Picture Perfect

 

By Jamari Jordan

There is no such thing as a perfect picture. It does not exist. Even the clearest picture of Beyonce throwing it back in the middle of a Crazy In Love routine or Rihanna in mid-dutty wine during Work has flaws (maybe, don’t quote me).

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On my off-days, I venture out and take photos around Charlotte. I stop by different locations like South End, Bank of America Stadium, Spectrum Center, etc. I use photography as a method to get to know the city I’m living in. Every snapshot acts as a piece of the Charlotte culture I didn’t know before.

I have grown to feel a little piece of home in Charlotte. Don’t get me wrong, being a native of Atlanta, I grew up on Waffle House, American Deli, and being stuck in traffic on 285. Charlotte gives me just enough of the ATL feel, just without feeling like a sardine stuck in traffic for hours. I feel like I’m just getting my feet under me, even if it has been a year since I moved here.

My ridiculous obsession with perfection disappears, even for those few fleeting moments. 

 

Two things can calm me: a camera and pen/paper. My first love will always be writing. She has been the ultimate ride or die. She is my Michelle, Gina, and Jada. I’ve been faithful since I was a two-year old with a red crayon in my hand dribbling on any and everything.

As of late, there is just a new-found peace when I’m holding my Canon. The world around me slows down with every click. My heart rate steadies every time I rack focus. My ridiculous obsession with perfection disappears, even for those few fleeting moments.


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The third grade spelling bee in my class was everything to me. It was the Catalina Wine Mixer of events. The night before, I faked as if I was sick, so I could study my flashcards in the bathroom. In between my fake hurls and toilet flushes, I was quizzing myself on words that I had never heard before.

The next morning, I was ready. I threw on my crispest yellow polo, khakis, and my nicest school shoes. I walked into class like Ray Lewis on gameday, just without the dance (I did that in the mirror that morning).

I needed that validation. I starved for it, no matter how it might’ve isolated me from my peers.

 

And, I won. Onomatopoeia, the winning word. My teacher and classmates congratulated me, and I felt nothing. I wasn’t proud. I just moved on to the next test, quiz, or assignment in which I could prove myself.

I wish I could travel back in time and smack fire into my past self. Not just any slap, but Bernie Mac coming off the train in Head of State type of slap. Old Jamari needed that so bad. Sadly, I continued that mindset throughout middle and high school.

I had to be the smartest in the room. I had to raise my hand first and answer the question. I had to get the highest score on the test. I needed that validation. I starved for it, no matter how it might’ve isolated me from my peers.

I was so focused on being perfect that at times I missed out on genuine connections and memories. My only tangible memories of high school all involved studying for a test or up late trying to finish a presentation.

As much as I like to think that stopped in college, I know it did not. The pursuit of perfection only changed into a pursuit of being the most accomplished. I wanted to be in every organization, every community service project. I wanted everyone to see that my resume was the best.

At this point, I needed something much stronger than a Bernie Mac series of slaps. I needed a Charlie Murphy: True Hollywood Story ass-whooping.


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There is no curve as vicious as “We regret to inform you…”

 

My junior year of college was quickly coming to an end. I applied to every internship imaginable. I didn’t hear a single response. Actually, I heard one universal response. “We regret to inform you…” response. You don’t even need to open the email because there was no point.

There is no curve as vicious as “We regret to inform you…”

The television was just background noise to my regret and doubt that filled my living room. This ridiculous obsession I had since I was a toddler was all for naught. Why did I work this hard in the end to not be validated? I remember sitting on that brown leather couch for hours that night tracing back all my wrong steps.

The next day, I walked into the student center and sat at the table before my next class started. I didn’t talk to anybody that day. I kept my earphones in, no music playing still sulking. My phone buzzed in my pocket. As I reach to pull it out, it dropped on the marble floor.

The last thing I needed was a broken screen on top of everything else. I turned the phone over, no scratches. At least one positive would come out of today. Then, I looked down at the notification: From: NFL Films Subject: Congratulations.

I hated the first few weeks of that internship. I told anyone who texted me that summer that same thing. I wanted to come home, tail tucked between my legs, licking my wounds. I felt lost. I was in the middle of a small town of Mount Laurel, NJ. Hundreds of miles away from home for the first time. I wasn’t the smartest or the most accomplished in the room, nowhere near close.

That was the hardest few months of my life. I had to learn to get out of my own way. I had to stop the pursuit of perfection and learn how to pursue something more tangible, my passion. I wanted to write, to produce, to create content that could help the next little perfectionist express themselves. Mount Laurel was the first time I got to know who Jamari actually was.

The greatest part of a paid-internship is well, the pay. After that summer, I had enough money saved to buy myself something nice going into senior year. After refusing the temptations of shoes and clothes I didn’t need, I chose something I always wanted: a camera.


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Finally at 22, I’m not chasing perfection anymore.

 

I’ve been in Charlotte for a year now and it has had a similar effect on me as Mount Laurel did. I don’t know if it was the air in Georgia, but I needed to leave to breathe. For some reason, I felt like I couldn’t grow anymore there. I needed a new zip code to continue my journey of self-discovery. In the past year, I’ve gotten to know myself. I realized what I liked, but more importantly, what I didn’t like and want for myself.

Currently, my struggle is work-life balance. I need to learn to have something or someone else separate outside of the office. I’ve always thrown myself into work, but now I need to find something greater than perfection or validation: fulfillment. To be honest, it’s unrealistic to put all the pressure on my career to bring joy in my life. There are other avenues for that.

There are no more spelling bees. There are no exams to ace. The only time I sit on my couch stressed is on Thursdays when Shonda Rhimes victimizes me during Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. 

Finally at 22, I’m not chasing perfection anymore. When that feeling does occasionally arise, a few written lines on paper and a couple of clicks of my camera squashes it.

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