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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Illogical Desire

A time that renowned poets claim to be the best time of an individual’s life, childhood functions as a period of innocence and purity. But should it be ached for, as so many individuals express daily? This world is one of ignorance and fiction.

            They always told me, “Practice makes perfect.” Though perhaps the most overused phrase of all time, at seven-years-old, I could not know this.
            So, I practiced. I rehearsed, I trained, I polished my weaknesses, and I would not give up until real results, results of perfection, were glaring back at me. Though I had many hobbies, I chose to focus my energy on the piano, as I had heard you could not be ‘perfect’ at more than one activity. You could come close, perhaps, but never be completely flawless. After what felt like months of rigorous practice, I found myself far, far away from this Utopia.
I was left asking, when will I be ‘perfect’? When is this tedious practice going to end? To which many adults chuckled. They did not realize this seemingly minor reaction frustrated my being even more. Their eventual silence to my question certainly sparked my perseverance, but it also made outgrowing my childhood fragility much more difficult, as I was often disappointed and thought I had failed.
What I could not realize was that these repeatedly advertised public images of perfection were all fabrications. I certainly deemed Lance Armstrong to be a hero who achieved this title of being ‘perfect’ through routine practices, and it was only recently that I realized his legacy was built off of lies. Before being exposed as a fraud, his image might have encouraged many, but I felt increasingly incompetent along with every Tour de France he won. It reminded me annually that my effort had simply not been enough, though I practiced endlessly.
There were times when my au pair would yell and scream at me with every mistake I made. Her voice booming, she would pace around the piano bench where I sat nervously. “Again!” she’d yell, “Get this wrong, and you will be punished.” I’d imagine a ‘perfect’ image, like Lance Armstrong, who achieved his success with such ease. I wondered if he had a guide like I. This was my sixth attempt of the day at Frédéric Chopin’s “Waltz in A minor”, and I could feel my au pair’s frustration more than my own.
‘You can do this, Carmen. Practice makes perfect.’ Not limited to my palms, sweat spread to the tips of my fingers. This perspiration caused the piano keys to be slippery, and I could not possibly hold my balance. Reaching for a flat, my ring finger slipped, and instead I hit a white key. There was no camouflaging my mistake, and I bowed my head in disappointment and fear.
Wasting no time, Maria dragged me by the arm to the dreaded bathroom where I was locked inside and forced to reflect on my imperfections. Collapsing on the floor, I cried. I could not even think about the tile I lay on, its iciness ripping through my skin. I could neither listen to Maria’s screams from outside the door, reminding me of my complete incompetence.
I’d ask myself again, why am I not yet perfect? Why was I constantly making mistakes, even with my earnest effort put forth?

After being released later that night, I pulled myself together. My au pair had left, and I was alone in the house. From the top, I once again began Chopin’s Waltz. First section, down. Next section, a little too fast. Nonetheless, I had not missed a note. I smiled to myself, deciding it was Maria’s presence that caused my minor mistakes. I’m perfect, I thought, I’m almost perfect. With just four more bars to go, the front door swung open and startled me. This disturbance caused me, once again, to fail. Happy to see me, my sister ran up the stairs, laughing in her own little bubble.
“Emeilya,” I asked, “Why am I not perfect? I practice and practice, and I still cannot—”
“What do you mean? Perfect doesn’t exist,” she said as she flipped through my book.
“Well..yes, of course it does. They always tell me if I practice hard enough, I can be like Chopin or somebody important. I don’t know…I just try so hard and I feel like I get nowhere.”
            Realizing my sincerity, my sister paused and looked up from my sheet music. “Carm, that’s just a saying. Perfect doesn’t really exist.”

I was confused, to say the least, and eventually felt betrayed by my elders. I could not understand why they would give me false hope, especially as I had taken it so literally. Although, now, I recognize it was meant for encouragement, it caused me to live in an imaginary world where I thought, if I worked hard enough, I could achieve perfection. 

- Carmen Iben


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