Like it or not, we are all compared to someone else and often found wanting. The person you replace at work suddenly becomes a wonderful and enduring employee. (Then why was she fired?!) The previous teacher who gave a student a “C” is now promoted to a “great teacher,” when the day you arrive. You replace a priest who puts Bing Crosby to shame and you’re asked to be better than him. (It’s not easy playing basketball in the morning with the youth and visiting the nursing homes in the afternoon without something smelling.)
For us kids it was “The Schroeders,” our four cousins who lived 45 minutes away which in the 50’s was a trip to be carefully planned for. We barely saw them which made them, well, perfect children compared to the five of us local kids. “Why aren’t you like the Schroeders?” my grandmother would often announce as though she knew them better than we did. We didn’t know how to be like them since we rarely saw them which makes for a perfect expectation of a never reaching perfection. Our mother would even mimic her mother’s words but we were too young to know that our mother saw our cousins the same way her mother did.
During our seldom visits to their 45-minute-away home, it never struck us to examine their behavior to duplicate or to search their closets for clues of perfection. We just had fun with them and then returned to our imperfect home.
Measuring up to anyone’s expectations is a feat in itself. I don’t envy anyone who assumes that task since I’ve tried in earlier years and soon abandoned those unreal expectations. If your perfection-goal was a sibling then you’re really out of luck. Now you not only cannot achieve his/her perfection but you have to live with it. There have been songs of defiance that I’ve enjoyed, “My Way,” “I’ve Got to Be Me” and “I Am What I Am” but there is nothing defiant in discovering and embracing your own self, as imperfect as it may be (or compared to others).
Unseen and imagined, everything is perfect. What is lived and muddled through is what provides and ensures peace of mind. I’ve always like “The Schroeders,” but I never wanted to be like them.