“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
Life is like a painting whose appearance is shaped by a single artist--you. Others may collaborate with you on your work; however, the final composition falls on you. Art provides such a refreshing analogy because there are no restrictions on creativity—options are infinite.
Likewise, life offers you countless opportunities to implement your creativity. Life is just like a painting. Unfortunately, this truth can be paralyzing. Jean-Paul Sartre argued that life is not preordained. Your reality is not fixed; you have unlimited freedom to shape your thoughts and actions as you deem fit. But this responsibility can be heavy. You don’t get another canvas, so managing what you have is critical. This reality hinders most people--but why? If happiness is within their grasp, then why do so many people neglect to move? If the brush is in their hands, why won’t they paint a picture they love?
When we are born, the universe gifts us with a blank canvas. Unfortunately, we don’t have any tools at our disposal to begin with and our motor skills have yet to develop (Have you ever given an infant a paint brush? Don’t do it). Ideally, our caretakers are responsible for providing the tools and teaching us to paint for ourselves. Then, as we age, our caretakers release us to explore new tools and art techniques without judgement of course. After all, this is how their parents raised them. We grow older and develop the perfect painting technique. Our art studio smells nice and peace abounds. Our painting is miraculous, and our execution is flawless.
If you’ve ever been born before, then you acknowledge the aforementioned satire. Yes, we are each born with a blank canvas. Yes, we are dependent during our early years. In fact, this domestication builds our foundation and that same foundation establishes the initial creativity at our disposal. We could assume that some people are simply more creative than others—it’s all about the haves and the have-nots. Sure, let’s go with that: some people are inherently fortunate and others are predestined for everlasting sorrow. While people may speak otherwise, most people’s actions support this rhetoric. But here’s the truth: Everyone is heartbroken. Everyone has things in life that have marred their clean canvas. In fact, our painting surface is condemned as soon as we receive it. While some of us experience minor impairments, others endure trauma that leaves a gash in their canvas. Be they minor or major, these heartbreaks diminish the quality of our artwork and they shape how you navigate future creative challenges. Therefore, if we aspire to live wholeheartedly, we must address the baggage.
Sadly, the majority of people avoid heartbreak. When people are hurt, some turn to negative coping strategies. Over time, the quality of their life will rely solely on external gratification—validation and pleasure. Regardless of the chosen stimulant—sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, cults—they are assisted in temporarily escaping their painful reality. Have you ever encountered a person whose life is in disarray but lives for every social function? We know them; maybe it’s you. They can’t afford to pay their bills but always find money to support their partying habit. It’s easy to become uneasy around these people; however, their inconsistency indicates a need. This distinction is key for your own journey. Judgement is useless; these people need genuine support to properly deal with their heartbreak. Pleasure, albeit, is not always negative; there’s a time and a place for everything. But without proper healing,it will never be enough.
Maybe these people should dedicate their lives to noble causes. Surely, therein lies the path to happiness, or at least that’s what some pundits suggest. Many people equate professional advancement and material gain to happiness. If you’ve read any self-help literature, then you already know the flaw in this logic. If you don’t know, then I encourage you to test the “Money, Success, and Status = Happiness” theory. I’ve achieved massive success and have made tons of money, but it doesn’t quench my existential thirst. And I’ll be the first to admit that I wouldn’t have understood this if not having experienced it myself. So, try it for a while and when you’re finished, refer back to this blog (it will come in handy). Amassing status is one way we avoid our pain. It’s relatively noble and our platform allows us opportunities to make the world a better place. But without proper healing, it will never be enough.
It’s like choosing a paint brand. In your local art store, you’ll find a plethora of paint brands ranging from inexpensive student-grade paint to expensive “master-quality” paint. While the higher quality paint may produce consistently superior color radiance, the student-grade paint in substantially more accessible. To an extent, you can achieve similar outcomes using whatever paint you choose—it all accomplishes the same job of covering the surface. Moreover, you can develop technical mastery, but if your canvas is torn, then you’ll never experience the full beauty of your painting. Similarly, so long as wounds go unacknowledged, there will be an ever-present shadow over anything you do—your life’s work.
