All you can bring is your backpack

This is what my mom said, as she woke me up at 3:00 am one summer night. I was 10 years old and we were living in Poland. These were the 80s and Poland was a Communist country. I got up as I was told. Packed a doll, a few books, colored pencils, sketch pad, and a summer dress, with blue stripes and little boats on it. Then off we went into the night. I didn’t know where we were going. I was told to be quite and avoid making noise. Once we were on the train to Warsaw, I was told that we were going on a vacation.

Nothing is forever. Suddenly everything can change.

I was unaware that my parents were escaping Poland that night. Everything I packed in my small back pack in a rush to leave, was all that I was taking with me on this mystery journey. I had no way of knowing that as of this night my life would never be the same.

My parents couldn’t tell me what was really happening, because if for any reason I were to slip and reveal their plan, we could have been thrown in jail or, who knows, even worse.

Capturing the picture in my head.

When I picture that night, I remember darkness; a lot of it. My head was filled with questions. I didn’t know where we were going and why I was being woken up in the middle of the night. It bothered me that there was so much secrecy surrounding this trip. None of it felt natural. I felt scared, yet excited at the same time, because there was something unusual in the air.

Start of a Journey

Trying to capture one moment from that night, I chose to create this picture, called “Start of a Journey”. As this blog is also a start of another journey for me, I thought this would be a very fitting way to begin.

Start of a journey

Typically I like to fill my illustrations with bold colors that energize my pictures. I enjoy energy; especially positive energy. And I like when my art inspires positive feelings and happiness in others. As such, I typically choose colors that stimulate a pleasant mood. These include bright reds, oranges, electric blues, and light shades of green. However, in the case of this illustration, I chose a very somber palette, unusual to my style; a lot of dark colors in unattractive shades of brown.

The figures are my parents and myself as a child, being pulled and slightly dragging my feet, suggesting hesitation. We’re wearing bright colors, because we are filled with hope. Hope for a better future is driving us to take make this journey. We’re walking towards a train, but it’s hard to tell because from my angle I only see the bottom portion of the train and a large number two written on the wagon. The number two stands for “second class”, suggesting that as refugees, we’ll be often treated as second class citizens who are trying to find our second home.

Let go and embrace change.

Sometimes I look back on that deciding moment during my childhood and relate it to life in general. Life can change at any moment, you can’t always anticipate the direction it will take. Letting go and adapting to change can not only help you open the doors to new experiences and even a better life, but moving on can help you grow and evolve.

In my case, as difficult as it was to leave our family and friends, home, familiar environment, language, and our entire life behind, eventually we ended up being better off. We built new friendships, we bought a new home, we learned a new language, we build a better life that suited our needs. We eventually found happiness.

This is not to say that it was easy. Anything that matters, is not easy. In fact, the beginning was brutal. It was one of the toughest things I experienced. Escaping through the heavily-guarded borders at night, living the life of a refugee, sleeping on benches at the train stations, not having a home, not understanding the language, not having a job or a school to go to. That was rough and there were days that we wanted to turn around and go back. Something however told us to keep moving forward. So we did.

You can always build again.

Starting all over again was scary, but without taking that risk, my family probably wouldn’t accomplish as much as we did by taking a chance and leaving behind what we have outgrown.

The lesson I learned very early on, is that holding on to something you have outgrown, only prevents you from growing and evolving yourself. And even though you’ve invested years on building something, don’t be afraid to let it go. Remember, you can always build again. And no, probably it will not be the same, but who knows, it might be better in the end. In fact even if it isn’t, you can always build again, and again. And each time you build, you learn to be a better builder. And no, I am not referring to building a house or a structure; I am referring to learning how to solve and overcome problems to build a better life. So don’t be afraid to let go, learn how to be a great builder, because nothing is forever. But if you know how to build, you’ll at least know what to do when faced with loss or a challenge.



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