- Anna Quindlen, Commencement Speech
“There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul. People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the test results and they’re not so good. So here is what I wanted to tell you today:
Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Once in a while take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.”
- Anna Quindlen, Commencement Speech
When they asked Michelangelo how he created his famous statue of David, he answered, “I simply removed the parts that weren’t him.”
Michelangelo meant he did not create the statue of David. He simply took the piece of stone and removed all of the parts that weren’t David... because David was already there. Similarly, when asked how he created the famous archangel , Michelangelo responded, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Notice how the genius that Michelangelo is, cleverly uses the word, "carved." Essentially, when you're sculpting, that's exactly what you do. You don't just playfully and easily pick the pieces out. They don't just drop down automatically. It takes tremendous effort and energy to practically carve out the pieces that do not belong. So too, it must be with each and every one of us...
Life lately has been very challenging to say the least. After leaving school I thought things would get better, but they got worse. At a time when I needed help the most, I did not have it. The people I once cared for, could not return the favor. The friends and family members I thought I was close to, were more distant than ever before. Surprisingly, I did have few friends and extended family members out of nowhere be there for me...but apart from those angels, I feel like in these past couple months alone, I've lost more than I could afford to lose in a lifetime. The best part about going through rock bottom is that it can only go up, yet I felt like it never did, until only recently.
Now I hate to play victim; I know the world is not out to get me. I'm not an adolescent teenager trying to blame anyone or anything for my problems. I'm simply sharing what everyone already knows, that life can really suck sometimes. It can suck the joy out of you, the life out of you, the being out of you. But sometimes, if you're strong enough and in good faith, you can see the darkness in another light, if that even makes any sense. I remember one night in deep prayer, I was searching for answers for why everything was appearing to go wrong in my life. I instantly remembered Michelangelo's work and perspective and was guided to share my personal journey with it in hopes of helping out others who may find themselves in similar situations.
The "carving out" of pieces that do not belong was simply what I needed to perceive every loss as. Again, carving signifies difficulty and even pain. It's not easy having pieces of you gnawed at and hewed away. In fact, It's excruciatingly painful. The parts of me that I once loved, cherished, trusted, embraced, and lived for, were parts of me no more and it was devastating. Whether it was one school after another, best friends or family members, the next best thing was always slowly but surely out the door. Like sand; when you hold so tightly, it slips right through your hand...I tried to hold onto all of these for so long but I was finally starting to feel the heavy burden of carrying these weights... Perhaps, they were never mine to carry any way? I always know in my heart when something is meant for me and when it no longer is, and the hardest part was coming to terms with accepting that the things and people I once held near and dear to my heart, did not belong there any more. They were simply taking up shelf space, and they did not deserve it.
I've learned you can try your hardest in every way possible with everyone and everything but sometimes, even that is not enough. The people closest to you that you trusted will betray you, the schools you apply to will not accept you, the one who once made you feel like the only one in their world eventually makes you feel like you don't even exist. The grades you worked hard for, the money you earned, the people you gave and gave the best of yourself to...only to find none of it has worth anymore...everything and everyone comes and goes. Nothing is forever. There are no guarantees. All you can really do is take a leap of faith and hope to God that things work out one way or another... People not as close to me refer to this time in my life as a "break." They have no idea that it is actually the farthest thing from one. If anything, this time in my life is more like a breakdown or perhaps, a breakthrough... Despite this difficult process, I needed this because it was a perfect reminder of what I don't need.
Eventually, as time progressed, I dropped the weights; I allowed the pieces to be carved out of me. I started feeling lighter. I started moving faster. I started smiling more. I started laughing again. I'm not entirely there yet, but I'm certainly on my way to being a better, happier version of myself. There's so much healing left to do but I'm so glad that so much has already been done. It's hard to see the light when your world is covered in darkness. For some, the darkness is only temporary, but for others, it is a permanent blindfold...Feel like I was just another disillusioned prisoner in Plato's Cave for so long. But finally, t he load has been lifted, the chains have been released. I am breaking free.
I say breaking free because the art of sculpturing is doing just that. The chisel is carving out the marble and the pieces latched onto you are breaking away in the process and are freeing you as a result.
Now, whenever something or someone else is being stripped away from me, or being "carved out", I try to accept the emotional experience, without fighting the feelings and I also learn to appreciate that I am simply becoming more of myself.
I must not dwell on these missing pieces because they are no longer meant for me. To surrender to God means to surrender to His Will. God wrecks your plans when he sees that your plans will wreck you. God will only remove the pieces of you that he knows will destroy you. He will break away from you whatever will break you.
My faith has been tested on so many levels, my passion and purpose have been floating on a tumultuous sea and I'm barely swimming to keep them alive, the people that I once loved to pieces are pieces of me no more. I could practically feel myself being carved out with a sharp chisel that painfully peeled away the layers of marble that are not of me and the uncertainty still weighs me down; I'll never know if those pieces are being transformed to fit a better part of me for later or if those pieces are gone forever. Like I said before, it's all a leap of faith. This is the part where I let go and let God. It is hard but it is also worth it. I'm better off because of it. I can say that now, because I have the strength to even say it. Before, I couldn't even do that.
The interesting part of this painful process is that it is reciprocal and mutually beneficial. Pieces that are taken away from me are pieces of me taken away from them. Whether it's an opportunity, a job, a person, whatever it is, the process is helping shape us both into who we are destined to become. In essence, everyone and everything is being broken free. It's a win-win situation, although it may not feel like it at first.
Michelangelo carved out the pieces that weren't of David. He already saw him in it and simply took away the parts that weren't him. I believe God does the same for you and me. Perhaps life gives us or takes away from us the pieces that no longer belong to us. Just like the manner in which Michelangelo sculpted the archangel, we too are merely set free by breaking away from the parts that are no longer a part of us. With this new understanding and answered prayer, I started realizing not everything I've lost is a loss. Sometimes a loss is actually a gain. Success can be disguised as failure just as a new beginning is often disguised as a painful ending.
May God continue to break me free of what is not meant for me and may He shape me into who He wants me to be. May you too be broken-free, rebuilt, and carved out-of and in-to the pieces that make you the masterpiece you are.