The wet, cold clay felt good between my fingers. The caramel-colored material spun, twisted and turned between my hands. I took a deep breath and focused on the monotonous rumbling of the pottery wheel, the sound and the feeling of the running mechanism ingrained into my mind, my soul, my existence. I had been sculpting pottery for as long as I could remember. The familiar rotation of the potter’s clay between my hands gave me comfort and a sense of ease, as if I could keep sculpting and sculpting and everything would be okay in the end. The practice made me feel like I could stay in my crafting room forever, sculpting my life away.
Life. The word was fascinating. Who knew that one word could hold so much meaning, so much love and happiness, yet, so much pain and hurt all at once? I reflected on my life, so far, my hands instinctively shaping the clay as it turned with the wheel. Then, I made the connection; the 2 puzzle pieces snapped together in my mind, the gears started turning in my brain, reminding me of the turning of the pottery wheel in front of me. I realized I was suppressing my lump of clay from forming, pressing my hands against the top of it.
This reminded me of the beginning of someone’s life. When you’re just a small seedling, ready to make your way into the world and explore, learn and grow. A baby was like a lump of clay: a cute beginning with an immense amount of potential, ready to be shaped by the people and environment around them.
I remember my parents telling me that my first word was “love”.
Next came the shaping; where this lump of goodness would be placed in the center of the wheel of life, the days turning into nights while the world and wheel spun in unison, as one. The people around this infant, started to shape its understanding of the world by teaching the baby their ABCs, teaching them how to read and write and play. Or, in a metaphorical case, the sculptor running his/her hands along the turning clay, the person getting a feel for the material before they started to mold this lump into a stronger item.
I remember my parents enrolling me in a junior soccer team when I was 5. My little mind instantly fell in love with the sport.
Life was going smoothly. The child was growing as it should, slowly starting to understand the world around them, why the grass was green and the sky was blue, why caterpillars turned into butterflies and why the leaves turned color in the fall. The child started to ask questions, becoming curious and fascinated by the world around them and becoming eager to understand the mysteries of this world. Meanwhile, the lump of clay was forming. The sculptor’s hands pulled the clay upwards, elongating the material. Then, the sculptor pulled back down and pressed their thumbs against the sides of the clay, making it wider and flatter. They repeated the process of deconstructing any changes in shape and making new ones; experimenting with different shapes, textures and sizes before they started to get a final piece in their mind.
I remembered when my parents got me my first bike. I fell in love with the funny-sounding horn, the wicker basket attached to the bike handles and the beautiful violet paint job.
But, of course, life wouldn’t be life without a few bumps in the journey, a few surprises, and a few changes. The child matures into a young adult. They are aware of the world around them and they are grateful for the love of their family and friends. Yet they seem uneasy, like the worst is yet to come. They’ve started to change mentally, physically and emotionally. They’ve been told it is all part of growing up, but they still feel like they aren’t normal, like they are an exception in this world. They move forward, hesitantly, but nonetheless they keep their head up high and try to accept and embrace whatever comes their way.
Right when the sculptor gets the right idea in mind for this little piece of clay, something happens. A distraction. One little thing makes the sculptor turn their attention elsewhere and suddenly their lump of clay is off course.
I remember my 17th birthday when my parents bought me my own car; a brand-new black Subaru.
The clay is squashed.
I drove myself to my first soccer tournament of the season the day after. The truck came out of nowhere.
Horns blared. I heard shouts in the distance. I tried to swerve the car to avoid the impact, but it was no use.
I woke up in the hospital. I couldn’t feel my legs. I would never feel them again.
My mom cried when we found out I would be confined to a wheelchair the rest of my life. We tried rehabilitation, but it was no use. I accepted the inevitable and took up a new hobby, a new passion, a new drive.
Now I sit here in my wheelchair reflecting back on the events of my life, still shaping the same lump of clay that started it all. I remember my boyfriend, who’s downstairs if I need him. I remember my parents who are a phone call away, if I need them. The clay is forming into something distinguishable; a short, stout pot. I realize that I am becoming more distinguishable as well. My personality, my passion, my family, and friends; they all played a key part in shaping my life.