The Golden Map of a Warrior

Global Voices Essay Contest

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Published: Monday, 26 Jun 2023 Author: Sara Hila

This essay was written by Sara Hila, age 20, from Albania in response to the 2023 Global Voices Essay Contest in Central and Eastern Europe. Anna was awarded an honorable mention for this entry.

ResilieA woman with short dark hair wearing a black top poses for the camera with her head tilted to the side.nce, an invisible word that began floating around me at an early age, was unknowingly written in my personal and hidden dictionary. It is a subjective word, like most words, indeed, but this one holds a different significance to each person. I am writing this essay to reveal my special connection to this word, hoping to find others who rely on the strength this noun radiates. 

When I found out about the essay contest, I could not help but wonder: would I be able to write an essay that could move someone’s heart, or even for people to read it and for five minutes to sit quietly pondering what they read? Certainly, I doubted my capacities as a writer. It may sound silly as you read this, but small battles such as this one need a huge amount of courage and dedication to decide whether you would like to see your desires fulfilled and plans set in motion. Even when you ask a child what toy he would prefer for his parents to buy, he has to decide. To him, it matters a lot if he made the right choice or not, but to an adult it seems irrelevant. To a child with a simple childhood, at that point in life the choice of a toy could be his biggest hardship. This is how it begins for most humans: their relationship with resilience.

Rainer Maria Rilke once said, “Do not take my demons away, because my angels may flee too.” I do not remember where I have encountered this sentence, but I remember at what phase of my life I needed it most. During my childhood, life was not treating me as gently as I thought it would. My father was one of those people who needed something out of the ordinary to function, and he found love at first sight with a bottle of booze. Fortunately, this sort of thing did not seem to scar me, but, as usual, life had something hidden in a drawer, waiting for me to open it. The moment I did, it seemed as if the world crumbled down on my feet, and all there was left to do was pick up the pieces. 

Little by little, some of my childhood memories re-emerged during adolescence, and by the time the collection of those memories was complete, I discovered the harshness that this world had to offer. As a little girl, I always sat patiently and hoped for sweet murmurs of nocturnal calm to send me to sleep, but instead those nights were filled with piercing thunderbolts and wrenching smells. The smell of booze was my lullaby. When I was about eleven years old, my mother made the right choice of saving her child from the intoxicating grasp of a flushed monster who only came out during the night. The durability she built day after day from the moment she was born was my protection charm. 

Peers of mine were always telling stories of fatherly love as traditionally, for a girl, her first love is her father, but I found my everlasting love in the cosmos of literature. The greatest present I ever got was my first book, and the key to unlocking the literary world was gifted to me by the woman who gave me life.

Gradually, I became more and more dependent on the comfort books provided. I lost all connection to the outside world and immersed myself in pure imagination. Then a realization struck me, just as the rain pours down on you suddenly on a summer day. All writers find sense and purpose in the physical world. Why should I be any different? And so, I began my voyage in learning the skillful art of combining letters, forming words and sentences, smoothing the rough edges of life through writing. There is some serenity in the search for strength in your own words. The way my hand waltzes with a pen on the floor of the bare-page ballroom was the way I shaped my vulnerability.

Over the two decades that I have lived, I have faced numerous difficulties. Some were tolerable, others were so heavy that my shoulders felt crushed. I was humiliated, laughed at, and disgraced whenever I stood back up, tall and proud after every bitter fall. I gazed back at the cold abyss with rage, ready to face what was displayed before me, looking for salvation within myself rather than in external “poisonous remedies,” such as the simplicity the word “alcohol” offers. The hardest battle we will ever encounter is that of finding the motivation to act in moments of suffering. Our ability to endure grief, sorrow, and abuse is what makes us human. I will be eternally grateful to the destructive nature that lies within each person, for without it I would always be a bird without wings.

In Japanese, the word Kintsugi translates as "gold woodwork” and is also the process of repairing the cracks of broken objects with gold and restoring the pieces together. All humans have cracks in their soul, some fewer than others. We are all broken vessels mended with gold. Our strange-looking patterns carved in our flesh resemble a map, and every map leads to a destination. The journey is simply the road where we gather the resilience to enjoy the end of the line.