Four years ago, I dropped something of utmost importance. Today, I picked it up again, and the incessant waves of regrets drowned me. If I could rewrite one part of my past, then it would be urging my younger self to not let go of this art, 书法 (Chinese calligraphy).
“王老师好。四年不见!” I was stoked to meet my shifu once again after four long years. His calligraphy class was bustling with ardent students, too many new faces, only two people I still recognised, an aunty and an uncle, whom I did not know by name but by face, they had been there since very long, even before I joined this art. They were strong at their game, but I neglected this art for four years, and today, I was deemed to suffer the consequences.
“差点认不出你，” we exchanged handshakes, pangs of unduly pain emerged inside me, but a old-found passion reignited in me. “来！坐。” I sat promptly, set my red paper bag that was with me four years ago, nostalgia was the word to describe this, but this feeling was rustic yet anew, I felt something, like I was somewhere, a place that I belonged to.
When I was 10 or 11, I had a hunch to pick up calligraphy, I did not know why did I start to learn, but slowly, I started to fall in love with doing so, writing calligraphy. After a year of writing those square words (楷书), my shifu introduced me to a freestyle way of calligraphy (行书).
I was in love, words could not describe how fond I was to writing this freestyle calligraphy, it was like I was taking my brush to a walk down artistic lane, weaving lines together in one stroke, contrasting the bold, sturdy lines with the waned out, powerful brushes.
I picked up 行书 off a whim, my basic (楷书) was not quite firm, but I could create wonders with my style and atrocity. At that time, I was (self-claimed) prodigy, my level was half of what my shifu had, which was way above average for my peers and even hitting the border average of those calligraphy masters. 入木三分 is used to indicate a very pro calligrapher, me.
Competitions started to fill up my days to come, I entered a handful of calligraphy competitions. Every time I entered, I would be sure to get a prize, disregarding how bad I tried. Consequently, if I used 楷书 to write instead of 行书, I would either way earn myself a spot in the prizes.
Here comes the calm before the storm. I was winning too many times, my ego inflated, gotten over my head. Consistently, I was boasting about my pro calligraphy, showing-off whenever I wanted to, and yes, I became an asshole quicker than I could realise. I was focusing too much on those competitions, and forgetting about being humble. That was what brought me down, myself.
Even when I got the smallest prize in any competition, my work would get the most attention, because my 行书 had certain personality, it was alive. People would throng to my work, snap pictures, ignoring every other works of the competition. My shifu thought I was going to take wings and fly, truly I flew too high for quite a while. My works was sold by my shifu, and even exhibited. That peaked my ego.
POP! There went my ego when I lost a determining competition. One lost, a stupid mistake, I broke the rules. I wrote horizontally instead of vertically, they disqualified me instantaneously. I still remembered the words of that faithful day I lost me, myself.
We are sorry to announce that one of the contestants has written spectacularly, exceeding the standards of most adults in our midst, but unfortunately, this high-school student broke one of our rules, we have to disqualify him.
That popped my ego, my passion, my everything.
I lost, literally.
The experience hit me like a meteor crashing into the face of Earth, I stopped touching my calligraphy brush, I threw away all my past works, but I kept the red paper bag containing my brush, ink, and the essentials to this art.
“真的很可惜，要从零开始。” pity me, need to start all over from zero. What he said was true about my writings after four long years. My structure of words was way off, the wholeness of my writings were like a pile of shit, everything was going sideways except my trusty old calligraphy brush, six years old (if I’m not mistaken) which had been through countless competitions with me, and brought me to the peak of what a 13-year-old could. Now, this old friend and my shifu will have to guide me back to the light.
I wrote for two hours straight without looking at the clock. My mind was somehow restored, rejuvenated, replenished as if I was back at somewhere comfortable.
“写好的书法是你以后的一把刀。” Good calligraphy is akin to a knife in your future. My shifu told me this after the two-hour class. He told me about my misconception about the young me had made four years ago, urging me to continue this art.
My rationale behind coming back to learn calligraphy is to keep in touch with Chinese language, and to pick up the knife, the old knife that can potentially set myself free from the daily grind, granting me more patience and the peace of thoughts.
I cried on my way back home after the calligraphy class. I truly regretted about my rash decision on giving up calligraphy in my early years of life. Writing calligraphy, in that two hours, I felt a missing piece of me attaching itself back into me, the feeling of being at home.