m certainly not a perfect crafter. But that doesn’t stop me from doing it. Just because you can’t knit a delicate lace shawl doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your hand at a simple scarf. Just because the thought of making yeast bread terrifies you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your hand at baking a cake from scratch. Just because you can’t hike up a mountain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for a walk in the park. Because little steps sometimes lead to bigger steps. Maybe by baking that cake from scratch you’ll figure out that it’s not really so scary after all and maybe yeast bread isn’t so bad either (story of my life). Maybe by going for lots of walks in the park, you’ll find that trying a hike up that mountain isn’t as hard as you thought.
No one is perfect. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop trying new things. And just because you’re the “Queen of Mediocrity” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take pride in the things you do and make.
Once I finish my shawl, I’m going to try a new pattern Heather gave me. I’ll probably make some mistakes. I might even have to rip it out once or twice. But eventually it’ll get done and it’ll be good, if not perfect. And maybe completing that pattern will inspire me to try another, and then another. We learn best by doing for ourselves. And when you learn by doing, perseverance counts.