*I submitted this for an essay competition last June and just thought of sharing it here. The theme was about how peace in our hearts can inspire peace around us, in line with the need for world peace. I should’ve included more about the world’s terror crisis but within the 30 minutes I crammed this, it slipped my mind.
“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 breath of a guiding mantra years later and for the rest of my life.
But I didn’t think about art when I dropped out of my dream university because I encountered obstacles my sheltered self wasn’t ready for. I didn’t think of buildings or architecture when I got my heart broken. No perspectives came to mind when I lived under the rock called, “rock bottom,” for a year or two. I looked in the mirror and saw failure and shame. I contemplated misses and bad decisions. I dreamt only nightmares, fears and faces of the people that hurt me. And I wondered about the places I would have rather gone instead.
Looking back now in this retrospective, I think perhaps there was no better road than the one I had been on, for the paradoxical reason that I learned more about love and life when I experienced loss.
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 I was already on the pursuit to search 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 because pain in any sort and story is suffering nonetheless. I traded in my Starbucks gift certificates for cash to buy burgers to give to children by the streets of my school. And it was bittersweet knowing I’ve fed a few for the day, but the world’s hunger had not stopped there and neither did my hunger to see the world. I wanted to see all the sights beyond clicks on the Internet that would 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 a personal meditation. I explored Christianity and Taoism, 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 because only when we lose can we make enough space to leap into our guarded and high-walled selves just to find how we’ve always been enough. We have always been whole. All we ever needed is to be—ourselves and in every moment—honest, genuine and free. In this freedom dance and personal walk, every person comes to find peace that comes from within.
Peace is the delicate tie encompassing the mind and knotting it to the heart. One for rationalizing and one for feeling, altogether just significant parts of a whole that sums up our actions, decisions, and perspectives. And the eyes we use to look into the mirror and the rest of the world are our perspectives that tell the 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.