A Poem About Perfectionism

Close-up photo of a spiky green plant with light pink flowers shot from the side with a field and cloudy blue sky visible behind it.

I don’t remember perfectionism as a child.
I think it began around twelve or thirteen.
I remember making lists. That got me young.
I remember trying to read every book in the YA section.
I was homeschooled, and I think I had something to prove.

I tried to grasp for control wherever I could.
It was with me before school, which became just another mechanism
For my perfectionism to latch onto.

I remember wanting to avoid their anger.
I remember her commenting on the trauma of perfect
As I swept a floor that would never get clean.

I remember being locked in a room until I finished every equation,
But did he actually lock the door? I can’t remember.
If I made a mistake, I would be told: You know this.
You can do better. You can always do more.

They had high expectations. They pushed me toward my potential.
I internalized those expectations, which turned into perfectionism.
I needed to people please, to be the person they saw.
Mistakes were allowed so long as I was giving it my all.

Today, I am often left with a lingering sense of,
I could have done more.

How to Keep Making Art: A Zine for Writers and Other Creative Types

I have just released a new zine! Details are below.

Photo of a cargo train on a set of tracks going off into the distance. There are trees with green and yellow leaves on either side, and a cloudy sky above. White text in the centre of the image reads: "HOW TO KEEP MAKING ART / A Zine for Writers and Other Creative Types."

How to Keep Making Art is a zine for writers and other creative types with advice and musings on the creative process, artistic identities, and the struggles of being a writer. This zine tackles questions many creatives have, like, “How do we keep making art in a world that doesn’t see art as valuable? How do we stay connected to ourselves and our work? How do we create even when we don’t want to create?” How to Keep Making Art is a collection of advice, ponderings, and reassurances I initially wrote for myself and thought others might find helpful as well.

I’m very excited to finally release this zine!! It’s been a long time in the making. For now, I am just selling digital, PDF copies because I will be travelling for a few weeks and unable to fulfill print orders. I’ll make another announcement when hard copies are available. For now, you can check out this 40-page e-zine here: https://sagepantony.gumroad.com/l/hbjnj. Enjoy! And keep making art, friends.

I Come Back Again

Photo of a coffee cup sitting on a counter, shot from above, with latte art of a smiling cat's face on it. White text in the centre of the image reads: "I leave the city in summer, and I come back again." Handle @sage_pantony in smaller transparent text under white text.

I leave the city in summer and return to winter (but do not fear, I was not gone for more than 21 consecutive days).

The snow is here, the leaves are gone, and the moisture has been pulled from the air–frozen.

I buy a great big bag of salt while out with a friend and carry it on my shoulder for the long walk home. She offers to help, but I did this to myself.

I bid on a painting at a Denny’s as a joke, and of course, I win. A Selection of Seagulls will hang above my couch in 10-14 business days.

I start writing again, just to help and without expectation. I realize not writing had also been hurting.

The anxiety eases. The pain lessens. I’m sleeping again. My heart, which had been breaking, begins to mend.

I leave the city in summer, and I come back again.

Moving My Body

Four pieces of rusty pipe in a pile against a dark wall and on concrete, which is covered in a smattering of broken glass.

I am called back to this place with pipes and broken glass like I am called back to you.

Differing reasons, similar feelings.

Being with you makes me want to go outside.
I look for any reason to head out the door now–

Whatever excuse I can find to move my body,
To keep moving my body,
To keep moving my body.

I move close to you.
I move under you.
I move with you.

Pipes and broken glass in alleys. Warmth and running out of the house at night–
All of these reminders that I am alive.

When You Discover You’re Free

Photo of a road, sets of train tracks behind a fence, and some low-rise buildings with a clouding blue sky above containing a late afternoon sun. The streetlights cast long shadows and the image has a yellow hue from the light. There are many green, yellow, and orange trees and bushes beside the road and train tracks.

You discover you’re free spontaneously after driving down a country road on your way home and pulling over for gas. You fill up your tank and are about to leave but choose to go inside the general store instead.

In that country general store, you find rows upon rows of things, going farther back, back, back. It’s bigger than you imagined. You wander through the aisles and mistake it for a hardware store. You pass by shelves full of boots.

You can buy boots here, you think. You can buy everything here.

Then you see the shirts.

They’re hunting shirts covered in nature patterns. You touch one with long sleeves and see it’s in your size.

What if I bought a hunting shirt? You let out a laugh at the back of the general store. You check the price, thinking it’ll be expensive and you’ll have to find your whimsy elsewhere. The tag, scrawled with sharpie ink, reads $7.99.

You have to get it.

It was meant to be.

You carry the shirt through the many misaligned aisles of the store with a small smile on your face. You don’t look like someone who hunts. You look like a queer who isn’t from around here. The tools, nuts, and bolts look back at you on your way to the cash. You greet the cashier, who folds your purchase without giving you a second glance. They must get all kinds off the highway. Your shirt comes to just over $9 with tax.

You hold it to your chest and walk excitedly back to your car. Your small smile breaks large, and you begin to laugh. You place the folded shirt neatly on the back seat, get behind the wheel, and pull back onto the October road, leaves all a-colour around you.

I just bought a hunting shirt. You don’t hunt. You’re a vegetarian.

You end up joining a line of cars following a great old truck when you discover you’re free.

You’ve been chasing this feeling for your entire life, but it’s not one you can arrange or orchestrate. It comes upon you unexpectedly and stays for a few fleeting moments.

You’re on the highway, in a line of cars led by a big old truck. The trees are orange, yellow, green, and red. Everywhere that isn’t road is trees. Your new shirt sits folded on the back seat.

The radio plays hits from another decade.

Your mouth plays laughter.

Your eyes play across the dashboard, the cars, the trees.

You’re headed home, but you could go anywhere.

It is October, and you are free.

You are free.