The Personal: Celebrating Imperfection through Vintage Collections
“Do you see these nicks?” my friend asked me while holding a mint-green, retro clock to the FaceTime camera. “These would have driven me CRAZY years ago. I would have had to pitch this clock immediately, but now, I see these imperfections as part of the object’s story.” In that moment, I felt such compassion for the minty green clock, relieved he had seen its merits despite its flaws, and then, I had a big aha moment.
For the majority of my life, I have driven myself relentlessly toward the unreachable target of perfection. I have made myself ill, starved my body, sacrificed my wellbeing and stomached true feelings because I needed to be perfect.
There were payoffs to the relentless pursuit. I set myself apart from my class in architecture school because I worked relentlessly. I honed my eye to see details others miss. I developed a commercial food and prop styling career because of that eye for detail. I created a book of which I am immensely proud.
There were also tradeoffs to the relentless pursuit. I sacrificed my wellbeing. Buried in my work, I sacrificed friendship and connection. I sacrificed self-compassion and forgiveness. I suffered cycles of burnout and depletion until enough was enough. I started to break down the narrative of imperfection and see how it was a painful defense mechanism.
In that clock conversation with my friend, my aha moment emerged. For most of my life, I have been drawn to rusty, faded, chipped and tarnished vintage collections. I’ve been drawn to the stories of these imperfect objects, to the lives they have lived. New, uniform objects that roll off assembly lines have always paled in comparison to the character of vintage collections.
Thanks to that clock, I suddenly saw how I had been surrounding myself with imperfection for years while demanding perfection from myself. I failed to see how I, like tarnished metal, could be flawed and worthy of love. My mistakes are merely a hard-earned patina from journeying through life. What a beautiful and freeing realization to discover in a damaged clock.