Imperfections can be lifesavers

Water drop, blue
Water drop, blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While in college, I took an introduction course into nuclear engineering. As part of the class, we visited a small reactor owned and operated by the university. Within the facility stood a deep tank filled with water required for regulating the reaction. The entire tank was illuminated by a series of lights embedded in its walls making the water glow like a sapphire in the sun. In addition to the striking color, I also noticed how very still the water was. Its surface wasn’t marred by a single ripple. I’d never seen anything like it. I thought it was beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture, but the people operating the facility weren’t fans of that idea for some reason.

The professor warned us to stay back. The water was beautiful, but it was dangerous. However it wasn’t radiation that we had to worry about.

In order to maintain a controlled reaction, the water in the tank had to be absolutely clear of all minerals or other imperfections. As my professor explained, if we were to fall into the tank, no amount of kicking or flailing of arms would slow your descent. It didn’t matter if you were born part fish. You weren’t going to be able to swim (or float) back to the surface. To float, you have to be able to displace mass. Your body needs those minerals to push against in order to move through the water.

The water was deadly due to its perfection.

I no longer pursue perfection. I am not saying that I don’t always try my best. I just now better appreciate my limitations. I am learning to recognize that some of my ‘flaws’ might actually be helping to keep my head above water.

There are nooks and crannies where dust bunnies hide on my floors and corners where cobwebs still hang. According to a post I read earlier this week, all this means is that I’ve gotten a jump on my Halloween decorations. There are days in which there is more work to do than hours in the day. On those days, I could burn the midnight oil trying to do everything myself and still fail. Instead I recognize that I have colleagues who are more than capable of sharing the load. In fact, and this one is hard to admit, there are some tasks that others are actually more capable of completing than I am. I don’t have to do it all.

I don’t want to do it all.

By admitting to myself that there are just some things I don’t care about, by admitting there are things others can do better, I’ve found I can focus more on my family and my true priorities. Instead of stressing out about being the best that I could be, I am learning to be content with being the best me, flaws and all.

3 thoughts on “Imperfections can be lifesavers

  1. I liked this post because it told me something I never knew. Anyway – particles or not – I’d still sink to the bottom. But I’m going to work on that soon.


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