It all started my sophomore year of college. I was in a class on space and environment for the early childhood classroom and had to design an ideal pre-school teaching class. There was a girl in the class I knew from my freshmen year flirtation with the Baptist Student Union (I joined The Navigators, attended the BSU, and crashed Campus Crusade more often than not that year). The girl (whose name I fortunately can’t even remember now) was in several of my classes, and we got along well enough to partner up for the occasional group project.
Ahhh, the dreaded group project. I’m not sure whose brainchild the group project was, but it was obviously somebody who never actually cared enough about an end product to worry much about it. Group projects are the bane of every perfectionist’s existence, or at least of this one’s.
Anyway, we were told to collaborate with someone on our project for class – not to do it together, just to get together and discuss doing it. The expectation was that we would all draw out our own classroom and write a paper to go with it.
Way before paper crafts were cool, I had a love affair with construction paper. I never was that skilled with a pencil (though I can copy fairly well), but I was halfway decent with a pair of scissors and some glue. I made a killer preschool classroom out of construction paper and was super-proud of it
Until this girl came over to my dorm to “collaborate”. Apparently she thought my project was killer, too, so much so that she duplicated it. The only real difference between ours was that she used different colors and had the audacity to have hers laminated. Lamination covers a multitude of paper sins (it highlights a multitude of them too, but it that’s for another post).
Anyway, she didn’t bother to show me her project ahead of time, so I saw it the day we all handed them in. She gave me a casual glance out of the corner of her eye as she placed hers on top of the pile circulating the classroom. I turned 5,000 shades of red. I was *that* angry.
I saw it again when they were handed back. She got a higher grade on hers than I did. I’m still convinced to this day it was the lamination.
That following summer, Craig asked me to come to camp a week early to help make some of the camp decs that year. He didn’t know me well enough then to know that 1) I work best alone, 2) I usually know what I’m doing when given a specific assignment, and 3) I work best alone. He assigned me to a team.
I’ll make that long story short by saying that was a super-stressful week for me. And for Craig. And by the end of that week, let’s just say the team he had assembled had been reassigned to other projects while I was left in the corner of the dining hall with piles of poster board, construction paper, scissors, and glue.
It’s just part of my personality: I don’t play well in groups. I, like Mr. Incredible, work alone.
It’s hard to be part of a community when you have this mentality. How do you nurture and include all the various parts of the body when someone wants to be the whole dang body?
It’s a struggle for me. Recently I’ve started helping with a sewing project. All anyone in the group knew about me was that I could sew. We assembled but I deferred; I really didn’t want to make the project all about ME. Could I do it really fast by myself? Yes! Would it, for all intents and purposes, be what was expected? Yes! Would I have to waste time undoing what others mistakenly did? No!
But I deferred. And I’ve since had to re-cut a few of the pieces that had been improperly cut, as well as rip out a pretty large mistake and do it over. One part of me was all, “Why can’t I just do this alone?” Another part of me was all, “I’d have never known these three people at all if we hadn’t just spent these 4 hours together working on this project.” It’s a trade-off, one that is hard for a perfectionist to make. Craig deals with the same thing, and it’s only by God’s grace we ever got married (and still are).
Three weeks since starting this project, I’m reminded that getting people to commit loads of time is also a tricky part of community; in short, you just can’t really talk a handful of ladies into giving up several Saturdays to gather for much. Enter the “I work best alone” perfectionist, who happily offered to bring all the supplies home and work on them in my “spare time” (which I’m now doing).
My guilt is assuaged enough to know I at least tried to play well with others, and my inner-perfectionist is relaxed because I’m able to do this the way I really want to. This all feels great.
The only problem is I know functioning in my “communi-me” shouldn’t feel this good. Still, if independence is a drug, call me an addict. I’m sure God has my intervention planned even now…darn it.