I give up on perfect.

Friends. Before we dive in, a few tiny updates:

1. First of all, I am elated to report that last night I had a dream that Drake and Chris Brown were texting me, fighting over which one of their concerts I would go to. I’m pretty sure we were friends. Like, real friends. (Obviously, I would choose Drake.)

2. Also, my birthday was FANTASTIC and rejuvenating and ALSO the “100 days left in Boone” mark (!!!) and I now have lots of good thoughts about why it’s important to let other people celebrate you and to celebrate yourself – but more on that later.

3. The only Internet my new computer won’t connect to is Panera’s.

Uhhh, this arrangement is not going to work.

At first, I thought it was just one Panera’s fault. I was in Charleston two weekends ago, killing some time between lunch and the time my friend Jessica would get home, and so I stopped at Panera because that is my reflex when I have time to kill. I have “find the nearest Panera” programmed into my car’s Nav system somehow because that’s a thing you can do and also I am a little addicted to bread and weird jazz music.

Anyway, I got a bagel and some tea. I wasn’t even hungry but I felt more legit for ordering not just a drink, except I think when I said “Can I please have it toasted?” the dude heard me say “toasted five times, Cajun style, and please make sure it’s smoking,” because that’s what I got and so I just sort of took it because I am not one of those “complain about things being wrong with my food” people. People hate this about me. I’ll tip 50% for something that is indigestible to human beings. Maybe a goat could have eaten that bagel. Not sure if a compost heap would have taken it.

Anyway. The Internet wouldn’t work. I even went up to a girl at the counter (not bagel maker guy) and she was all “Yeah, people complain about it all the time.” And so I sat back down in my big chair and listened to weird jazz music and spied on people a little and luckily, Jessica got home early and I was saved.

And I’m at another Panera right now, the one in Boone, and it STILL WON’T WORK.
My research on this problem has ended with a few futile phone searches including “why won’t my internet work at Panera?” (Brilliant, I tell ya.)

This also reminds me of the time I was trying to learn how to dougie on YouTube, and searching “teach me how to dougie” only resulted in showing me the music video – and I needed instructions, so I went with “teach me how to dougie REALLY” – in all caps, just like that.

I am not good at Google.
Now, I like to think of myself as an intelligent person, and as one that is generally good at things, and I have some empirical support for those two thoughts, like that I did very well on the SAT and Harvard followed me around for a day in high school -- but I can’t get my Internet to work. I didn’t get into Harvard, thank the Lord, what a different college experience that would have been. I didn’t get into Princeton, either, but I think that was because I put on my application that my favorite movie was Jurassic Park instead of A Beautiful Mind, or “Oh, I don’t watch movies, I only like quantum physics and talking about string theory.”

I really want people to think I’m smart. To perceive me as being intelligent. I want them to get to know me through that lens.
The last guy I was trying to impress, that’s the strategy I went with.
We talked about Harvard and that my parents are geniuses and that I tested into kindergarten when I was three years old.
And about my perfect SAT score and how I have better-than-perfect vision.
The word “perfect” was thrown in there a lot.

So essentially, we talked about high school me.
High school me is a very old version of me.
She is, however, the version of me that looks the closest to perfect.
She is the closest I’ll ever get.
She’s the version of me whose stories I tell when I want to impress people.
Well, the problem with that is that homeboy wasn’t having lunch with high school me – he was having lunch with right now me.

The truth about all that – the rest of the story and the more important part is that I tried so hard to be perfect in high school that I burned out on perfect for life. It was horrible! I was actually miserable! And then I kept trying to be perfect in college. Ask the girls that lived on my hall freshman year – I was not a happy camper. Fake it til you make it has never been my forte, but I gave it a good try. I was trying to balance what I love (loving people!) with what I thought I was supposed to love (impressing people) and lo and behold, a couple of months of refusing to hold a conversation or eat an actual meal with someone unless it was over genetics problem sets (bless you, genius people, who got me through those) and one cell biology lab was all it took for me to raise my white flag and say, “I NEED OUT!”

And even though it was miserable, and even though I still think science is the coolest, I still like to highlight that time of my life because it means I get to tell people that I “studied biological neuroscience” in college. And I just stop before I get to, “Yeah, and I wasn’t nice and even my parents didn’t really like being around me because I was severely unhappy and pulled 2 all-nighters a week and couldn’t tell you anything that was going on in anybody else’s life but I could tell you everything about leaf venation patterns and that titrating acid is such a pain, lol.”

And so, at lunch, that day, in Charleston, I told the version of the story where I leave out the parts about being miserable, overwhelmed, etc.
THAT’S what I decided to share about myself? 
Really, Amanda? You decided to put on the “I’m perfect and smart and you should be impressed by me” hat again?

What I should have said is that I’m awkward and that my hobbies include trying to push the elevator door close button before anybody else can come around the corner and get on.

