Chinatown was the antithesis of my standard for beauty.
As a kid, I had a restrictive principle for what was to be appreciated. I thought only glamorous objects or places deserved attention. To me, beauty was a puzzle of expensive materials, revealing a clean image for everyone to admire.
Yeah… that was not Chinatown.
Chinatown does not dazzle with lavish materials; Chinatown is well… old. It’s rich in grittiness from the long years of use. It is a concoction of various smells that doesn’t leave a pleasant impression. Chinatown was just not for me. However, eventually I learned to shed this ignorant perception, unveiling a new insight on not only Chinatown, but beauty.
I think it was either 8th or 9th grade when the “aesthetic movement” gained momentum on the internet. The term “aesthetic” was not restricted to one appearance, but fluctuated between various ideals. Ranging from minimalism, indie, edgy, and other aesthetics; it felt like anything could be considered beautiful.
For real though.
At that time (and even now), people would take pictures of the most random things for an “aesthetic.” From images of random book pages, to shadows on people’s limbs, and other extraordinarily simple things, people still considered it to be instances of beauty.
When I was in a middle school, I desperately wanted to be seen as “cool,” so I dove right in the movement. It was with that hope to fit in, that changed my perception. I began thinking that anything could be considered “aesthetic.” I started to believe beauty was everywhere, even in the most simplest aspects of life. It was this newfound belief that changed me. I learned that beauty did not lie in a single, glamorous, appearance, but fluctuated. Beauty is variations of appearances, but all equally stunning.
And with that mindset, I recognized Chinatown for all its beauty it contained. From the gritty walls, worn out floors, and muted colors, I saw that it pieced together a beauty of its own. A strong one. Despite the years of immigration, fires, and events that it experienced, it is still here. No matter what treachery was imposed, it still found its way back up; even when it was burned to ruins twice.
So, if you could take anything away from this, it is that beauty is not a single, restrictive standard, but is everywhere. Beauty surrounds us and overwhelms us, it is only up to you to recognize it.