Car Metaphors and Art Therapy
Life is a means to an end, and by“end” I do not mean a cessation of being alive. Our lives are vehicles to reach our goals, whatever they may be. The best and worst part is that our goals change as life goes on. Like a road triphas many short distance destinations before getting to the final location, lifehas many landmarks, which we use to identify ourselves. Another aspect of lifethat follows this metaphor is that things go wrong- we have to take detours, hitchhike when the car breaks down, stop at the rest station for emergencybathroom brakes and, sometimes, we never get to our planned location.
Twenty-three years doesn’t seem so long in the grand scheme of things. There are pennies older than I am. However, life can be very long when you have had to improvise and change direction so many times. I feel a lot like a car that has made too many short trips for errands and work and now is running out of juice in its battery. As we all know, cars stop running when their batteries lose charge. I have had to replace my metaphorical battery several times, which gets costly in the long run. At that point, you start wondering if you should ditch your car; unfortunately, we only get one “car”.
You may wonder what sort of short destinations I have had to face. After all, as I mentioned before, I am technically youthful. Firstly, are external forces such as my parents andenvironment prescribe the goals to me: be a good daughter, be a good Chinese daughter, be more American, be more Indonesian, be more social, be less social, study more, get better grades, make more friends, don’t spend so much time with friends, be something useful (doctor or lawyer), be useful (scrub the kitchen on your hands and knees), keep your mouth shut, stop crying, stop being so sensitive, care more about how we (my father and stepmother) feel, stop caring so much about other people, agree with all our ideals, think for yourself (i.e.common sense), only think what we tell you to.
You know what? I did do all these things. Even now I struggle with some of these things despite being far removed from the environment that demanded it of me. The only difference I have found is that now our culture also expects things of me: get a full time job, work until you’re exhausted, spend money to fill the empty space in your life, give money for charity, volunteer, travel the world, save money, be more frugal, relax, take time for yourself, put family first, love yourself, be self-less, contribute to the system of oligarchy, keep your thoughts to yourself, speak out about your thoughts, stop being so sensitive (because I am a woman), be more feminine, lose weight, love your body, be healthier, live within your means, follow, disobey.
Now, if you have paying attention, you would realized that I must have developed some sense of self-awareness to realize the contradictions and impossibly fickle expectations thrust uponme. In my adolescence, I became both bitter and closed alongside loving and open. Each were respectively triggered by realizing my family was not all I have (nor their view of me) and findingothers who cared about how I felt, about my health, and best of all, acknowledged I was trying my best within my own circumstances. By now, I have pared down my expectations of myself to a very basic set of rules: see beauty in the world, face ugliness in the world, and know they are not mutually exclusive.
The best way to present the beauty inthe world for me is to create things. I have taken to writing poetry, drawing, painting, crafting and singing, and dancing to show the beauty I feel inside. I want other people to see the beauty both inside of themselves and within their own worlds. I want other people to narrow their demons to a medium so that they can face them head on rather than feeling overwhelmed by a vagueness they can’t control. I want to help others figure out their own rules, navigate the maps, and jump their batteries because we are more than our “cars” and we are more than our final destination. We are the diners we stop by on our way, we are the people we meet there, we are the way we can drive our own steering wheel with or without cruise control, we are the way our “cars” meet others in intersections, we are the car crashes than bring our worlds down, we are the auto-shop that sends us back on our way, we are the clear stars on a quiet road, we are thebright blue sky and the wind in our hair, we are bigger than we believe and smaller than we think. We are never truly alone.
(Even if we have never owned a car in our lives and refuse to get our driver’s license.)