Or that my religious views on Facebook used to be some of the lyrics from “I Can Transform Ya” (I can change ya life, make ya so new, make you never wanna go back to the old you” – like that is something Jesus would absolutely say.)
Or that I love dancing more than anything in the world.
And that I listen to Christmas music all the time.
(I’m doing it right now.)
And it’s RAP AND DUBSTEP Christmas music.
The Beastie Boys vs. Sleigh Ride.
(What else am I supposed to do? I’m in Panera with no Internet.)

But as soon as insecurity hits, I start talking about myself like I’m perfect and 

I used to be the really smart girl.
I tried perfect for a while, and it was a) impossible, and b) TOO MUCH PRESSURE.
And then I was the really miserable girl because of that.
And now I just want to be me. I don’t really want to have a “thing.”
I want to be “normal and NOT perfect and PROUD of it.”

But recently I did a bonehead thing, in that I made a whole beautiful perfect-esque Facebook album of my apartment. People had asked to see it, and I’ve worked hard on making it homey and cozy and hospitable, because I LOVE making people feel at home and cozy and hospitality is for sure my sixth sense or spiritual gift or something. And so let it be known that when I say beautiful, I mean edited and Photoshopped and it has never been this clean and will stop being this clean as soon as the pictures go online. But there I went again, with my perpetuation of the “Hi, my life is perfect” façade.

I “Photoshop” my life a lot, don’t I?

During my last trip to Greenville, I ran into a Wofford friend downtown and he said something like, “Looks like you’ve been living the dream lately!” and I LAUGHED in my head because WHAT? and he was like, “Yeah, all your statuses about the Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake concert and your Instagrams and the Biltmore and…” and I just wanted to be like "CRAP. I’M DOING IT AGAIN."

What’s the balance? How in the world do we live authentically with each other when we can crop and filter and Photoshop and only show what we want to? If there was a “Realitygram” app, I would be in trouble. Nobody would think my life was all nice and shiny and put together, because SPOILER ALERT, it’s not. If you go through the pictures on my phone, all 1,004 of them, you would think I’m the WEIRDEST PERSON ALIVE. And I MAYBE am just that. (And that is okay with me.)

So no more holding my breath. I say that like being authentic is a decision you make. Like, “Oh, today I’ll have cereal for breakfast and also NEVER ACT LIKE I’M PERFECT AGAIN.” Nope. This is one of those daily battles. Sometimes I’ll lose. I might lose more than I win and I sort of like that because doesn’t that in and of itself get the point across? It’s hard, being real. Telling the truth. Showing your mess. But the way I see it, if I show my mess honestly, I can also say what I love about myself in a better context. Sort of a “life is hard, but I’m doing it anyway” type of thing and I LOVE the idea of THAT.
THAT is what I want people to hear when words come out of my mouth. 

Or that yeah, my SAT score is cool and stuff, but what makes that hilarious is that I thought dragons were real until I was a junior in college. I was trying to explain “fantastic drama” on a sociology exam and wrote, “That is when children act out roles that they cannot one day fulfill, like that of wizards or dragons,” in my nice formal "I am smart" writing voice. And then I ERASED the part about dragons because I was like, “No, dragons are real.” And when I explained this to friends later on at lunch, I added, “Because don’t they live in Bulgaria and Romania?”

“No,” they said. “That’s only in Harry Potter.”

And that my goals in life mostly revolve around wanting to be Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side because she is kind but also fierce and generous and believes in things that are important like, “That kid is homeless and needs someone to take care of him.” And also because I love to throw dinner parties, and although that wasn’t in the movie, I think she’d be really good at that.

And especially that when someone tells me that I’m pretty or compliments my outfit or whatever, I sort of want to level the playing field and say, “Welllllll, do you want to know how long it takes me to get my hair to look like this in the mornings? Because ACTUALLY I look like Hermione Granger after I’m done with the blow dryer and the world is NOT READY for that.”

And also that I’m afraid of fish and, you know, I’m not really sure why.
(I did tell guy-I-was-trying-to-impress about the fish thing. It’s sort of my trademark.)

Saying all that feels SO MUCH BETTER than perfect.
So, I quit. 
I give up on perfect. 
Life is hard enough without having to act like it's not hard.
I pick honest and nice over smart. Hopefully I can handle both, but if I have to choose, I pick honest and nice.
I absolutely want people to know that I'm doing the best that I can and that the struggle is REAL more than I want them to think I'm perfect.

I would rather breathe and enjoy my life and fail a lot.
When people come to my apartment, I want it to be a safe space where they feel like they can talk about where life hurts and why and what we can do about it and how I/we can pray about it if we can’t do anything about it.
I want it to be a place of “I feel so SAFE here.”
Instead of “I feel like I’m at POTTERY BARN.”

That is my nightmare.
I do not believe in coffee tables that you are emotionally berated for if you put your feet on them, or in rugs that you get shunned from your family if you spill something on them.
Living-life-honestly-and-imperfectly friendly rugs and coffee tables only, for me, thanks.
And being right-now-not-perfect-and-okay-with-it me, Hermione Granger hair and all.