Paige paves a perfectly imperfect path


Paige watches her pasta dough go through the Kitchen Aid pasta cutter.

Three large eggs. Two cups of all-purpose flour. One tablespoon of olive oil. One tablespoon of kosher salt. Mix. Knead. Roll. 

Bon Appétit’s homemade pasta recipe was stamped into my mind. Ready to conquer my first pasta palooza, I was determined to perfect the doughy noodles.

I cracked each egg, slowly watching the shells break open to allow passage for the slimy yolks to slip, then plop, into the pillow of flour below. My fingers guided the plastic tablespoon to pour out the oil, which was met by a small sprinkling of salt.

I placed the bowl into the Kitchen-Aid, gave the bowl a swift swirl and let the machine do the rest. Bon Appétit said a ten minute mix, and that’s what I did. Eager to find my glistening, plump pasta dough, I was instead met with a bowl of crumbs. 

I didn’t understand. I followed the recipe exactly. Where’s my perfect pasta dough? I was now worried to have no pasta to present to my family, a rather ‘hangry’ group. 

Being “Perfectionist Paige,” the sight of a ruined, non-perfect dough crushed me. I believed I had let down myself, my family and the Bon Appétit chefs. All I wanted was to be “Pasta Paige.” 

Somehow, this “failure” upset me so much that I walked away, teared up and just about gave up. My mom then came up to me, comforted me, gave the dough a quick exam and claimed it was far from ruined. 

“Just a little water and oil experimentation will do,” my mom said. 

Knowing this was not what the recipe had said—one that had been “perfected” by Bon Appétit chefs, I remained frustrated and defeated. 

After a lengthy period of time spent sulking and avoiding any eye contact with the crumbly creation, I finally got up to face the mess. I reluctantly grabbed the oil and filled a tiny pitcher of warm water, began to sprinkle the liquid and dug in with my bare hands. 

Like a chemist, I poured small amounts of oil and water into the bowl, gave them a firm-handed knead and observed my dough at each point. After five minutes, a shiny, delightful ball of dough had been formed. 

I had created my own, far from precise, pasta dough recipe. It wasn’t perfect and had strayed from Bon Appétit’s recipe wildly, but it was “Paige’s Pasta,” and I was my own version of Pasta Paige. 

While developing my quarantine pasta passion, I learned that focusing on perfection was making me lose sight of my true self and abilities—instead masked by a robotic, constantly anxious version of myself. 

When straying from my typical perfectionist tendencies, I found how to make something my own. Not only had I done so in forming my own pasta dough recipe, but also in initiating ideas in my clubs, dance practices or the classroom. 

My anxiety always prevented me from sharing my ideas and becoming a leader. I’ve always been too scared of being judged if what I did wasn’t perfect.

In the beginning of an unusual, entirely virtual school year, I still felt the pressure. In addition to an intense school schedule, I now had new roles as VP of Technology in FBLA, Editor-in-Chief of The Scratching Post, Varsity Dance Team Captain and Director of Technology of the Dare to Empower Club, all while submitting 15 college applications. 

Yet, instead of letting stress get the best of me, this time I decided to take charge of it and indulge in newfound passions. In the Dare to Empower Club, I created my own period product drive for women in need and collected over 50 items. Before, I had been too nervous to take on a school-wide drive, but recognizing my passion in preventing period product poverty allowed me to do so without fear. 

In my roles as Editor-in-Chief and VP of Technology, I have worked on maintaining confidence in leading a larger group of students. I headed the FBLA Instagram and slide presentations, while also leading my staff and editorial board to create multiple, successful TSP issues. As Varsity captain, I created and led team-bonding activities to gel my team virtually, and motivated us to become State finalists. 

In AP Government, I began to ask questions and volunteer at least once every class period. Although it made me anxious, I slowly became more confident and was able to fully engage in a class I loved. 

I have been less stressed, and now I can focus on my passions and become confident instead of just being told what to do. I’m excited to continue doing so next year as I further my education as a Journalism major at Northwestern University. Go Wildcats! 

I plan to continue working to overcome my anxiety, stray from perfection and gain confidence to lead others and myself. 

It will be tough, but Pasta Paige taught me that it’s okay to be imperfect.