The Broken Vase Theory

During my sophomore year of high school, I felt like I had lost everything: my childhood home, my old high school, my church, my friends. The foundation I built was pulled out from under my feet and I had to start all over again. After a disastrous first day at my new school, I completely broke down; I felt alienated. I attended my appointment at My Secret Garden Counseling Center early on a Monday morning. The therapist, who specialized in play therapy, asked me to draw a vase however I wanted. I added flowers and colored them with the Crayola coloring markers she provided; my inner child was released.


She complimented my toddler-style art and asked how I feel about my vase. I told her that despite my lack of artistic ability and using up 20 minutes of our one hour appointment time, I was very proud of my work. But like everything I knew and was comfortable with that was torn away from me, she ripped it to shreds, showing that my vase is shattered. The strips of paper were shards of my broken vase. She then asked what I would do with it now after breaking something I put so much effort into. I told her I feel like doing nothing; the damage is done and I want to leave it alone.


She told me that I had these options: doing nothing, not throwing it away, and sweeping it under the rug are all valid, but how long would I go on not dealing with the remains? How long would I pretend the vase isn’t broken? What would I resolve by keeping a broken vase? I could try putting the pieces back together, but the vase would never be the same; there would still be cracks and it would barely be held together by glue. However, she offered me a different option. She asked, “Why would you spend time on trying to salvage something that is already broken?” Accepting and dealing with the breakage is the first step in building oneself anew to be more resilient; this is the Broken Vase Theory. The breakage is only part of the process of becoming stronger.


She gave me a strip of my broken vase as a reminder. I slipped the shard into the cover of my binder as a constant reminder. This piece of encouragement--- this shard of my broken vase--- is what got me through the rest of the school year. It gave me the courage to make new friends; it gave me strength to push through late nights of projects and essays. As I moved it from binder to binder, this single shard helped me get through the rest of high school. All of my hindrances from that time have passed, but I face new ones everyday. The Broken Vase Theory becomes more relevant as I grow up and face more real-world issues. The theory taught me how to grow mentally as I grow physically.


-Gabrielle Punzalan

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