I Believe in Wearing Mismatched Socks

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I believe in wearing mismatched socks. But it took me a while to get to this belief. When I was in 3rd grade, I had a nagging need to be perfect. It began with my grades, but as I got older I started getting desperate to have a perfect life as well. Needless to say, my socks had to match. By high school my need to be perfect became even more intense.

“Alright pull out a piece of paper and make a T-chart,” said Ms. Clouthier, my honors English teacher.

I grabbed a sheet of paper and pulled out my loud, metal ruler.

“Mr. Martino, what do you think you are doing?” asked Ms. Clouthier.
“Using a straight edge,” I replied.
“Just free hand it please,” she retorted.
“I can’t. My line won’t be straight,” I said.
“You need to seriously calml down and evaluate yourself,” she said.

Despite the embarrassment, I kept my ruler out. Every English class my ruler sparked similar banter. By the end of sophomore year I no longer needed it. This was a start, I suppose. As a perfectionist in high school where the workload was manageable, I didn’t need to change much.

But, my freshman year of college challenged me more than high school ever had. I found engineering pushed my perfectionism to the limit. The benchmark GPA for an engineer is a 3.0, far less than my 4.33 in high school. A 3.0 was unacceptable, as far as I was concerned. But the workload felt so insurmountable that it got to the point where I wouldn’t even try. I couldn’t persuade myself to even touch my homework. I would log onto Facebook instead of studying.

Eventually I reached my breaking point. I received a poor exam grade and considered dropping out of Penn State. I managed to make my way through freshman year just above the 3.0 line. When I went home that summer, I enrolled in therapy.

I learned from my therapist that a lot of perfectionists who were successful in high school go to college and become seemingly lazy and unmotivated. She explained the lack of effort resulted from a fear of failure. I’d fallen into that trap.

After a few weeks of therapy, the start of my sophomore year was near. I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back. My therapist suggested I find something to remind me it was okay not to be perfect. So I did something very uncharacteristic: I unrolled all my socks and paired them haphazardly.

I’m only a few months into the experiment, but my trick of wearing mismatched socks seems to be working. I find myself spending far less time distracted by Facebook, and more time present in my life. I am glad I stuck it out through freshman year. I came through more aware of myself. Now, whenever I unhealthily seek perfection, all I do is roll up my pant legs and look down at my mismatched socks.

I believe in wearing mismatched socks.

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