I might be short, but I’m incredibly long winded. I tell stories like Tchaikovsky. There are no straight lines or clear points, only movements. Telling a story isn’t as simple as starting at the beginning. Sometimes, you have to start in the middle and work your way back. And, for that reason, I can’t start this story with the workshop I participated in at the Met High School. I can’t even begin this story with my OCD diagnosis and treatment. I have to go even further back, and start with my own high school experience.
Knowing what I know now, it’s easy to see how perfectionism was a part of my OCD. How, redoing homework assignments over and over and over and over until it ‘felt right’ was a sign of something larger. However, these signs of my internal raveling looked so productive. Who was I to question it?
(Above: Students from The Met creating their transformation collages.)
Deep down, I knew I was going through something serious that I didn’t have words for yet. I knew something was off, and I didn’t know why, and I just wanted to hide it. I felt wrong, and bad, and different from everyone else. All I had was my grades. I was white-knuckling high school, and the dirt of perfect grades under my fingernails was enough to validate the ride. I felt, “I might not be much, but I’m smart.” I felt it gave me some kind of leg to stand on. That it made me some kind of worth it.
Fast-forward. Diagnosis received. Exposure therapy completed. Trying College again for the second time. I notice perfectionism sneaking back into my life. Despite how much I’d grown, and how much I knew about myself—I couldn’t help but feel the need to be the best. The highest grade. Best essays. Even though I’d come to the realization that people are so much more than their grades or jobs or most recent achievement, I couldn’t help but still hold myself to that standard.
So when I walked into Kim Diorio’s workshop, and she asked us to name a bad habit that once served us well, the response was mechanic. The workshop, Transformation Collages, was one I had been looking forward to seeing for a long time. I loved the idea of taking something you didn’t like about yourself and writing a letter to it. Thanking it, and turning it into something new. When I first heard about this workshop, I never thought about doing it myself. I never pictured myself trying so hard to let go of something that other people loved about me.
That’s why I love the idea of writing it a letter. Of thanking it for the way it tried to protect you, but telling it you don’t need it anymore. I know it sounds simple, but it’s so powerful. I had been struggling for so long to cut ties with this part of myself, but I had never said goodbye to it before. There is something so final about goodbyes. This is usually why we hate saying them. However, something about saying goodbye during this workshop was empowering. I had called it out into the light.
(Above: The artwork I created during the workshop led by CREATOR Kim.)
Despite being a group activity, everyone who attended the workshop had their own experience and addressed their own habits they wanted to see transform. A large group of high school seniors on the first nice spring day came into the workshop with unbelievable energy and charisma. I was there with them, but I was also somewhere else. A thousand miles away, ripping up a paper full of A’s, and turning it into a flower. Into nature, never perfect and yet always worth our admiration for the way it simply exists.
Victoria Rose is a writer and musician from Providence, Rhode Island. firstname.lastname@example.org