Making Peace With The Past.

by Patrick Liew on September 14, 2012

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 crashed. At least, at that point in time, 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 passionate 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, put on 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 wishing that the emotional trauma would just 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 future?

For a long time, I thought – that part of my life story has ended. 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, I was quick to forgive my teacher and forget about the emotional distress.

In fact, 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.

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.

As I continued on the journey of life with the other travelers, I realised many people are trapped in the past. They constantly relive past hurts and carry many emotional burdens and baggages.

When they are not at peace with the past, they will never be at peace with the present. If they cannot accept and appreciate the past, they cannot soar and succeed in the future.

The contempt of the past will eventually condemn their future.

Hence, I have been searching the deep recesses of my mind to recall and review the darkest experiences in my life, including even the hurts, the pains, and the sorrows.

I am mindful they were not random dots in my life – they were placed there for a reason. There are meaning and purpose for every experience even though I may not realised it at that point in time.

When I understand how these experiences were enjoined into an amazing blueprint, the past becomes a working tool for my future. It is a launching pad to live a full life and to live life at its best.

My story about 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 careers in this field.


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

As the CEO of a publicly-listed company, I have to learn how to cast a vision 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.

Being a leader, I have to help paint images on human hearts. If I don’t influence their hearts today with positive values, they may break our hearts tomorrow.

The clearer the vision and images, the stronger will be the impact on the people.   If they can see, hear, taste, smell and feel them clearly, it will have a stronger influence on them.

As I reflect on the negative experiences in my life, I have learned that we cannot change the past but we can choose to learn from and build on it. We may not forget a negative experience but we can forget the negative emotions associated with it.

It’s never too late to learn from the past so that it will help us make full use of the present and the future. When we let go of the negative emotions and baggages from the past, it will free us to run farther and faster in life.

The more we remove the pains from the past, the more we will increase the gains in the future.

When we choose to turn every negative experience into a positive experience, it becomes another beautiful memory. The sooner we do it, the larger will be our treasure cove of beautiful memories.

At the same time, we must continue to capitalise on the ‘here and now’ so as to further expand on this treasure cove. It will inspire us to live on a higher plane in life.

We should not only accept our past, we should be contented with it. We should not only come to terms with it, we should also be grateful and thankful for it.

We need to fall in love with the unique blessing of our past so as to love the present and to create a brighter future. When that happens, there will be a greater sense of serenity and pride and joy in our lives.

The past acts like a signpost to direct our path to the future. How we make use of it will influence our direction in life and its ultimate destination.

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

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at

For my opinions on current affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Please read them and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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