Iliya Zaki

Barry Tan, Shop-owner & Artist

“I think I worry less now, but I had a lot of struggles in the past. Growing up, I was fixated on the need to take up responsibility at home, the need to play the elder brother role, and the father role. I could not show that I was weak– that I was vulnerable. If I needed to cry, I had to do it softly or when I was in bed. I felt like I was trapped in a prison. This happened after my dad died. I felt like I had to be the family pillar. I took on this role unknowingly.

I was like that because I was stuck in a situation where I had no one to talk to about my illusion. I thought that being responsible was THE most important thing. It was a struggle because this wasn’t something we talked about at home. Everything that was stuck in my head was not mine to take on.

My dad died when I was 11, and I was 19 when I had the realization I needed to start changing. I had to choose not to be a victim of my own doing, to choose not to look at the negative side of things. I had to choose not to be too rigid, and to choose not to set myself up for disappointment by changing my perspective to 'you can only do your best, there is no perfect scenario'. I had to get out of my lower-vibrative perception, which is something like tunnel vision or like allowing yourself to live in an illusion– a perception of reality that doesn’t exist. When you want to be perfect, you are chasing a ghost because the meaning of perfection changes at every moment. Once I changed these principles, I got myself out of depression. I was able to peel away some of these illusions, to focus on what is essential. Once I peeled away these unnecessary layers, I realized that I was into photography, and I went deeper into that, into things that really mattered to me.

I won’t change my past because it made me who I am now. I think it’s not really about ‘getting out of a struggle’– because the moment you have free will, your struggle will always be there. Instead, we should focus on the process: the journey of living up to getting where you want to be. Struggles are a learning process. If I didn't have the opportunity to go through this learning process, I wouldn't have been able to get here.”