“I sometimes think we’re sorted too soon,” – A.P.W.B.D
A Harry Potter fan would understand the context of this statement and who said it, and perhaps only a Harry Potter fan will understand what I write today. At eleven, do we really know who we truly are? Can we even be defined by our youthful thoughts, fears, and beliefs? Even at twenty-one – when I was sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore – it feels too young. Being sorted into the ‘bad’ house was extremely devastating for my self-image: I actually believed myself (for many subsequent years) to be cruel and more manipulative than I actually was.
There is evidence suggesting that our brains don’t fully develop until we’re in our mid-twenties. Retaking the test now (multiple times), I can assure you that I am a true creative, curious and communicative Ravenclaw (and I would call an emotionally-courageous Gryffindor secondly). To back this up, Time Magazine’s sorting (with evidence gathered by specialist scientists) thought I was most strongly a Ravenclaw (at 37%), and only 2% Slytherin!
As one of the first 10,000 in the world to access Pottermore on the historic first day of it’s opening, I stubbornly refuse to delete my original account, of which is brazenly painted in colours of green and silver, a forceful reminder of who I was, and who I’ve been trying to get away from. My life has been a series of changes to improve particular aspects of myself I don’t like. Even if I was a Slytherin at aged twenty-one, I’m definitely not anymore.
Which leads me to a slightly different topic of discussion: The pursuit of Perfection.
Humans are constantly seeking perfection. Not necessarily the perfectionism of beauty and lifestyle as hammered by the media, but from a fear of failure. As a result, we are continuously changing and evolving (or even going backwards) to find it. What does perfection look like? How is it determined, and is it even attainable? If perfection is attained, wouldn’t we simply stagnate and effectively become imperfect again?
Growing up, I was repetitively criticized by my parents for my mistakes and not praised or shown enough love for what I did well. Their human failures as parents resulted in me constantly comparing myself to my brothers, to my peers, to those more talented, pretty or accomplished. I’ve had a lifetime of self-deprecation and agonizing over the smallest of criticisms or mistakes because I failed (in my mind) to be perfect. In many ways, this explains why I was a Slytherin – I was always desperately seeking to be the best; however, I think I have learned to deal with my faults and failures much better since then. Every now and then I do find myself sensitive to criticism, but I’ve come to understand that perfection is by all intents and purposes, difficult to interpret. Although it hasn’t stopped me finding ways in which to improve.
I know we’d all be a lot happier if we had gratitude for what we have, instead of looking at others who are better off than ourselves. There is always someone more intelligent, more beautiful, more wealthy, more kind, or more accomplished than us. Like comparing our lives to a social feed, we’d never be happy. But happiness is the process of life. And so I spend my life in search of better things. Along the way, I discover experiences, connections, laughs, self-expression, understanding and knowledge, all as a way of attempting to live life to the fullest, and as a way of defining and refining my character. This is what drives me. The risk is that I have to struggle with failure and stagnation sometimes.
In any case, while reflecting on perfection, and whether it truly is attainable, I stumbled across this video by the School of Life about Emma Watson (who – let’s all admit – is a Ravenclaw). While I fully support the views of the video, which praises Emma for the way she holds herself up in the public eye, I can’t help but compare myself to her and think – how can I be like her? How can I follow in her example?
I struggle to hold myself up with the same dignity. Being able to relate to others and have a sense of humour without being crass; not being outspoken, but still having a firm opinion; using my power for forces of good; not caring about how others perceive me, but still presenting oneself respectably. If life were a lottery, Emma would have won the jackpots. She, to me, is one of those rare examples of someone who is perfect.
I don’t suggest that this as a bad thing – on the contrary, I admire her for it. She’s presented herself as a role model by behaving exemplary, not looking exemplary. Her looks and fortune are simply luck, and she’s accomplished because of hard work and using her position wisely. Perhaps calling her perfect can be construed negatively. It suggests that she didn’t need to work to get to where she is. It’s like calling someone ‘naturally talented’. It doesn’t take into account the hours of practice, improvement and reflection that goes into being the best, or at least better. I think there’s a lot to Emma we simply don’t see.
In many ways, Emma is seen as Too Perfect. Perhaps rather, being private about her flaws has made her imperfect. Take as a contrast, Lorde (another Ravenclaw if I ever saw one!). In her new album Melodrama, Lorde pours her soul, quite candidly. Her fears, anxieties and troubles with love. Her embracing of her quirks and flaws has made her successful, likable and popular in her own right. People are less intimidated by those who make mistakes and own up to them. It’s part of being human, being real.
Never the less, Emma Watson may be one ideal I strive to measure up to, but it’s important to understand perfection before we beat ourselves over it.
Perhaps a Slytherin would be intent on seeking perfectionism by all means possible.
Perhaps a Gryffindor would see it as a challenge.
Maybe a Hufflepuff would not care about it at all.
But a Ravenclaw? I believe a Ravenclaw would have the understanding to know when to seek perfection, when to accept imperfection, and the wisdom to know the difference.