I am flawed. You are flawed. No one alive exists without flaws. But some of us actually feel broken. This quote by Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in,” has really struck me. I’ve felt broken for as long as I can remember, with fleeting moments of certainty and wholeness that never last and leave echoes behind, tantalizing echoes of stable feelings and confidence. I am learning, however, that it’s my broken parts that allow the most wisdom to seep in. Without these breaks in my personality, life, experiences, mental health, what have you, I wouldn’t have learned what I’ve learned and accrued the emotional and intellectual knowledge that I have now, which I really wouldn’t trade for anything else.
For those of us that suffer from mental illness, it is very easy to feel like the cracks in our psyche are only negative. But they’re not. Being incredibly sensitive as a result of BPD can be a boon in the healthcare field and with friends and family because of increased empathy. People who’ve gone through miscarriages and other losses can relate to those people who are going through it now, offering support and a knowing word. If you’ve attempted suicide you can talk to someone who’s on the brink and tell them how you were where they were but it doesn’t have to end in tragedy: you’re still here so they can make it too.
The rarest collector’s items are often the flawed pieces, the unique ones, the ones that are different from all the rest somehow. We too as humans are collector’s items. The more different we are, the more cracked and weathered and experienced we are, the more valuable we become. Our experiences are additive: they pile on until we are walking troves of knowledge and wisdom. We are all experts at something. For me, it just happens that I am an expert at me, and there are so many people like me out there, that I feel like I can help them navigate the treacherous waters of mental health as I do and have.
To think of oneself as broken is to think that there is some ideal self out there. But Cohen has it right. It’s the cracks that allow us to absorb the light, to learn something, to become more than we are already. We will never be our ideal selves, nor should we aspire to be. We should aspire to be who we are, in all of its multifaceted and flawed glory. And to strive to accept that we are who we are, that no one is an ideal.
I am reminded of an old Apple campaign that took on the Beat generation.
“Think different,” was their tagline. It is the epitome of “cool,” an aesthetic that Apple has so well cultivated. But it is so powerful because it says to me that being different is desirable. Having cracks and scars and traumatic residue isn’t negative, though they can lead to negative feelings, but rather what makes us human and special.