Anybody who has ever seen an infant understands a few key things:

Thing one: A baby will be incoherent for a long time. Nobody minds.

Thing two: A baby will frequently projectile vomit on clothing, furniture and people. Nobody minds.

Thing three: A baby will defecate on all of the aforementioned nouns. Nobody minds.

Thing four: A baby will be consistently helpless and dependent. Still, nobody minds. 

Despite failing immensely at being a fully-functioning human being, a baby will be met only with patience, love and support. Parents understand maturation is a gradual process, occurring in incremental steps over an extended period of time. Babies do not make gargantuan leaps and bounds; one does not fall from the highchair directly into a $500 suit. 

Development comes slowly. 

Why, then, do we treat ourselves with none of that patience, love nor support? 

Consider the following: 

Scenario one: We sound incoherent for mere seconds. We mind. 

Scenario two: We projectile vomit publicly once. We mind. 

Scenario three: We shit our pants. We mind. 

Scenario four: We are helpless and dependent occasionally. We need other people. It is natural, but — still — we mind. 

Scenarios two and three aside, we approach our childhood and adulthood with significantly different mindsets. As adults, we expect that growth will come quickly — that we will make gargantuan leaps and bounds. We abhor that our lives often move in small, incremental steps. We criticize ourselves for evolving gradually; it has become ingrained in our culture to do so and unfortunately we have adopted this habit without question. We assume from the moment we leave our childhood homes we must be perfect. 

Maybe this isn’t you. 

But in the case that it is:

Imagine you have just purchased a rare video game from a used game store — but not GameStop, because … you know. Overcome with anticipation, you sprint — or speed — the entire way home. You boot up the game before you’ve even removed your shoes.

However, to your utmost dismay, you find that the game is damaged: you cannot create a new save file, and the last owner was what we gamers call a “completionist.” In other words, game progress equals 100 percent. Not only were all of the main quests completed, all of the side quests were as well. Every treasure has been obtained, every location discovered, every problem solved. Nobody needs your help and neither does your character: you have reached maximum health, maximum stamina, maximum potential. Everything, including the world around you, is perfect. All is well, and there is nothing to be done.

I don’t know about you, but I would be pissed. 

I spent all this time searching for this game, and I can’t even play it? 

I would be disappointed. Almost anyone would be disappointed. 

Why? Because we’re human and humans like to do things. We’re taskmasters and problem solvers. We’re analysts, action takers and plan makers. Humans adore the sensation of progress. Life without it would be empty.

For this reason, I approach my transient existence as if it were a video game. I ask myself, would life be worth living if it were perfect? If I were perfect? If I woke up one day, and all of my problems were solved — if all of my goals were achieved, all desires fulfilled, all potential realized — would I be happy? If I looked around me and nobody needed me — if I didn’t even need myself—would I be glad? After waiting for an eternity to start living, would it have been worth the wait to arrive in a world where there was nothing to be done? 

My answer would be a resounding “$*@& no!” You may respond differently. Perhaps a completionist’s world sounds like paradise. But I warn you: too much of heaven can feel like hell. 

There is a reason why Appalachian Trail hiker Paul Stutzman reports a jolting, paradoxical emptiness upon reaching his end destination — a crippling uncertainty of beholding “another rutted road leading into another unknown.” We need a goal — a purpose — to fulfill us. We need resistance to grow, obstacles to cultivate desire and passion — imperfection to improve, to learn, to make progress. 

Too often, we tear ourselves down over not being good enough. We lament that there will always be emails in our inbox — that responsibilities multiply. We kick ourselves for not being better after scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. We tear at our flaws — physical or otherwise — relentlessly and we say things to ourselves that we could never imagine saying to those we love. 

We forget that development has always come slowly.

My wish for you is this: don’t. 

Confucius offers a helpful reminder: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” The quote has become unsurprisingly popular; people take solace in the affirmation that slow progress eventually outpaces no progress at all — that those consistent, incremental steps — baby steps, if you will — surpass inconsistent leaps. In a world and culture hell-bent on instant gratification and achievement, we are pressured to forget that such unobstructed expansion — such perfection — is not natural. 

It is difficult to remember that we have an entire lifetime to grow — we are never meant to reach the end. Still, we must push to recover the fundamental truth: perfect exists only in video games, and even then some video games just suck. 

All the more reason to immerse yourself in your delectably imperfect, excitingly incomplete life instead. 

Plus, you’ll save 20 dollars, and come on — who doesn’t like that?

ALINA MARTEL is a sophomore in Trumbull College. Contact her at alina.martel@yale.edu.

ALINA MARTEL
Alina Martel is a junior in Trumbull College. Contact her at alina.martel@yale.edu.