“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
– Frida Kahlo.
When I first read the above quote about four years ago, I knew Frida was talking to me. I don’t quite remember how I came across this excerpt from her journal but it was probably on one of those late, sleepless nights I’d nurse my nostalgia by endlessly scrolling through my Tumblr timeline. Naturally, this was followed by hours obsessively poring through Frida Kahlo hashtags – images, quotes, basically anything and everything even remotely associated with Frida.
This woman was phenomenal, it’s no surprise she still has an almost cult-like following to date (Queen Bey included). I think people love her so much because despite all the pain she went through in her life – both physical and emotional – she did more than just survive, she thrived. She made art, and magnificent pieces at that. She’s become one of the quintessential images of a woman who embodies strength – a strong spirit despite her frail and aching body. A woman who didn’t define herself with her life circumstances – a survivor. An artist. Fully embracing the liberties that come with artistic expression – from her honest work depicting her real life experiences, to her personal style and choice of bold jewellery and facial hair – she would purposely darken her eyebrows and upper lip hairs – she lived her life to the fullest.
To give you a better understanding of her life, here is an excerpt of Frida’s life from Wikipedia.
Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán. Perhaps best known for her self-portraits, Kahlo’s work is remembered for its “pain and passion”, and its intense, vibrant colors. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form….
When Kahlo was six years old, she contracted polio, which made her right leg shorter and thinner than the left… On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was riding in a bus when the vehicle collided with a trolley car. She suffered serious injuries in the accident (you make skip the next few sentences if you have a weak stomach), including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. An iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, which seriously damaged her reproductive ability.
Although she recovered from her injuries and eventually regained her ability to walk, she was plagued by relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life. The pain was intense and often left her confined to a hospital or bedridden for months at a time. She underwent as many as thirty-five operations as a result of the accident, mainly on her back, her right leg and her right foot…
What I’m trying to say is if you can overlook the morbid and traumatic description of her life and see the woman that did more than just overcome her challenges instead, we can agree on a few things. The thing about life challenges is somehow you easily get overwhelmed and think you have no control over your life anymore. We get stuck in, ‘why is this happening to me’ and forget, instead, about ‘how can I fix this’. Because the truth is you have the power to fix whatever it is that is brought your way, it all starts in your mind. Whenever I read Frida’s story, I am humbled to tears just thinking of how this woman overcame all that life brought her way and became a legend in the process.
You may have heard so many times from your elders, ‘stop complaining about this and that, someone out there is wishing they had what you are complaining about’. Case and point – F to the mother loving – rida Kahlo. Be grateful for life. For health. Can you read, see, smell, breathe? Can you understand what I’m writing? Can you think? Be grateful for a healthy heart, an intact spinal chord. If you can read this, then you are more blessed than millions of others in the world.
My early twenties came with what seemed to be a sudden loss of control of time – everything seemed to be moving terribly fast and it seemed as though my luck was ‘running out’. It was all new, and everyday reminded me of this newness. There was no script, no high school teachers to grade homework on an almost daily basis – keeping track of my progress and calling my parents over to reprimand me if it seemed that my grades were declining even in the least. Increasingly, it became clear that and all I had to fuel myself was myself, and in all honesty, I struggled.