How do you define strength?

Growing up, the idea of strength to a 14-year old me was rebellion; freedom to do what I want to, which was extremely hard as my parents are basically ‘typical Asian‘. When the so-called freedom I ached for so badly were denied, I became angry. I grew up building a bunker protecting my heart, a cage without windows to look out for anything, refusing entry to nobody and nothing. Yes, I was that angry. And I had no means of properly venting all the anger out which caused an emotional turmoil within me till I was 21.

Seven years of contained anger rendered me emotionless. I could still remember watching sad movies with my friends bawling their eyes out while I sat among them with a poker face. They would turned to look at me in bewilderment while I’d just shrugged and said ‘It’s just not that sad’. My heart had been caged and blinded in pitch dark for far too long it could no longer recognize light.

And the saddest part was, I thought I was strong; for not crying, for not betraying my emotions. I could swear feeling my blinded heart grinning smugly whenever my friends told me that I was strong. Little did I know, and little did they know, that I was nothing but the opposite.

Life works in mysterious ways, in the infinite wisdom and mercy of God Who creates. One fateful day, I stumbled upon this quote that goes along the lines of:

“There is courage in being soft in a world that is constantly making you hard.”

I let that sunk in.

And boy, did that sunk.

It was like a wrecking ball straight to the bunker protecting my heart. The bunker cracked, allowing rays of light to seep through.

There’s no turning back from that point on. The crack got bigger every time I let my emotions run wild. Every laughter, every tears and every moments I felt so deeply for, progressively turned the protective bunker into ruin.

I cant say that my heart is absolutely free now, because it certainly isn’t. A heart that has been sheltered in the dark for too long needs time to recover, to wallow under the basking Sun and bath under the blinding beauty of light.

I’m learning to let go of my own heart, to let it roam and explore every nook and crook of every kinds of feelings. And ultimately, to feel because that’s how a graceful heart grows; by feeling naturally what it is supposed to feel.

All I can say is, there is definitely courage in being ‘soft’. In the words of Plato,

“Courage is knowing what not to fear.”

My courage is still budding, but I’m looking forward to the future, when I’m no longer afraid to feel; strongly, deeply and incandescently.

That being said, I’m acknowledging strength in a totally different perspective from my naive self back then. I can hear strength in an old woman’s calm voice whenever she re-called burying her own son, I can feel the strength of a Mother who is constantly forgiving her children who’ve wronged her and I can see the strength of people who’re struggling to destroy all shapes of demons in their lives.

Strength comes in different shape, forms and sizes, in tears and laughter, in silence and sound, in the ‘lost and found’ of life. And there is strength in each one of us, in our refusal to give up despite everything that has happened and in our battles for ever-lasting happiness. Truly, we are all stronger than we think we are.

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