“Perspective. It’s all about perspective,” my elementary art teacher uttered as she held out a piece of chalk and drew a line across the blackboard towards a focal point. With more lines and some shading, a building came to life in front of me in the classroom. Little had I known that this art lesson would serve as the backbone and driving force for the years to come.
I didn’t think about pursuing art when I dropped out of my dream university. I didn’t think of switching to architecture when I got my heart broken. I didn’t think about changing perspectives when I hit rock bottom. I used to look in the mirror and only see failure and shame. I dwelled on misses and bad decisions. I encountered nightmares, dreamt about my fears and the faces of the people who hurt me. I wondered about the places I would have rather gone instead.
Looking back, I think there was no better road than the one I had been on, as I was able to learn more about love and life when I experienced loss.
Before, each day passed like I was walking in a standstill, and every night was longer and lonelier—until it no longer was. I learned that the key difference between lonely and alone rested in the space you allowed yourself to dance in without an audience and sing even if your voice cracked a little when the music stopped.
In the effort to grip and chase after transient parts of my world, I hadn’t known then that I was already on the pursuit for the misplaced pieces of my identity. The pieces I labeled, “ugly” and “fat” upon seeing oversaturated depictions of beauty in movies and social media. The pieces on which I wrote, “not good enough” with permanent marker after experiencing heavy doses of rejection after an application or a relationship. Finally aware of my weaknesses, I accepted the beauty amidst my imperfections and I was determined to grow.
Experiencing losses made me mindful about the pain and struggle of others. One time, I decided to trade in my gift certificates for cash to buy burgers for the children wandering around the streets of my school. It was bittersweet knowing I’ve fed a few for the day, yet there’s still a long way to go in addressing the bigger issues we go through.
This also triggered my hunger to see the world. I wanted to explore places which will allow me to take in both joy and sorrow, from city skyscrapers and mountaintops to polluted river communities and impoverished towns.
When I was lost, I found myself stopping in chapels and sitting in Eastern philosophy classes. I recited the Serenity Prayer and practiced personal meditation. I explored Christianity and Taoism and drew out a path in between their values, and have walked curiously and bright-eyed along it since.
Today, I see loss as an essential part of life. Only when we lose can we make enough space to leap into our guarded selves and to realize how we’ve always been enough. We have always been whole. All we ever needed is to be ourselves: to be honest, genuine, and free in every moment. That is how we can find peace that comes from within.
This inner peace is the delicate tie which connects the mind and to the heart, and unites our thoughts and feelings to our decisions and actions. This peace can be channeled by sharing our perspectives with the rest of the world and telling stories of how we relate with one another.
I see the world as a crisscross grid of each person’s journey. I can only pray we’re all on a journey striving for peace. That’s why I think we should build bridges towards one another, especially to the parts unknown.