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Emma Ramon

Grade: 11

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Scott Parsons

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Evenly Buttered Toast

Personal Essay/Memoir

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Evenly Buttered Toast

I can be annoying when it comes to how I want butter spread on my toast. If you ask anyone in my family, they'll tell you I won't eat my toast until I butter it evenly. I need the corners covered and the right ratio of butter to toast—you have to taste both! Same goes for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; both the peanut butter and the jelly have to reach the edge of their respective pieces of bread, and there should usually be a little more jelly than peanut butter, because the peanut butter flavor is stronger. This has honestly become a science.

The first time that my brother watched me make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the meticulous way that I do, he told me: "It all tastes the same in the end." This made me rethink the butter-spreading method that had become so habitual for me. Why did it matter so much that every square inch of my whole wheat bread was covered, when in a few minutes, it would all be gone?

My immediate answer was that I like to think of myself as a perfectionist. I like to do 'perfectly' in school, I like to keep my room 'perfectly' clean, and I like my butter 'perfectly' spread on my toast. Perfectionism stems from the belief that your self-worth comes from your achievements. That you are not a perfect-enough you without your good grades, your clean room, and your buttered toast. By basing your self-esteem on yours achievements, where other people decide its value, you limit your happiness. Self-worth doesn't have to be about accomplishing anything; your self-worth can be present and valid simply because you're a worthy human being, and it should be. In which case, my evenly buttered toast is not an achievement that defines me. Evenly buttering my toast simply makes me happy, in the same way that buying bowls makes my mom happy, fixing things around the house and in cars makes my dad happy, and going on car rides makes my dog happy. Our little sources of happiness and worthiness don't always need a perfect result, or even a result at all. Our happiness doesn't need permission to exist from anyone else but ourselves.

I used to struggle to enjoy things and experiences, even those I was proud of, until I received validation from others. Until I was allowed to feel joy. But joy is personal. My joy is unequivocally mine, and I shouldn't require approval to feel my joy because, then, I'll never feel it. When you decide that you are worthy as a person no matter your achievements, when you decide to feel your joy with or without the endorsement of others, your opportunities for happiness open up. You begin to notice joy in every aspect of life. It can come from little, sometimes weird, places. And in times of insecurity and self-doubt, these little, sometimes weird, sources of happiness are the perfect remedy.