A full circle

3 Faces / An original illustration by Valentin Cheli 

The Japanese say you have three faces. The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and your family. The third face, you show to no one. It’s the truest reflection of who you are.

I must confess: I haven’t been very honest with you, or as a matter of fact, with myself in the last few years. I’m telling you this because something interesting happened to me earlier this year, but in order for it to make any sense, I have to take you back to the beginning.

Growing up, I had a childhood best friend. Like two peas in a pod, we were virtually inseparable. But seven years ago, I moved abroad and slowly we grew apart, until eventually, we lost touch.

From time to time, I’d catch myself wondering about him…

Is he well, is he happy..?
How did we drift so far apart..?
How come we both never reached out..?

All of my questions were put to rest when he showed up at my doorstep out of the blue, eight months ago. You know those friends whom you have not seen for ages but you just pick up where you had left off when you finally meet again? He was one of those.

We renewed our connection by reminiscing about the old times and sharing our new dreams and aspirations for the future. The bond was as strong as ever, there was no question of it. But it was palpable that a new, ineffable distance has emerged between us.

It’s a strange sensation…to simultaneously feel distant from a friend and to feel at home with a stranger.

We never really talked about his plans. On my part, I was just happy that he was here. I’ve missed his rakish confidence and irreverent humor, and more admirably, his effortless ability of not taking life too seriously. I had forgotten how easy it was to be around him.

Despite my efforts to be present, I was mentally preparing for his departure. The irony wasn’t lost on me — Here’s someone whom I’ve wanted to hang out with for the better part of 7 years, and now that he was here, I was traveling into a future without him.

I woke up one morning and that was it. Two months and no goodbye. I’m okay with it. We were never really good at that anyway. I suspect I might not see him again. At least not like this.

Everyone deals with losses in their own way. I’ve never been that type of person who mourns loss, I prefer to celebrate life for happening.

Before he came back, I have been describing the last seven years of my life as my lost in wilderness years. A journey of exploration where I’ve lulled into the unknown by a voice that kept calling out to me. As I wandered into uncharted territories, I saw places I never knew existed and learned about things I never knew were possible.

I’m not going to lie, I was often gripped by frustration and paralyzed by fear. Days on end, I would feel as if I was walking around in circles, making no meaningful progress in my expedition. Seemingly stuck in a loop like a broken record.


The same few questions would arise repeatedly…

What am I doing out here?
Is that voice I hear really there?
How do I know what I know is true?

At some point it was hard to discern fact from fiction. Why didn’t I turn back? I don’t know. It never occurred to me that was an option. I wanted to know. No, I needed to know.

Throughout the entire journey, I believed that when I look back upon my life, this will be one of the most treasured phases of my life. I drew from that well when the going got tough.

Shortly after he left, I realized that I had been telling myself only one side of the story: Mine. All this time, I always thought that we went our separate ways. The truth is he had always been there, waiting patiently for my return.

Being around him, I felt home again for the first time in seven years. But I realized that it was not because of him, it was because I finally came home to myself.

Here’s something I’ve told almost no one. For the past seven years, every time I’ve looked into the mirror, I have struggled to recognize the person staring back at me. It’s a most peculiar sensation. To feel dislocated from the very core of your own being.

The truth is, we often hold onto the past because we are afraid of what we might become if we surrender to the future. Into the unknown. But if we want to move forward, we cannot keep looking back.

For a long time I thought that one could only exist if the other didn’t. I was wrong. Out in the wild, I strayed so far away from the past that my frayed mind led me to think I was walking on a completely different path.

“The Eyes are Useless When the Mind is Blind. “ — Unknown

In reality, there is no separation. There was never one. It was both ends of a long rope. And when they met, the loop was closed. A reunification of the highest order, at the deepest end.

At long last, I’ve reconciled with what I’ve been holding on to — my past. I’ve tamed the beast. Closure must be one of the most cathartic experiences humanly possible.

Why now? I don’t know. Just as my instincts drove me to leave then, my intuition have been compelling me to come back.

Did I find what I was searching for? I’m not sure.

I believe that everything in life happens for us at exactly the time it needs to happen, in order for us to become the person we need to become.

Time is a mystery, that’s part of her appeal. I know she will reveal her wisdom in time to come. She always does. Until then, there are so many stories from my time wandering in the wilderness that I can’t wait to share with you.

It’s the dawn of a new phase and now is the time to arrive.

Are you ready?


My gratitude to Denisse Ariana Pérez and Guy Vincent for providing their invaluable feedback and thoughts on the drafts of this piece.

Special thanks to Valentin Cheli for the original illustration + Dora Visky for animating it.

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