Gum would be perfection.

Mad respect from this blogger if you know the pop culture reference of my blog post title.

Today, I broke academic advising law. I misadvised a student. Well, technically I broke the law back in April but I found out today. I have been advising students since 2004, FIFTEEN YEARS, and I think I have misadvised a student twice.

Perfectionism lends itself to academic advising. There are a million details of university policy, curriculum, and bureaucratic insanity to remember and apply to each individual student correctly. There are usually somewhat high stakes if you screw up, like the student has to take an extra class or stay a semester longer to graduate.

Misadvising is my #1 professional fear. Obviously, there’s the part where I screwed someone else by my mistake, but also just the sheer fact of doing something wrong pains me beyond reason.

As I talked to this student today, I realized that back in April, I had included a typo in my documentation to him that basically told him to take the wrong class. A class he is now enrolled in. That will literally just be an extra class. Oh, and it’s Applied Aerodynamics, people, not basket-weaving.

Fortunately for me, he somehow didn’t realize my error. Now, there’s taking responsibility for your mistakes and there’s being smart. I chose to be smart to the student, using my fifteen year old fluency in Advising-ese to talk him right around the error in a way he didn’t notice. I did, however, go to my boss with my tail between my legs and confess my error. Thank goodness, I have the best boss ever and she helped me figure out a solution. The student was none the wiser.

So, the situation is resolved. But I’m bugged. I can’t stop thinking about how I made a mistake and I’m a terrible advisor and no one should ever let me talk to college students and even though my boss is perfect she must be a complete idiot to have hired me and I am going to call in sick for the rest of the week.

I hadn’t really thought of myself as a perfectionist until the last two years when anorexia took hold of my life.

Ana made this pretty easy, overall. She had black and white rules. She had structure. X number of calories allowed per day. X foods are on the okay list and Y foods are on the not okay list. All I had to do was follow. On the days I followed the rules, I felt good about myself. Or, as good as anyone with severe anorexia can feel about themselves. On the days when I messed up (you know, by eating a french fry from JJ’s plate), I was an undisciplined person who needed to make up for my mistake by running for an hour.

And I realized, crap – I need to be perfect. The level of perfection Ana drove me to nearly killed me, as the requirements to meet her approval became more and more rigid.

A big part of recovery is letting go of perfection. Letting go of following rules, and in many cases, letting go of rules altogether.

I’m going to get some gum now. Not because it would be perfection, but because it sounds good to me.

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