Letters to Stories: Behind “Perfect”

By Simon Heywood

This poem has to be the most personal yet. However, the title drew from many inspirations. The first inspiration is from another of Gabbie Hanna’s songs, “Perfect Day (A True Story)”. The second inspiration drew from the musical Next to Normal and one of the songs found on the soundtrack, “Perfect for You.” These two songs were once found on one of my Spotify playlists, and one day I found myself listening to these two songs, and my mind lingered on the word “perfect.” However, I decided to have the theme of this poem be quite different from those two works.

This poem plays with one of the biggest themes in my life, being given impossible expectations of perfection, and always getting hurt worse each and every time I fall short. Although readers know who the poem is about, I tried to create a very general bubble with a young boy as the main character. It symbolizes how sometimes even if we grow up, there’s still a remnant of ourselves as a child that we’ve hidden away. Usually it represents us hiding our innocence so it doesn’t get taken away from us. In the beginning, readers are introduced to a little boy, bruised up and with an empty look. For me, the little boy is my innocence, and because I hold onto it so much and others try to take it away, it hurts my innocence, my inner child. It’s bruised and speechless.

For me as a child, I could always feel love and care coming from my family, but that was always cut short when I did something undesirable, which included me crying and expressing any form of intense emotion, even at the age of seven. I felt love, but was constantly reprimanded. I tried so hard to be good, and when my family finally recognized that, they rewarded me with whatever object I wanted. And I felt that love. However, from then to the next physical award, it was balancing on thin lines, “walking on eggshells” per se, falling short of their impossible expectations every time, and getting shamed, guilt-tripped, scolded, and basically verbally, mentally, and emotionally abused.

For all those times the character (representing me) in the poem is growing up and getting abused, I compare it to the “sticks and stones” analogy, and how as the boy grew and found a strong voice, they decided to use a stronger weapon to get him to stay silent and remain in their control.

This poem sheds light on how I always wanted love and approval and mental and emotional support from my parents, but how even now, while a small part of me would still like that, I don’t fully want it anymore, because of all the damage I had to endure to even be recognized once. As I keep growing up, I find more parts of myself and other external things that make me light up and make me so happy and feel at peace, and where I am now I don’t want to compromise or give that up to bring them comfort.

I would rather be myself, or even just explore what makes me me, rather than be what my parents want me to be, which I see as so far from the person I want to be and even so far from the person I am now. I wanted to end the poem with some inspiration for anyone who may be going through a similar situation, and that was what the last three stanzas were written for. The last three stanzas are there to try to inspire others to stop begging and start making their own decisions, to get what they want and be who they are and stop seeking approval if it isn’t already given to them. You shouldn’t have to beg for someone to respect who you are, especially if you’ve begun to love yourself. I’m not perfect for my parents, nor do I wish to be, and I may not be perfect for a lot of other people, but I’m beginning to find parts of me that I do love, and that’s all that matters.

There’s one more subject about this poem that drew inspiration from my life. I didn’t explain it with the other ones because I felt those could be deciphered easily. However, the following will explain the meaning behind the photo that accompanied the poem, which is pictured above. The whole theme of this poem is the constant inability to meet impossible expectations, and I had to find a picture that screamed perfection. At least one that would symbolize a perfect thing to one specific family member. The most pressure I experienced from my family came from my mother. For as long as I can remember, she loved and still loves the color purple, and that’s when I took to the internet to find reusable photos of the Iris flower. That is her “perfect,” and I will never be able to reach it because that isn’t meant for me. I am not meant to be like her even though she wants me to be.

Perfect” is out now on Instagram. I release poems on there every Sunday.

3 Responses to “Letters to Stories: Behind “Perfect””

  1. sashabanublog

    Ouch…Feels like we had many similarities in our childhood. I am the unregarded member of my family. The feeling of conditional love from family, so similar. Reading your piece I went back to the storm I call my childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Olive Branch

      I’m sorry you had to experience that. Often times it’s not like I revisit the storm because I feel I am still in it. If you’d like someone to talk to, I’m here to do so!


      • sashabanublog

        Oh yes. I would love to talk to someone who went through the same struggles. Being oppressed by parents makes the belief in basic human nature negative. I am deeply saddened to know you went through that. I understand fully well how hard it must be still to face them and even to face yourself. Much love and support.

        Liked by 1 person

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