WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
Perfection is a kind of death.
Everything is imperfect and perfection is a kind of death. I know this much and still find myself craving smooth sailing and seamless days. The want arises without warning. Sometimes I'm in the grocery store and I'll suddenly turn toward my cart, cluttered with scratched glass jars and cloth bags, and think can I be buying better? Sometimes I'm working on Loam, feeling alive and energized, when I'm beset by the fear that I'll never have the time or money or discipline to make this passion project everything that it can be.
I have so many dreams for Loam and my life and this world bubbling in my belly. And hard as I try, some days it's a real struggle to do what I need to do to make these dreams real. I waste time scouring for vintage evil eye rings on Etsy. I come home from a long day careening between part-time jobs and eat popcorn in bed because I'm too tired to cook myself a nourishing meal. More often than not, I fall short of my vision for "perfection."
For me, activism is interwoven into my everyday. It's a framework that fuels my daily decisions and drives the kind of work that I do and pursue. So when I feel that I've failed at being a "perfect" person, I feel that I've failed at fully realizing my life's work (eek!) Without meaning to, I confuse being a good advocate for this earth as being a "perfect" environmental activist.
As many of Loam's readers have shared, this hunger for perfection is an issue that a lot of us struggle with. In our pursuit of personal growth as stewards of the earth, we're likely to sketch out a limiting definition of "perfection" that will always leave us in the lurch. "Perfection" might look like a vegan diet and daily calls to Congress. Or it might look like showing up for every climate strategizing session and forging a fruitful career at an environmental nonprofit. None of these goals are "bad" by any stretch. I'm only sharing these hypotheticals to suggest that whatever our "perfect" life looks like, it will never be exactly like that. We'll miss the protest. We'll make do with a day job that pays our rent even though it doesn't feed our soul. We'll sometimes buy stuff packaged in plastic and travel on carbon-intensive airplanes. We'll be imperfect, because it's wired in our blood, and we can either learn to celebrate our imperfections as a catalyst for change or perceive them as a roadblock to realizing our dreams.
Sometimes, I fear that if I celebrate my imperfections—all the little ways that I'm learning and loving and messing up and making anew—I'll stay stagnant. Experience has taught me otherwise; when I'm at peace with my imperfections, I'm free. And when I'm free, I'm full of hope. And when I'm hopeful, I'm able to do what the world needs of me. I find delicious joy in my morning walk. I give my energy and time to the zero waste nonprofit that I volunteer with. I work on features for Loam in collaboration with the kind of kickass movers and makers who remind me this world is wild in wonder. In spite of (or maybe because of) my manifold imperfections, I do and dream and heal.
So what can we do to feel free and full of hope? How can we see our imperfections as a vital energy source for our environmental activism?
We can first (re) envision our imperfections. This opportunity came up for me just the other day when I was scrolling through Loam and found myself frustrated by how few features really met my vision. Archived online is every badly recorded podcast I'd produced and not-so-high quality photo I'd taken. There were interviews I wish I'd done a better job with and personal essays that felt unfinished. It took talking to a friend of mine to realize that for all its imperfections, Loam is full of heart and hope. It's reflective of my deep desire to do even when I don't have the resources for a "perfect" photoessay or podcast or feature. Loam is my passion project, and it's growing with me. When I returned to Loam with that in mind, I started to resee every imperfection as an invitation to do more and dream deeper. I felt so much more at peace with my work, so much more full of possibility, and it's my hope you'll feel the same when you bring this fresh frame of mind to your own work.
It's in that spirit that (re) envisioning our imperfections helps us to renew our commitment to environmental activism. Making peace with our perceived shortcomings gives us the space to do some good in this world. We can waste precious time mourning our imperfections or we can buck up and try and love and grow and dream our hardest anyway. In my own life, whenever I'm wrestling with cognitive dissonance, strained by slippages between my values and my actions, I ground myself in the kind of rituals that affirm for me why I do the work that I do. I recognize those "imperfect" actions that didn't make me feel so good and strive to cultivate new practices that feel nourishing.
Because at the end of the day, we all have the power to live with, learn from, and to love our imperfections—providing that we trust that those imperfections truly are a power.