Perfect: A Seven Letter Word
By Lila Ahitov, 15, California.
Perfect. Verb, “make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.” Adjective, “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be” (Oxford Dictionary).
Perfect! Such a small, seemingly insignificant word! Worthless even, words can’t cause any real harm, right? Perfect is just a way that you can describe something. Wow, the weather really is perfect for swimming today! I’m just going to study a little bit longer; I want perfect grades. It’s a nice word, it describes things that are really good. Perfect is inspiration, it’s a standard you can hold yourself to. Honestly, what could be bad about trying to be perfect? It’s no different than trying to succeed at something, or than just trying to lessen the amount of flaws overall.
I want to be perfect. I want the perfect body. So, what if that means waking up at 5am every morning and going for a run? It really is no big deal to skip breakfast every day, and sometimes even lunch. To restrict sugar and carbs, and anything that will stop me from looking perfect. I want the perfect grades. Exchanging many emails with each of my teachers can only benefit my grades. Staying up late memorizing flashcards and completing countless practice worksheets will only further my understanding of the material. I hope that my report card will reflect that I am being perfect.
I want to be the perfect friend. Of course, I can help you with the homework! You’re feeling sad, I’m sorry, tell me about it, maybe I can help. You’re bored? Come over! Or we can just FaceTime. You don’t need to know when I’m feeling down, that wouldn’t be very cool from the funny, loyal, therapist friend that I am. I will not share the burden of my thoughts, as that would not be something a perfect friend would do. Concealer can hide the eye bags that deepen after every late night and early morning. A practiced smile can cover up the nervous facial twitch that I’ve developed. It’s all worth it, so I can be perfect.
A bad grade, a failed test, a blemish on my skin. All flaws that can be fixed. The judgment from everyone else, surely that would stop once I have become perfect, right? A teacher yelled at me last week because I was talking to my friend. Which do I prioritize? Be the perfect friend, or be the perfect student? What if when I stop laughing at their jokes or contributing to the conversation, they don’t want me as their friend anymore? What if I do think of the cleverest, the most perfect response to my friend’s comment, and after I say it the teacher catches me? Is it worth the bad reputation with my teacher for the good one with my friends? Is it worth the possibility of my friends liking me less or talking to me less so that the teacher thinks that I am perfect? Is it possible to do both? Candy, offered to the class, and I always take a piece. I don’t think of the repercussions of this, until the guilt that drowns me later. And yet, I never fail to take it when it is presented to me.
I cannot possibly choose which things I want to be perfect all the time. My friendships, my face, my body, my grades, my reputation, my mental health, my social life, my ability to handle being alone. My anxiety that will not settle for anything less than perfect. Which to prioritize when they contradict each other? Do I choose my mental health over my friendships and my schoolwork? I would allow myself to sleep in from time to time, and to submit mediocre work on a couple of the dozens of assignments that I get a week. I would choose to spend my Saturday night watching a movie and eating pizza. If I take that road, then my grades, my social life, and my friendships will suffer. On the other hand, if I don’t sleep, I could be irritable and rude, and then my friendships and my relationship with my parents will be hampered, but I will have enough time to do my homework. I play an instrument, I’m in clubs, I’m on the cheer team, I hang out with my friends, I spend time with my family, but choosing to do one thing stops the others from being perfect. And yet, while I agonize over what to do and the consequences of each, perfect people seem to be able to choose the perfect option, every single time. I don’t try to be selfish with my choices, but it isn’t possible to think through everything that ought to happen for me to be perfect. I say that it’s all worth it. And that a simple, seven letter word cannot possibly affect me, or my life. I ponder on that thought, and hope that my answer will be considered perfect.
—Lila Ahitov, age 15, California.
Lila writes: “Since a young age, I have loved writing and reading. Whether it was reading the French children’s books that my Parisian mother put me to bed with, or attempting the lyrics of my dad’s favorite Turkish song from his childhood, I always noticed words. “Lila,” my name, means purple, night, and beauty, and much more that I have yet to learn. Growing up in America with European parents allowed me to dabble in languages other than English, French being the one that mostly stuck. Staying close with my family and friends, and growing my cultural knowledge are continuously important to me. I am filled with gratitude for the freedom of choice in my future, which I hope to include writing, travel, and law. Heavy emotions and thoughts can sometimes be a burden, and writing things, like my submission, helps me release it.”