True Life: i’m a perfectionist working in a deli

True Life: i’m a perfectionist working in a deli

I’ve always had a type A personality. That, and an unhealthy obsession with perfection. In my humble opinion, these two traits are not to be confused. See, I know type A people who believe in this magical and completely alien concept called “good enough”. This is how my brain feels about good enough.


As a perfectionist, I like constant confirmation of how perfectly I have completed tasks, both from others and myself. I’m high maintenance that way.

Which is why working at a deli is hell.

First of all, if nothing else, working in customer service has taught me that no one is happy all the time. Customers have walked away angrily because I had to open a new meat for them (???). It’s insane.

What’s more, though, is that meat is SO UNPREDICTABLE. A 1/2 pound of ham certainly does not look the same as a 1/2 pound of turkey. Day to day interactions with customers send my brain into overload.

Why is the thickness “good” and not “perfect”?? MUST KEEP SLICING AND SHOWING UNTIL IT’S PERFECT! okay wait I can’t do that. crap. 

If I hit .5 perfectly why would you make me do a couple more slices. just why? who sent you to ruin my night? 

What’s good here you ask? I think I’m supposed to say everything but I can’t look like I don’t know specifics/have you disappointed because i didn’t tell you to get what I actually like. 

3 pounds of bologna separated into 1 pound packages? pls don’t tell me they don’t need to be exactly 1 pound each. I am capable. It will happen 



It’s not fun. It’s incredibly silly, even more so when all typed out, but it’s the reality of my life. Striving for something as unattainable as perfection is not healthy. It’s not something that can live and die in an unpredictable deli with customers who are sometimes in moods that have nothing to do with me. For a lot of us, the strive for perfection bleeds into all parts of life.

It’s not just about when I get it “wrong” by my own standards. It’s also about all the times I get it right. Once, a customer told me that I had the perfect personality for working in customer service and before I could even appreciate the compliment I was analyzing every moment of our interaction to replicate for each and every customer who came to the counter.

The truth is, though,  I can’t make it perfect, and I don’t need to. Sometimes, .26 is going to have to be close enough to a quarter. And as uncomfortable as that is, it’s also okay.

It is okay to make mistakes. It is okay to get a B+. It is okay to no longer care about what other people expect of you, and to be 5 minutes late, and refuse interview and speaking requests, and to walk out of the house with one eyebrow looking a tad bit better than the other, and to live good enough. Perfectionism is self abuse of the highest order. It is okay to say enough.

A supervisor at one of my on campus jobs shares a story of the beauty of -ish by Peter H Reynold at the beginning of each semester. I (unsuccessfully) try to carry that story with me always, but I think after half a summer working a job where I was forced to accept -ish, I’ll appreciate it a bit more.

I hope that living good enough is good enough. I pray that this Fall, we all find the comfort in -ish; academically, socially, physically, and otherwise. This is certainly not a call to end the strive for excellence in our lives, but it can be a lot easier to climb the ladder without the burden of your own expectations dragging you down.

Until then….