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.
7 thoughts on “Communi-me”
Megan, I completely identify with this. The most stressful experience of my college years involved a class where the professor loved to put us in work groups for projects. (!!!) I don’t know what else to say except that it’s nice to hear someone articulate why this a struggle worth having, to balance between a naturally independent nature and the call to be in community. Good luck to you, my fellow does-not-work-well-with-others. 🙂
Do professors do this to make THEIR workload lighter?
It’s easier to grade 6 group projects than 24 individual projects.
I’m a lone wolf sort, too.
I’d say let’s get together to discuss this, but that might be construed as a group project. We can just figure it out on our own.
Great post! Thanks for the honesty. I’m working with a couple of other gals on a women’s retreat where we’ve been asked to speak on…Community! Especially between women. I think I’ll have to use your post in some way…it’s an aspect I hadn’t thought of before, but that I can totally identify with… Just let me DO IT!! I’ll give due credit, of course!:-) Blessings, B.
So, the end product is more important to us than the process – the messy necessity of taking time to learn what the other person’s skills are, what they like/can contribute, how they communicate, etc. I’m not accusing, I’m in this boat too. It’s probably not the time to start trying to develop community when there is a deadline, etc. But – a good time to develop community around a project might be something more like a quilting club, or crafting bee, where you can work alongside each other creating things to give away and get to know each other. That way the purpose is communicated clearly as being two fold – end result required, yes, but intimacy and interest in one another required too. Taking it slow, being intentional, being patient, enjoying the process… These are values we are losing in our society at large. I think they are worth fighting for in our small spheres of influence. They will set an example to our children too, that working with people is valuable, everyone can contribute in unique ways, community is worth investing in, time is not wasted just because seams and fabric were. 🙂 Just thinking…
the weird thing for me is that i am an extrovert. so i LOVE working in a team. i also have a strong perfectionist gene… conflict, much?
Ummm, are you sure you didn’t steal this blog post out of my brain (and laminate it)? haha. Perfectionist … Yes! Prefer to work alone (cannot focus on a project unless I am alone!) … Absolutely! Don’t like messy (relationships, projects, etc) … YES!
I’m in the same boat and have been wondering whether God wired me this way for a reason or whether I am being childish? I think there must be a balance to be reached.
Kinda glad to know I’m not the only out there. 🙂