I find myself standing in the gallery of life and I have no idea how I got there. My feet feel like blocks of ice against the winter cold and my fingers are numb, not from the cold but from clutching at the last bit of hope I have left. I have a backpack on my back. It is empty, but I am hoping to fill it with life, love, warmth or whatever I might find here. I need to find closure. Closure of what life has taken away from me in a flash. I did not even have a chance to say my goodbyes.
I made the daunting choice of entering the gallery of self-discovery and I do not intend to leave until I find what I am looking for, whatever that might be. As a mere 10-year-old girl, this is no place for me. Yet I am here. My mother passed away a few hours ago and I have nowhere left to go.
The last words that left her lips before she drifted away were simply this, “Find yourself, my child. Discover who you are before it is too late. Make the right choices and please, please do not choose to go the wrong way as you will never be able to start over again.”
While browsing through the first few paintings of life, I realize; I need to grow up – and fast. From now on there will be no more good morning kisses from my mother, no more helping hands when I slip and fall and no more reassuring words to make my broken heart feel better. There paintings, I know nothing about. The faces, gestures and stages of life that I am yet to discover loom in front of me; barricading the walls.
On a black painted canvas, a woman stares back at me. In her hand is a beer can and a cigarette. Her clothes are torn and young men are bowing at her feet. It seems as if they like this charming yet cunning woman luring them into a trap. I decide that I do not like this painting and move on. The next painting is of a handsome young man on a white stallion. He is smiling and his black locks form a heart shape around his face. This boy, I think, will be a great husband to the right girl one day. This painting is one I will remember. Before moving to the next painting, I am astonished to find that what my mother had said was actually happening at this very moment. I was discovering myself! My likes and dislikes, what made me happy and what made me sad and what I wanted from life.
I was discovering my future self. The future, it seems, would be closer now than I would ever have imagined as I would have to do things differently from now on. I was not a 10-year-old girl anymore. I was a 10-year-old girl without a mother. I would have to fend for myself and make my own decisions. I would have to discover what the world wanted from me and what I wanted from the world without the guidance of a parent.
I enter a room, warmer than the rest. My feet make pitter-patter noises on the marble floor. On the far wall, I can see two paintings. I feel a strange sensation pull me closer to them. I am drawn to them by an invisible force I cannot seem to explain.
The first painting is in black and white. As I moved closer, I see myself! Well, an older version of myself; could be 20 years from now. I am standing on a bridge. Below me is a vast cascading mass of water, tumbling downstream. I am looking down into the water. From my eyes, I can see tears; big tears. They fall into the river, making the banks overflow. The painting makes me feel sad. It makes me feel like I have failed myself; failed at discovering myself. I tear my eyes away from the painting to look at the second one.
This painting is in colour. Bright orange and red colours smile back at me. There I am again, about 20 years from now. I have two toddlers by my side and they look just like me! A handsome man is standing behind my left shoulder, clearly adoring the person he is holding. I realize that is the man from the painting I saw when I walked into the galley of self-discovery! That is the man on the white stallion! I look quite happy in the painting. As I look closer, I can see a few dark spots in my eyes. Those are spots of worry; it must be. No life will ever go without worry, of that much I am sure.
I stand back and gaze at the two pictures. These paintings are me, the future me. It is my choice if I want to become part of the black and white painting or the colour painting. Without fail, I will choose the colour painting. I look so happy and I have people that will care for me. Then why is it that I am attracted to the black and white painting? I would like to soothe that girl’s pain and dry the tears she is crying. I want to make her feel as if she has a purpose in this world. I want to tell her that she still has so much to discover. Discovery does not end when you have accomplished what you want from life. Discovery continues throughout your life and never stops. Even after you drift into the next life, you will discover new things and learn to adapt to whatever life might throw at you.
I lift myself to the black and white painting and brace myself for the impact. My world instantly turns grey. I feel wetness over my feet and suddenly water fills my lungs. As I gasp for air and my head breaks to the surface, I notice a young woman standing on a bridge. She is crying and her tears fill the river to its brink. I try to yell out for her help but she does not hear me. I struggle against the current and try treading the salty water on my feet but to no avail. I am losing my grip on life. Before my head disappears beneath the surface once again, I can’t help but think that I am discovering the wrong side of life…