I was horrified when I realized what I had done! I glared at the word written in ink hoping, after I closed my eyes and opened them again, it would have changed. But it hadn’t. Deep inside, I knew exactly what I was going to have to do. I had tried so hard to be careful. I was so mad at myself. In my mind, there was simply no way to rectify the problem without starting completely over. “Why had I misspelled that word?” I asked myself.
I can’t tell you how many handwritten school homework assignments I have recopied because it was not neatly or perfectly written. Sometimes our teachers gave us the option to use white-out or, worse yet in my mind, a certain amount of crossouts. You know what I mean. You draw a straight line through the misspelled or wrong word and then rewrite the correct word beside it. To me, that option never existed.
Somewhere deep inside my core, there is a need to please. It always has been there. In fact, when I was younger it was even more important to me. As I have aged, I have tried to chisel away that overwhelming need to make everyone around me happy. To some degree, it is better. But, I think it is a trait I will take with me always.
It wasn’t that my parents or teachers wanted me to be perfect. I was just so scared that in some way I was going to disappoint someone else with my performance. Spank me, correct me in public or place me on restriction, but never say I had disappointed you. To me, that dagger left a wound that was very hard to heal, especially when it came from someone I respected.
I always felt I had to go far beyond the realm of what was really expected of me into a zone created only for those who force themselves to give more. Once you put yourself into that category, then more is expected.
I carried this need to not disappoint into my art training, college education and every job I have had. “What would someone think if I didn’t do what they knew I could?” I asked myself over the years without fail.
I was taught this by my parents who permanently instilled this way of thinking in both my sister and me. The rules are simple: Set goals, do your best work, offer no excuses and, when you fail or become overwhelmed, ask for help. These rules are so ingrained in me that I will never forget them.
As a result, I passed them onto my children. I tried to encourage them to always do their best, but not at the cost of missing out on the fun of their childhoods. “It’s OK if everything isn’t perfect all of the time,” I would say to them over the years. But, they also knew I was very aware of their capabilities and expected them to perform at that level. There is a very fine line between striving for excellence and becoming obsessive about it.
I try to use the rules my parents taught me to live by on a daily basis. Sometimes I am successful; other times not so much. Nobody’s perfect! But, I always at least strive to be the best I can be and hope those closest to me will do the same.
Situations have arisen from time to time over the course of my life that caused me to search deep into my core for answers. When all is said and done, we can only be responsible for our own deeds and actions. But, being only human, other people’s actions can certainly have a profound affect on us. When we are put up against these disappointing situations, we have to face them head-on, put them behind us and then move on. I realize it is very hard to do. I know, because I have been through this recently.
When we become disappointed and hurt by another’s actions, our trust in a particular person and sometimes all of humanity is shaken for a time. But then we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on with a renewed energy for our journey.
It is those who choose not renew their beliefs in themselves and others who will never know if they could have succeeded.
It is amazing how much knowledge we pack up and bring with us from childhood on our trip to becoming mature. The situations we face as adults may be bigger and very different but the way we choose to handle them goes directly back to what has been stored in our value systems. In order to succeed in life, we must learn something from each experience we face and try desperately not to allow ourselves to repeat the same mistakes again. “Bought wisdom is the best wisdom as long as you don’t have to pay too much for it!” my mother used to tell me.
Looking back, I am so glad I felt the need to seek excellence and not disappoint early on because it has helped me so much over the years.
Maybe recopying all those homework assignments gave me the determination to strive to be the best I can be today.
At the end of the day, we should all be proud of the assignments we are given in life when it’s time to turn them in!
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