The ultimate goal is painting a life fit for a museum. Around the world, there’s plenty of artwork on display. Even your five-year-old brother has a drawing on the fridge. Nevertheless, only select pieces, the best of the best, end up at a place like the Louvre. Likewise, there are plenty of people who merely exist but never live. And there’s nothing wrong with the fridge! My artwork is featured around the globe but there’s nothing comparable to when my sweet mother offers me a nod of approval. The issue is painting a picture that lands you somewhere you don’t want to be—unsatisfied and unfulfilled. If you want to live fully, then you must craft a seminal piece that personifies the grandeur of your ideal museum. Unfortunately, the gash in your painting surface obstructs the vision of your potential. There are museums you haven’t dreamt of because you’ve only experienced your finished work on a damaged canvas. There are creative possibilities that you haven’t fathomed because the people around you also have damaged canvases—it appears normal. Remember, everybody is heartbroken. But this isn’t the end. This acknowledgement is a prerequisite for growth. You are free to mend the tear, create outstanding work, and arrive in the museum you truly desire.
You must also acknowledge that most peoples’ art will never see the Louvre. Although it’s painfully possible, most people will never experience everlasting fulfillment. Don’t be mistaken, people can live good lives. But without intentional efforts to mend their broken hearts, fulfilment will depend on continuous shots of happiness.They’ll always want.
Those who answer the call are the people who dent the Universe. They’re just different.
You can sense their character from a mile away. Their contentment gleams. Their peace under fire is extraordinary. Their actions aren’t fueled by ulterior motives; they genuinely embody presence and wholehearted living. They acknowledge their pain and dedicate themselves to addressing their wounds in order to serve humanity, withholding nothing.
I once shipped a finished commission to a client, and upon its arrival, the client informed me that the painting had a hole in it. Honestly, I was frustrated by the development. After all, I’d worked hard to develop my skills and the thought of my damaged creation was agonizing. So, I asked them to ship the painting back to me and I assured them that I would fix it. Now, I had no Earthly or Heavenly idea how to fix a ripped canvas, but I’d made the promise so I had to execute…or send their money back.
YouTube University offered several suggestions—everybody had an opinion on how to fix a damaged canvas. Some videos suggested simply painting over and around the hole, but I knew (and you know now, too) that that approach is pointless. Another voice suggested gluing the suture together like a liquid band-aid. In theory, it sounded sensible; however, liquid bandaids provide protection while our skin cells regenerate the tissue where the wound once was. Unfortunately, canvas is made of cloth and would re-tear with enough pressure on the area. Some solutions work really well when no pressure is applied. So I checked with a professional source, my art mentor, and although he didn’t fix the canvas for me, he offered me the tools and knowledge to manage the damage.
He revealed a process that effectively fixed the hole. First, you take a piece of canvas cloth and cut it to the size of the hole—you have to assess the scope of the damage. Then, you glue that piece over the hole on the back of your painting surface—this is how you close the suture. Lastly, you paint over the hole but now the hole is near invisible because the hole appears gone. Additionally, pressure on the painting surface won’t re-open the wound because it has a new foundation.
We can all utilize this process with our lives. Remember, we’re all heartbroken. Seek professional help and develop a process that heals. Assess the scope of your baggage and cut out a plan to apply it to your life. Then, life can begin. Granted, the hole is permanent (Sorry, you only get one canvas). But now you’ve shifted the essence of the hole—what was the obstacle became the way. And life will challenge you, but you have a new foundation! The hole is a part of your journey. It’s real and authentic. It shaped you. It’s imperfect. It is a testament of your strength—an inspiration to the heartbroken. Only after we address our heartbreak can we create a masterpiece—a beautiful life fir for a museum.
But it’s so hard.
“Around the world, there’s plenty of artwork on display. Even your five-year-old brother has a drawing on the fridge. Nevertheless, only select pieces, the best of the best, end up at a
place like the Louvre.”
It’s so difficult; however, it is the one way. And you will fail. But keep showing up. Even after you’ve addressed old holes, life (and people) will punch new holes in your artwork. They will hurt but your new process is strong.Keep showing up. Sometimes, you may fail to properly secure your reinforcements but that’s okay, too. Keep showing up. Mending personal heartbreak is how I define showing up for one’s self. Our heartbreak shapes our relationship with ourselves. And this relationship shapes how we experience reality.
The only way to paradise is through murky water. And it’s so scary. But the alternative is standing on the “safe” shore with the masses, thirsty, but never tasting paradise. Which is more scary? Take the step. Today.