Patel: Pursuit of perfection vs. pursuit of happiness


Meera Patel, Columnist

A few months ago, I panicked because I didn’t know who my role model was. I couldn’t pick someone who had done everything I want to do because a) I didn’t know what I wanted to do and b) it’s hard to find someone who has done everything right.

Wait a second, it’s not just hard; it’s impossible. No one on the planet is perfect. If I kept looking for someone who was everything I wanted to be, I would be searching forever.

In high school, my AP English teacher made us read a book called “The Overachievers.” The book focused on the lives of overachieving students at top-ranked high schools in the nation. We read it and took a step back to see if we were enjoying our years as young students instead of focusing solely on SAT and ACT scores and getting into a good college.

The thing is, all the overachievers end up at schools like Northwestern. So now we have a gazillion of them on campus who don’t sleep and try to do every extracurricular while balancing academics. Don’t get me wrong, that’s what makes us such a good school. We have people who have passion and make things happen.

Everyone is trying to make a difference in whatever way they can. You will make a difference one way or another — you will bring meaning into someone’s life just by being alive. But we put so much pressure on ourselves to be outstanding, to be the one person who can do it all. Is that what really matters in the end?

So what if people think of you as the person who does it all? It’s great to hear the admiration in someone’s voice, but is that actually what will make you happy?

The most important part of life is to figure out what and who makes you happy and never let them go. If you meet people and you click, don’t let them slip away. Make it clear that they’re important to you. If you find something that you are truly passionate about, work as hard as you can on it and make a difference that way. But don’t overcommit yourself by signing up for all these positions just for the sake of doing everything.

Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” But is chasing perfection worth it if detracts from our happiness?

I can only speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to be perfect. I would rather be happy and imperfect than be the perfect human being and utterly miserable underneath it all. You need to make sure you have the things and people in your life that will truly make you happy in order to be truly happy. Sometimes doing it all doesn’t correspond to being happy.

I realized that my role model is, and always will be, a combination of several people. Some are really in touch with their emotions and know what to do to stay positive and happy as much as possible. Some know how to talk to anyone and everyone, yet still stay close to the people who truly matter to them. Some are good at making decisions and being confident in what they believe. You can learn something from everyone, if you take the time to figure out what makes them tick. But no one is perfect.

It’s important to make mistakes and be okay with it. What matters is how you handle yourself through those mistakes and what you learn from them. Mistakes are what force you to grow. Owning them and being honest are what show what kind of person we are, not the number of positions we have or how we seem to “do everything.”

So when you’re making goals for this quarter, don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. It’s OK to make mistakes, to let people know that you’re human. Try new things, figure out who and what makes you happy and go from there. After all, isn’t that what Spring Quarter is all about?

Meera Patel is a McCormick junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].