Nothing Stays “Perfect”

Everyone has times in life when something feels “perfect.”  I don’t mean perfect in the truest sense of the word (being absolutely without flaw).  Instead, I’m referring to our colloquial use of the word, when things just seem to “fit” or “feel right.”  When someone is offered a job that suits them, we might say, “That’s perfect for you!”  When someone suggests dinner out at a favorite restaurant, we might say, “That would be perfect.”  Often, these perfect times come at the start of something new: starting college or grad school, a new relationship, a marriage, a job, a new living situation.  What I want to describe here is the universal experience that follows those times when everything seems to fit:  factors shift, and somehow what was once perfect doesn’t seem so anymore.

In describing my observations, I don’t have any grand or original conclusions.  Rather, in the descriptions themselves, I hope to encourage you in the knowledge it’s normal to come to discontent in a situation where you were once content.  (Personally, I have found I sometimes add to my emotional load by worrying and feeling guilty about the fact I am no longer content instead of simply dealing with the fact I am not content).

I started thinking about this “nothing stays perfect” theme when my Bible study group started reading Exodus.  At the end of Genesis, Joseph remarks to his brothers that all he went through–being sold into slavery in Egypt, his time in prison–was used by God for good (“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”).  Because Joseph was in Egypt and experienced an unlikely rise to power, he was able to provide for his family in the time of famine.  It’s one of those “aha” moments where it all seems to come together.

Cut to the beginning of Exodus… and the Israelites are in the midst of 400 years of slavery at the hand of the Egyptians.  Suddenly, the situation doesn’t make so much sense.  In terms of the whole picture of the Bible, their trials make more sense, and will probably make even more sense when we reunite with God and get to know more of His whole picture… but I’m sure the contrast in the turn of events was not lost on the Israelites.

I don’t at all mean to trivialize the Exodus story by comparing it to our own experiences.  Instead, I want to point out that in this very important story a clear pattern emerges: that of 1) reaching a realization that everything that has happened thus far has come together for a single purpose, then 2) moving past that point in time to see that very purpose seem to fall apart.  Of course, our experiences are usually not that dramatic (or severe!) as those the Israelites encountered.  However, if the pattern exists on that epic Biblical level, it certainly exists on our own.

Having said that, here’s a personal example.  When I got my first teaching job, it felt so, so right.  I had applied to several different places and made it to the final interview stage with a few different districts, but nothing came through.  Then, the timing worked out for me to interview and be hired for a position at the school where I student taught and with the teaching team I’d already been working with.  Accepting the position truly felt perfect.  Through my first years of teaching, as many of my peers struggled with how to start their post-college lives, I was grateful to have the certainty I was where I was supposed to be.

Then, along came my third year of teaching.  I’m not going to go into detail, but it was both terrible and terrifying.  As a result, I began my fourth year contemplating other jobs within education that wouldn’t involve the stress and pressure of being a classroom teacher.*  I didn’t understand how something that had felt completely right and satisfying could feel drastically different after just a few years.  What I’ve realized since then, and what I’m trying to get across in this entry is: it happens.

I was tempted to title this entry “This plum is too ripe!” but I knew people probably wouldn’t know what I was talking about.  It’s the title of a song that begins the second act of The Fantasticks, when, just like a plum past its peak ripeness, everything in the characters’ lives is starting to rot.  The first act sees the uniting of two lovers and the end of a feud between their fathers.  Everything is as it should be, and it seems the story should end there with a “happily ever after.”  But… it doesn’t.  As friction begins, and they realize they can’t stay at that perfect point in time, the main characters sing:

Take away the painted sunset.

Take away the blue lagoon.
What at night seems oh so scenic
May be cynic much too soon.

See, even characters in musicals get disillusioned!  Seriously, though, I include this example because art reflects our human experience, and part of that experience is the passage of time that changes the nature of every situation.

Hopefully, I’ve at least begun to convince you that it’s part of life for what seems “perfect” to fall apart a bit, especially where our expectations are concerned. That’s not to say it isn’t disappointing when something that started off really well hits complications.  Still, instead of stumbling over guilt, worry, or even denial when it happens… try to acknowledge the reasons at the root of your discontent and to ask yourself if there is something about you and/or the situation that needs to change.

*As a side note… for my coworkers that are reading this and getting worried… that desire to “get out” of classroom teaching was a passing phase, one I don’t see returning anytime soon. 🙂

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One Response to Nothing Stays “Perfect”

  1. Josh says:

    Emmy, I’ve read your blog for a while but have never commented. This was a good post, thought provoking and succinct. Well done.

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