You won’t be perfect this year

Jenn Pamela Chowdhury
4 min readJan 3, 2018

Thank you for your email! I appreciate your attempt to connect with me today, but I am no longer with (company). I’ve moved on to a new stage in life, which involves exploring/traveling/being curious/storytelling.

Warmly, Jenn

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” — Jack Kerouac

I left a stable job at a nonprofit startup towards the end of 2016 with no concrete plans about my future. I had my newfound freedom, my health, my family and friends, my romantic relationship, my dogs, my physical home and New York. Those things were certain.

My savings account? Uncertain. My career goals? Somewhat certain, but not really. My 5/10/15 year plan? Nope, next question.

But, I was hopeful. After I resigned, I launched a Tumblr platform to document my journey. My first entry was titled “The Sweetness of Doing Nothing.” I wrote about societal expectations of people in their thirties, especially women in their thirties. I wrote about how none of that appealed to me and how I’d spend my time off to explore who I was.

What I didn’t mention, or at least I didn’t realize at the moment, was how uncomfortable it made me feel that I didn’t settle for the safe choices. There is safety in financial stability, in having a routine. But I was willing to let that go to dig deep, to find the answers to life’s biggest questions.

You see, I had this beautiful vision of what my sabbatical would look like (full disclaimer: I’m a Sagittarian, the eternal optimist). I would explore my creative side, figure out how to get paid for it, travel and things would work out. I trusted that feeling.

I did not anticipate the depression that would follow. How having a routine kept me in check and now that I had no one to hold me accountable but myself, I slept in and did as I pleased, leaving no room for discipline. I felt lonely, not realizing how having daily social interactions with my colleagues, or with anyone at all, was important to me. Then there was the fear of not having a steady income. I am a first generation immigrant so I was always taught to believe that being financially stable was a means of survival and safety. I built a small savings account, enough to cover a couple months of rent. I was very proud of that accomplishment. But the idea was to add to the account, not deplete it.

And there was the expectation that I would find my calling, my true purpose. I convinced myself that 2017 was going to be the year I would discover what I was meant to do. It was going to be perfect, I just knew it.

As I look back on those goals and expectations I set for myself a year ago, I’m reminded of this powerful quote by Anaïs Nin:

“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.”

I was not prepared for the months of crippling anxiety connected to the loss of close relationships, deep insecurities and high expectations of myself. The fear of the unknown…was too much to handle. I wasn’t meeting goals, I left projects unfinished. I took on creative projects and freelanced, but compared myself to the successes of others too often. “Imposter syndrome” kept me safe and comfortable. “I’m not good enough” and “I don’t deserve this” kept me safe. I held on tightly to my little failures and allowed them to shape my story. And what a story that was.

Then one day, I let go. When I stood on stage and performed my first monologue last year, I broke down in tears. As an artist, you have to leave yourself open to vulnerability. I allowed that to guide me as I continued to explore the painful journey of being a woman of color who is continually struggling to balance her “good girl” traditional side and her freedom-seeking, creative side. When “what was I meant to do in life?” was replaced by “what does my soul need?”

When I let go of expectations of how I wanted my story to be, and was truly honest with myself, I was able to meet my true self. This messy, imperfect being with an incredible heart and spirit.

As you set goals for yourself for 2018, I hope you allow yourself the chance to go backwards, fall apart and make mistakes. Because you’re going to let your anger overwhelm you. You’re going to want to stay in bed for days. You’ll hurt someone. You’ll disappoint your mom. You won’t be perfect, but this is part of being human. If you simply allow yourself the space to be, as your messy imperfect self, your heart will become softer.

When you let go of perfection, you become more comfortable with the unknown. More forgiving, more compassionate.

I set a few intentions for myself this year, based on my learnings from 2017. One of them is to approach everything I try and do as a fun experiment. I’ve let go of the idea that I have only one purpose in life. Too restrictive. Rather, everything I try is an opportunity to play. Whether it’s a job, or a new relationship, if you stay curious, if you allow yourself to be open to the idea that a choice you made may or may not work out, magic happens.

With gratitude.

  • For my curious readers, I’ll be posting more learnings soon, including an update on my soon-to-be launched newsletter.
Dervishes at “The Poetry of Persia: A Rumi Celebration with Sufi Music & Poetry” (NYC 2017)

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Jenn Pamela Chowdhury

I help BIPOC identify their deepest needs and embody their calling through coaching, storytelling and healing practices https://bit.ly/2VEYfit