To the End of the Jetty: Letting Go of Perfectionism

by Sally Jamrog


March 29, 2021

On a day in late August several years ago, my family and I decided to take a walk on the Hampton Beach jetty, a thin strip of rocks jutting out into the ocean to protect the peopled shoreline from rough waves. The sun beat down on my shoulders, threatening to burn despite the layers of sunscreen forming a second skin over my body. Large rocks warmed the soles of my feet as we walked farther from the shore, their surfaces out in the summer sun no longer slick with the sea. As the terrain grew rougher, we maneuvered more carefully among the crags on all fours, reverting to our primal instincts. The rocks were more crowded than they had been that morning when my mother and I had made the journey together, just the two of us. Then, it had seemed the jetty belonged to only ourselves and the various ships that swerved around it with each journey past the beach. 

Now, I was climbing quickly, enjoying the thrill of the trail, unconsciously leaving the figures of my mother and younger brother far behind me as I twisted and turned among the rocks. I had been taking rock-climbing lessons at the time, and my little ten-year-old fingers itched to try themselves on real rock, different and more enticing than the plastic holds at the rock-climbing center. Pretending to be a master climber, I whirled and bounded over boulders with ease. 

I reached the end of the jetty, where the stone tapered out in a steady slope to the choppy seas below. Though the tides were out, the surrounding water was still sufficiently deep for boats to sail in, the currents greedy enough to sweep someone under and carry them away. That day, many children were at the edge of the rocks, dipping their fingers in standing tidepools that had formed from receding waves and bounding playfully, to their parents’ horror, over large fissures leading into the rocky depths. 

I stood by the flag marking the end of the jetty and pondered my intentions. Should I go farther? I remembered my mother’s warning not to explore this area without her supervision, but my feet wanted to move, my fingers to climb and grope their way into cracks and crevices. I yearned to join children my age ahead of me who had found starfish. So, spurred by curiosity, I passed the flag. I trusted that I was not so far ahead of my mother and brother, though all I could see behind me was a jostling sea of people. They would be here soon, I consoled myself, and besides, I was not going to slip!

New arrivals to the jetty flag watched me nervously as I steadied myself with hands on the rock behind me, probing the sloping edge of the jetty with my toes and slowly starting the descent. I would prove their worries wrong, for I was a trained rock-climber after all! In front of me, the vibrant hues of a kid’s colorful pails and shovels egged me on. I wondered if the starfish they had collected were as vibrant as some I had seen in the nature magazines that came to our house every month. 

When I had relied on crab-walking to carry myself halfway to the edge of the water, I then trusted it would be safe to shift my weight back onto two feet. The barnacles coating the stone under my hands had lacerated my skin painfully. I tried to wash off the bit of blood blooming on my palm in one of the pools of seawater basined in the crater of a boulder. I turned to face the rest of the distance to be covered and balked when I noticed more white barnacles clustered together, the surface of my upcoming footholds shiny in the sun, slick with sea-slime. A father and his daughter played in a tidepool not far ahead of me. How did they escape the barnacles? I got down on my hands and feet again, probing for any zones free of crustaceans and slime.

Before I realized I had fallen, I smelled the salty tang of seaweed. The crowns of those vicious barnacles bit angrily into my skin, more peering down at me mockingly from the cave mouth above. How did I slip? Water ebbed into the cavern where I found myself, its undulations ricocheting cacophonously in the darkness. Someone’s arms reached down into the fissure, creating shadows on the cave walls, calling for my hands. I could feel myself becoming the center of attention, thinking of the anxious faces I had striven to prove wrong. The face of the father I had seen earlier with his daughter appeared above the hole, asking if I was alright. My embarrassment held me down, shame shackling my hands to the rocks around me. Part of me wished to stay hidden in the shadows rather than face my foolishness, but I thrust myself upward anyway, grabbing onto the hands lent to me. It took a few tries and wrong footholds, the barnacles ever merciless, but soon the sunlight enveloped me again and someone led me to my mother by the jetty flag, who was concerned and horrified at the bloodied sight I had become. 

I would say the hardest part of that day was walking back to the rest of our family on the beach, the sand stinging in my cuts, blood etched down my sides. No vital parts of me damaged, just signs of my overconfidence calling out my carelessness to the general public. I tried to shut out the gasps, fearful eyes, and choruses of “Are you okay?” as I held my mother’s hand, my steps no longer as sure and confident as they had been. Some rock climber I was. 

Although rattled by this experience, I did resume rock climbing the next month, remounting my bike after a fall, as the hackneyed phrase goes. However, the real challenge for me suddenly became trusting in my abilities. “Do I know how to do this well enough?” “Is my work good enough for people to see?” Self-doubt developed into perfectionism. This is still a challenge I grapple with today and face especially with creative pursuits. How do I muster the courage to bring something out into the world when I know I still have so much to learn? Though perfection can provide a standard to work towards, it should not be fixated upon to the point that it inhibits production. Just because I am still learning does not mean that I cannot share what I have learned so far. Thus, I strive to keep my “master-climber” swagger, but with a mind more open and receptive to guidance from others and to the mistakes I am bound to make along the way.

Why I Run to BUA Every Morning

by Alyssa Ahn


February 22, 2021

There was this day, I remember. Actually, there are a lot of those days. Days when my body tenses as soon as I wake up, and I just know it isn’t going to be a good day. These are the days when I sleep through my alarm. My eyelids pop open, and I desperately dive out of bed. I rush to the bathroom, glance at my contact lens case, check my watch, adjust my mask, sigh, and rush out. And my glasses press heavier onto my skin. Those are days when things don’t go my way. 

