Bypassing Perfection | Teen Ink

Bypassing Perfection

August 19, 2010
By Mehnaz Ali Khan SILVER, Fulton, Maryland
Mehnaz Ali Khan SILVER, Fulton, Maryland
9 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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Mehnaz A. Khan

I hold a sort of animosity towards perfection. I find it overrated, to begin. Who finds perfection fun? Who finds perfection anything less than a dull and meaningless pulsation in the eyes of the rest of the world? Perfection is what my mother used to call “ideal”. She would, before she passed away, lecture me on the merits of such a characteristic. According to her, I could achieve nothing without it. She would tell me to minimize the amount of flaws in my life; to even go as far as to “delete” seemingly “worthless” friends out of my life. An exaggeration, yes. I would tell her, over and over, that a life filled with mistakes, with flaws, is a rather fascinating one. In response, she would crinkle her nose and call me “peculiar”.

A month before I entered college, my mother and I took a trip to Brazil. Actually, it was her business trip and she couldn't leave me alone, so she “dragged” me along. She was, if one couldn't already imagine, a perfectionist and part of her life philosophy was doing everything to its topmost potential. Bringing me along on this trip wouldn't enable her to do so; matter-of-fact, she found me to be a deterrent. But this I already knew; I was a stain on her perfectly polished life. If I recall correctly, we exchanged thirteen words the entire duration of the trip. The trip was for two weeks.

Two days after we came back to the United States, an aneurysm took her life. Just like that. It almost seemed surreal. I didn't cry at her funeral; I was rather detached from the whole affair. My mother, had she been alive then, would have told me not to cry. Crying was something improper and inappropriate, even in the case of a death. Yes, that was the type of person she was: cold, dissociated, and foreign to the precepts of social behavior.

It has been years since then- three to be exact. Not a single day goes by when I don't think of what our lives could have been like if we had communicated like any normal mother-daughter duo. What my emotional state would be like now if my mother had thrown away her “perfection” ideology. I am skeptic but, most of all, I am regretful. I am regretful of the fact that I couldn't go shopping or watch a movie or talk about girl-stuff with my mother. I am regretful that not once did I ask her to do these activities with me. Not once did I ask her to be my mother, not a professor or mentor or coach. Maybe, all that while, she had been waiting for me to speak up, to say what I really wanted.

Now, as I sit in class contemplating the past twenty years of my life, I am filled with raw, arduous regret. I hid my face behind my laptop and sob as the professor lectures on. I cover my mouth and try to control the throbbing pain that's erupting from my chest, but this is to no avail.

I feel a light, gentle tap on my shoulder. A boy sitting to my right points to the screen of my laptop. My vision is blurry from the pooling of tears in my eyes, causing the text on the screen to jumble up.

He hands me a tissue and whispers, with an affable smile, “You spelled 'perfection' wrong.”

And at that- that innocent and benign gesture of his- my tears of sorrow turn into tears of laughter as I reply, “That's the last word I would expect to spell wrong.”

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This article has 1 comment.

on Aug. 27 2010 at 7:22 am
NeverCaredForKool-Aid GOLD, Elkridge, Maryland
13 articles 0 photos 531 comments

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I don't believe in hell but I believe in my parent's couch-- Watsky

The ending to this was very unexpected.  When the boy saud "Yo spelled perfection wrong" I would have expected her to say something like "Exactly" and smile. But I liked your line too.

I liked this story line too.  I liked how you had her look back at what her mother had been, and wonder if she could have done something to change their relationship.  I think it added a great part to the story, an almost sort of remorse for never speaking up.


This story was great and i didn't see any grammar mistakes, so good job for that!

Can you check out my story, "Encounter"?