From Dust (Part Two)

Where were we? Ah yes, the pain of insecurity.

I’ve had a moment to think upon my thoughts, a little metacognizance if you will. And by that, I really mean I finally had a break down, got it pushed through my system and snatched a little help from my husband. We spent a decent amount of time walking, trying to get a new perspective on the situation, and while I’m not entirely sure that everything is honky dory, I can say that I am coming around to the understanding of all the things. So, with that in mind, let’s get to it, shall we?

When I think of myself, I think less along the lines of physical traits and more along the lines of character ones. So irrespective of how I look, I think of myself like a Disney villain-a little mystical, more than a little misunderstood. I volley between being reckless and being respectable. I’m a walking contradiction nine times out of ten and that’s simply my existence. I don’t mind it. I actually kind of revel in the chaos.

Anyway, I did a post about things bipolar people don’t want you to know (which got featured on The Mighty-read Here) and in it I speak of how those of us with bipolar often feel creative, but get distraught when we don’t reach the level of famous people with the same disorder. I frequently have that happen. And the past couple days were absolutely not an exception. I was listening to an album done by people with depression, anxiety and histories of self-harm while I sat in my room, wallowing in my own rejections.

I voiced these concerns to Ben, and I told him that just once I wanted to be a Beethoven (whose talent was appreciated while he was alive) instead of a Van Gogh (whose talent went under appreciated-and in fact not accepted as art-while he was alive). I kept saying it, each time I switched insecurities. I just wanted the all-important someone to point at my stuff and say: “Yep, that one. I want that one.” My novels, my music, my proposals, my applications. I just want someone to say something other than Not good enough.

And I know, I have the capacity to be that person. I mean, I sit here and tell people every day that they are more than the numbers on their scales, more than the way they compare themselves to others, more than the test scores, grades, life stories they have survived. And I am 100% sincere each time I say those things. But for whatever reason, when I say them to myself, it falls on deaf ears. And I asked my husband what was wrong with me.

He said words I didn’t expect, but we’re still exceptionally true: You’ll never be happy just accepting success. each thing you achieve, you’ll just say you were doing your job and brush it off. You just haven’t appreciated all your successes.

I can’t say that the moment he said it, I believed it. It’s been a day since, and I still am grappling with it. But the thing is, I can appreciate it differently now.

I still want to be a Beethoven. I want to be celebrated in my lifetime as someone worth knowing. I want people to look at me with more understanding than just “will that be all for you today?” And I don’t think I’m necessarily wrong for wanting that.

At 23, there are plenty of now-famous people who weren’t doing so great yet. And I know that. 

Some people are born with beauty and money and talent.

Some people must spend their entire lives fighting for what those people had at birth.

Neither path is wrong. 

I know one day all the little insignificant moments in my life will have led to somewhere. It may be awesome, it may be average, but only if I let myself think it is. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around things, but each time I keep trying, that’s the real form of success.

From Dust (Part One)

This little picture popped into my social media feed a couple days ago:


I read over it, had a little chuckle and then a complete meltdown. Just like that. Well, almost. I’ve got some stress in my life, sure, but nothing I hadn’t been handling. And all it took was one little capture of a tumblr post and suddenly I began to notice some insecurities.

I’ve been having a really hard time sleeping lately. I stay up til dawn, get up a little before noon and repeat. It isn’t that I’m not tired, it’s that I’m too tired. And the same thoughts eat away at my insides, day after day. I eat less and less each day, I drink more-mostly water and caffeinated beverages, as I try to stay away from alcohol. I’m trying to get into a new schedule to prepare for school. But it’s summer, and I’m dealing. That’s what I do, after all.

And how ashamed am I, that my walls could cave because of a picture I took a little too personally!

I was making a chess set yesterday, couldn’t get it to look professional and scrapped the entire thing. Deleted every story I had started, because I didn’t believe they were going to get me anywhere. Threw out several drawings I’d made because I couldn’t look at them anymore. Spent an entire day shuffling through music because I couldn’t find the joy in my songs.

And that was the tip off that I wasn’t in a good place.

I used to get in trouble as a kid quite often because I couldn’t deal with silence so I would hum. It’s gotten me warned during tests, it’s gotten me picked on and laughed at. But ever since I can remember, music has been my fortress. If I could sing, if I could hum, the darkness would not get to me. No matter if I was manic or depressed, music saved me. And yet, I was silent.

So while I laid in bed waiting for the moment I’d fall asleep, I fell into a depression instead. 

Every single thing I’d ever made, crafted, involved myself in or otherwise attempted artistically came into question. And I found myself completely and utterly ashamed. I thought I’d listen to an almost-out album by some of the members of Supernatural’s cast (Jason Manns-Covers With Friends) and immediately started crying. I was listening to beautiful music created by ultra talented individuals who had careers doing what they loved and were successful at. 

And I didn’t feel like I had any worth at all.

I’ve gotten rejected from everything artistic I’ve tried.

I auditioned for the school of music when I started college. Rejected.

I wrote a novel! And sent it to agents. Rejected.

I wrote another novel and sent that one in to agents. Rejected.

I wrote a children’s book. Sent it in to agents. Rejected.

I tried my hand at slam poetry for a scholarship. Rejected.

Tried to sell homemade soaps, lotions, and even offered to make theme songs for a buck. Rejected.

I tried to tell myself that it didn’t sting. That there was something bigger and better waiting for me ahead. That the doors that were closing were only doing so so that I’d keep my “eyes on the prize”.

I don’t believe my own bullshit anymore.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up for the President’s Prize. Because the odds are against me. I’m trying not to get my hopes up for law school. Because the odds are against me. But I don’t know where that exactly leaves me and I guess that maybe that’s part of the problem.

The way my life worked out in my head is that I would go to law school, become a lawyer. I’d write books on the side so I could make my student loan payments and afford the things I can’t right now. When all my debts were settled, I thought I’d use my skills to work my way up the system and make a real difference in the world. 

But what skills do I even have? I’m absolutely ordinary. And that hurts more than it should. I say the words “I know I’m just one person” more often than I probably need to but I don’t think I’ve ever really believed it. I’ve always believed I could change the world.

But can I? Is that something which is simply unattainable for me? Is it reserved for the beautiful people, the people with connections and money? The people who don’t have to worry about how to cover bills, what’s useable from the discount carts? The people who are whole? Without an illness?

I came face to face with my own reality and I can’t accept it. I can’t accept that I feel so deeply, care so much and see so much beauty and pain all for nothing. And yet, that’s my reality. That’s my life. 

And it hurts so fucking much.

(Part Two coming tomorrow. See how the story resolves then.)

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.