I Was Once Crushed In My Spirit…

by Patrick Liew on August 20, 2019

I Was Once Crushed In My Spirit…

Have you ever felt so crushed in your spirit that your entire being just shut down? You wanted to cry but the pain was so deep that it could not reach the tear ducts?

I had such an experience many years ago. More specifically, I was 11 at that point in time and it happened during an Arts lesson in school.

When I was a kid, I loved to draw. In my wildest moments, I even harboured dreams that I could one day be an artist.

When I was in Primary Five, all the students in the school were invited to submit a drawing to support ‘The Rugged Society,’ a national campaign ran by the Singapore Government. I won the second prize for it.

My grandmother who was largely responsible for bringing me up used to say, “When Patrick draws a frog, you can almost hear croaking sounds coming out from it.” But then again, I was her favourite grandchild.

When I was in Primary 5, my dream of being an artist almost crashed. At least, at that point, I never wanted to paint a single picture ever again.

During a drawing lesson, our class was told to design the cover of a photo album. We were told that the best paintings would be put up on the notice board at the back of the class.

I was very excited about the assignment and must have done a fair bit of research in preparation for it. I took a lot of trouble to design a very elaborate cover.

When I finally put brushes on paper, I was overflowing with passion. In that span of time, something strange happened.

I felt increasingly alone – the surroundings was gradually disappearing – and I was pouring out my creative juices to create what to me would be an ultimate masterpiece.

It was as if the artistic forces of the our Creator had taken hold of my young hand, bringing the painting stroke by stroke to life.

When the painting was finally completed, I felt a great sense of joy flooding my creative soul. I was so proud of my work.

Then an idea struck me: Why not dedicate the fruit of my artistic labour to my beloved Papa.

I came out with what I thought was an original idea.

I took a passport photograph of my Papa, one which I have always kept in my school bag and I carefully stuck it on the centre of my painting.

I then put on the finishing touches and as I was doing so, I could not help admiring my painting. At one point, my trance-like state was shaken by a chuckle.

While I was deep in my thoughts, I did not realise my Arts teacher had approached my seat and was standing right besides me. He had looked at my painting and decided to pass what he thought was a funny joke.

“Your drawing looks like the front of a lorry, decorated for funeral purposes. It has a photograph on it too.”

At that very moment, I felt like a huge truck had rammed into my heart. A deep pain pierced right through every part of my being – right through my heart, soul and spirit.

I felt like my life was imploding, collapsing into a dark abyss.

Within moments, my whole being had virtually shut down.

I stood up, carried my school bag, and picked up my painting.

I walked to the waste paper basket, oblivious to the class which was by then almost frozen and everybody was keeping a ghastly silence. I was sure all eyes were on me and wondering what I would be doing next.

I did not tear the painting nor did I stuff it into the waste paper basket. I just left it on top of the basket.

I walked straight towards the door and left the class. Not for a moment did I turn around, as if I was hoping that the emotional trauma would just disappear and be left behind me.

I did not cry and that made the experience even more painful and unbearable. That morning, I felt the weight of a huge emotional boulder on my young heart.

If you asked me what happened after I walked out of the class, I would tell you in all honesty, I don’t know. It was a complete blank even until today.

I probably asked myself, Why did it have to happen to me? How will I face the others? What will happen to my life in the days ahead?

For a long time, I thought that part of my life story should have ended. The file was closed.

More than 40 years later, I realised the story continued and there was a beautiful outcome from it.

I have digressed. I’ll come back to the good news later.

The beautiful thing thing about being a child was that I did not hold the heart-wrenching experience at heart. I did not let it continue to hurt me.

I also did not harbour any grudge against my teacher. There was no resentment or hatred and even if there was Au negative feeling, I was quick to forgive my teacher and forget about the emotional distress.

Every teacher joined the profession knowing full well it was not for money, power, fame or glory. They became teachers because they knew that they could play an important part in influencing students, the leaders of tomorrow.

I was told that if we don’t win the students’ hearts today, they will break ours tomorrow. If we don’t shape them properly today, they will not be able to shape a better world and future for all of us.

Back to my story. that teacher subsequently became one of my favourite teachers. He played a huge part in moulding and shaping me during my formative years.

For many afternoons, some of us stayed back in school to carry out all kinds of co-curricular activities under his supervision, coaching and guidance. We had lots of fun and a wonderful time with him.

Among all the teachers I had in primary school, he had the greatest positive influence on me.

I was thankful that I did not allow a negative experience to dim my view of life. I was able to overcome this and other setbacks and build on them to become a better person.

My aspiration for becoming an artist has not ended. It continued until today.

I have two beautiful daughters and both of them are artistically-inclined. They are following their hearts and pursuing different and careers in the creative industry.


I am still a budding artist (Hey! Stop laughing). Please let me explain why I’m what I called a 5th dimensional artist.

As a business leader, I have to learn how to cast visions in the minds of my team mates. If they don’t know where I plan to go to, they will not want to follow me.

I have to help paint images on human hearts.

Like a teacher, I know if I don’t influence my people’s hearts today with positive values, they may break my heart tomorrow.

The vision and images that I paint are just as exciting as any painting on a canvass.

I endeavour to help the people around me see, hear, smell, taste and feel clearly the direction of our team and our glorious future together.

The clearer the vision, the more effective will be the implementation in turning the vision into a reality.

Through this heart-wrenching experience, experienced at a young age, I learned that potholes, puddles, and pitfalls on the journey of life can be turned into platitudes, pillars, and platforms for sustainable success.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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