I dash through the kitchen with a heavy backpack crushing my shoulders. I smell those delicious crispy Costco croissants before shutting the door. I run to school on those days. I run like a prowling, snarling monster is chasing me — I run like the person who dies in horror movies. I run because I’m running for my life. I know that oversleeping leads to getting to school late, which leads to failing tests, which leads to bad grades. But that’s not why I run. 

Some people walk. When they’re late, they stroll in, acting casual, saving face. I can’t save face on those days — on those days, it feels like pieces of the world are cracking off, falling bit by bit; it feels like my face is fragmented, eroding into dust, and I’m alone. I do walk into class. I act calm, keep my head down, and don’t bring others down with me — I walk into class quietly. As long as I’m still running to school, still trying, things are okay. 

On some of the days when things don’t go my way, I try to get up, and I try to run to school. But sometimes, as I get closer to the parking lot, I pause for a moment and ask, “Why am I doing this? Why am I trying — what’s the point?” And then I remember.

I remember the people who I see on those days. People who always smile when they see me and tentatively nod in my direction — I see you, and I smile back with real warmth. I remember the BUA who saw me as a girl in eighth grade. They smiled and shook my hand and said, “I’m pleased to finally meet you.” They accepted me, and I grinned when I got the box and hugged The Odyssey

When everyone has almost gone to their second class of the day, I bounce up, smile and thank my teacher, wipe my desk, collect my things, and step toward the door. My friend waits for me. She smiles and greets me. When I walk into the next classroom, the whole room is always too bright. There are people slumped in chairs and people slumped on the floor. But when class starts and a familiar, grinning face projected on the board waves at us, we all smile. We have fun, and I laugh. 

I remember the person who always walks with me to get tested and waits for me in between classes and smiles when they see me. I’m grateful for the people who see me. One gesture of kindness is all it takes to start making those days better. When I’m having a bad day, or when I’m thinking about those days when I do things wrong, when things go wrong, I remember the kindnesses — and those true kindnesses and courtesies are why I run to school. So I try to give back every day with a little extra kindness to myself and to others. Because being kind is who I am; because I have to remember who I am to experience truly happy days.

March 6, 2020

by Julia Dickinson


February 22, 2021

When most people in the United States think about the beginning of the pandemic, they think about March 13, 2020. That Friday the 13th was indeed unlucky: COVID-19 was rapidly spreading, and few understood what was happening. However, when I think about the start of the pandemic, I think about March 6, a week before the U.S. shut down. March 6 was our last pre-COVID day in the BUA building.

I remember March 6 like it was yesterday. We had taken the National Latin Exam the day before, so we chatted about the topics on it. In sophomore English, we watched a movie adaptation of Frankenstein. During lunch, we talked about the recently canceled international spring break trip to Venice and Vienna, both COVID hotspots at the time. We asked each other what fall BU courses we’d registered for, hoping to find a friendly face in class. I had just begun to block in colors for my self-portrait in art class. I went to the Conversations @ BUA discussion on the issues surrounding an on-demand economy. I hugged my friends goodbye before spring break. I took the T to concert band as I did every Friday afternoon.

The one-year anniversary of March 6, 2020 is in less than a month. As the date nears, I feel more anxious. This time of year will always remind me of the vast unknown we all dove into in 2020. It will remind me of those last unmasked conversations, those last hugs. COVID-19 was a 9.0 on the Richter Scale. It had a devastating impact that emanated through the world, causing months, even years of damage. We are still in the heat of it, with millions infected and hundreds of thousands gone, but the vaccine is our first glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel. Over sixty million people have been vaccinated in the U.S. already. Each day, as more get vaccinated, the light grows. I’ve learned that you need to keep hope close to your heart. Spending too much time reflecting on the past can lead to a downward spiral; keeping the hopeful future in your line of sight uplifts you.

The Little Details: What Makes Me Happy

by Olga Meserman


February 22, 2021

Although this month and year might have been overshadowed by negative news, it’s a relief that not all is bad. There are some things, the little details, that have made me happy these past few weeks.

We all know the Bernie Sanders meme that went viral on inauguration day, but something that most people might not know is that merchandise from this meme has raised over 1.8 million dollars for charity.1 Even BUA took part in the trend, posting on their Instagram a series of photos with the picture, photoshopping Bernie on his now iconic chair into a few locations on campus.

Earlier this week, I went to a small bookshop in my town. It has a really big used book section, where I found some great books to read, including some special edition books. I’m especially excited to get around to reading One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, a mystery surrounding the murder of a high school student. 

The sunsets throughout winter have been absolutely amazing. On a late afternoon, take some time to look through your window and watch the sunset. It’s definitely worth it. The colors are beautiful — a few weeks ago, I saw sunsets the colors of pink and blue cotton candy. 

It’s gorgeous outside when it snows. I love watching the snow fall from the window in my room. I really like winter, even though we don’t have snow days this year. The snow that appeared on February 9 made me happy: I went outside and made a snowman, something that I haven’t done in a while. I was excited to see my neighbors also building a snowman, a very impressive one, standing seven feet tall.

I’d encourage you to find things that make you happy this week. They don’t have to be big: take time for yourself; go to a bookstore; watch the sunset; build a snowman — it doesn’t have to be seven feet tall.

1 Judy Cole, “Bernie Sanders Memes And Mittens Have Now Raised Over $1.8 Million for Charity,” Good News Network, January 28, 2021,