When my family recounts memories of me as a little kid- accounts of my own activity that my brain chose not to keep, there’s two things that they say with pride – I was a smart kid and more importantly, a gentle one.
Of course, this is a highly biased view and cannot be taken seriously, just like when parents feel that their baby is the most beautiful in the world (beauty is in the eyes and the eyes lie at the mercy of the heart). Just like most families out there, mine thought that the baby of their house spoke sooner and more coherently than any other child out there, and they made sure that they showed it off to anyone they met.
We know how this story ends right? The kid that was apparently brilliant during its early schooling grows up only to realize that every piece of knowledge in the universe is out of its brain’s grasp and constantly struggles with its seeming ineptitude in performing everyday activities. I mention it because I feel it is a concept not given enough importance: to grow up and grapple with the loss of skills you never really had but that others convinced you that you did. I’ll not go into this today though, because this is not about my existentialism and its various origins (something that I have to remind myself quite often these days).
What I want to talk about is the second feature: the gentleness. It sounds like a strange thing to brag about, but I’ve never broken a single toy as a child. Not for years and years. No eyes ripped off dolls with the cotton stuffing spilling out, no broken wheels of toy buses, no mutilated barbies. Everything I played with, I handled with immense care and some of them still lie today in my grandparent’s house (most of them were unfortunately used and broken years later by my younger cousins).
Somewhere along the road, gentleness tripped and fell, and I, the growing teen with wonder in my eyes, didn’t notice or bother to help it stand back up. The crassness in the world and people around me seeped into my skin as if through osmosis and slowly, the palm of my hands changed from their gentle, grass lined plains into uneven, stone covered plateaus.
I began breaking things.
A brand new ketchup bottle, my spectacles, the trust of people I loved, 5 pretty teacups, a phone charger and way too many promises to count.
Although it seems trivial, it is a difficult experience to discover that you are someone different than you thought yourself to be. Even more difficult when the new version of you seems to be a downgrade.
Here’s what I’ve realized though – all that we end up breaking, also breaks us in some way. We aren’t beings molded in stone and evolution isn’t something that just happens in science textbooks. We’re constantly shifting our shape; the molecules that make us are in a continual state of rearrangement. In Japan, there’s an art called Kintsugi in which pottery is broken and then put back together with gold. Which is to say, where we’re headed is more important than where we are right now; the person we are becoming is more beautiful than the person we are now.
Now when I retrace my steps in memory and traverse down the road to finally pick up my gentleness where I abandoned it, I realize the first thing I broke was myself. All I’m doing now during the rest of the journey is picking up little bits of gold that I see and glueing my pieces back together differently.