My name is Fabeku. And I’m a perfectionist.
Well, recovering perfectionist.
At least most days I’m recovering. It’s a process.
I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember.
I’m pretty sure I picked up this brutal method of self-torture way of doing stuff when I was a little kid.
It all started with a report card. And it went a little something like this.
Me: Hey Mom, I got an A in science! Woohoo!
Mom: You only got an A?
Me: Wha?! What do you mean?
Mom: An A isn’t the same thing as an A+.
Cue the craptastic.
Mantras that suck
An A isn’t the same thing as an A+.
This rang me like a bell. And it reverberated in my head like a fugging mantra for over 25 years.
Everything I did had to be A+.
All the time. No matter what. No exceptions.
Failure wasn’t an option. And anything less than perfect was a failure.
Because if what I did wasn’t perfect, I’d not only fail miserably. I’d let everyone down. And they’d be disappointed. Or pissed. Or both.
The letting people down part was way worse than the failing miserably part.
So by the age of seven, I figured out that being perfect wasn’t optional. The rub is that when you’re seven you don’t get that being perfect is impossible.
But anytime I did something – a big something, a small something, it didn’t matter – it had to be absolutely perfect.
It always felt like a matter of life and death.
Of course, I’ve never expected anyone else to be perfect.
I’ve always been the first one to pick someone up when they trip, to dust them off and tell them not to sweat it. So everybody has always had a ton of room to fall down.
Everybody but me.
Pretty close to puking
So every quarter, when report cards were about come out, I wouldn’t sleep for three days.
I’d lie awake in bed, sweating bullets, trying to figure out how to explain why I only got an A- in English or a B+ in history.
I’d almost throw up on myself before making the long walk downstairs to hand my report card to the parental units.
And the whole not-sleeping-for-days-and-sweating-bullets-and-almost-throwing-up-on-myself bit has followed me into adulthood. And by followed I mean chased me like a banshee on crack.
It took me over a year to put this website together.
Not just because it was a huge project. But because I felt like it had to be – wait for it – perfect.
And I freaked out trying to get everything arranged perfectly in my head before I’d even let myself get started. Which meant that it took me nine months to actually dig in and start doing it.
From woohoo to screw it in less than two hours
While I was working on the site, I was also recording my first sacred sound CD. (Because, you know, apparently one huge, demanding project wasn’t enough.)
So I booked some time at a local recording studio, hauled all my gear in and did my thing.
It was a ton of work. And a ton of money.
When it was all finished, I was so stoked to get home and listen to the final mix. I threw the CD in the stereo, totally ready to hear this thing.
The first minute or so… not too bad.
Then I started to notice this thing. And that thing. And how I should have played that bowl louder there. Or played that other bowl softer here.
The final mix was still warm in my hands. But within two hours of getting the CD, I decided to shelve it. To not release it. To scrap it altogether.
So, yeah, I’ve rocked this perfectionist thing pretty hard.
And then one day I had a revelation. An insight. An epiphany even.
And it happened while listening to the Ramones.
The Revelation of St. Joey
So I’m listening to Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment, playing air guitar and making funny punk faces.
Then it hits me.
I love the Ramones.
I’m crazy about punk in general. I’ve listened to it for 20 years. And I still listen to it every frakking day.
So me loving the Ramones isn’t the ah-ha! moment.
The revelation is that punk is so far from perfect. It’s kind of the antithesis of perfect.
Let’s face it. Joey Ramone wasn’t the world’s best singer.
Sid Vicious could barely play the bass. And most old school punk guitarists were practically a virtuoso if they knew three whole chords.
And punk still kicks a ton of ass.
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution
Not only does punk kick ass. It started a revolution. And it changed music as we know it.
Punk was visionary. And powerful. And life-changing.
It inspired millions of people. And gave birth to a whole subculture. And sent music spiraling off into a wild new direction.
None of that would have ever happened if the progenitors of punk had waited to be perfect before unleashing their awesome.
If Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy kept hiding in the studio polishing their stuff, their music would never have seen the light of day.
But they didn’t do that.
They grabbed their mics and their drumsticks and their three chords, and they blew them up. They snarled their way through two minute tunes, carried more by passion than skill.
That passion started a movement. And changed the world.
Piss off perfectionism
I’ve tripped over the perfectionism thing a lot. Like more times than I can count.
So many times I’ve gotten so close to the finish line, but stopped short because I felt like whatever I was doing wasn’t an A+.
It didn’t matter that it was a solid A. Or that I really, really wanted to share it. Or that a hundred other people thought it rocked.
If it wasn’t perfect, I’d scrap it.
I used to tell myself that this was about quality control. About making sure I wasn’t churning out crap.
But that’s not true.
I mean, obviously I don’t want to churn out crap.
But really I’ve spent my life being scared of letting people down. And terrified of failing in front of an audience.
So not doing something that didn’t seem like a slam dunk was way better than being slammed for doing it.
But I’m over it. Or I’m getting over it.
I’m taking my lead from Joey Ramone. Because he did his thing – his powerful, kick ass, change-the-frakking-world thing.
He didn’t get hung up on perfect. And so he got to be awesome.
Oh, and that CD that I shelved?
You can download it now. For free.
Because I’m telling perfectionism to piss off.