Reunion … Alternate Title: Holy Crap I’m Old.

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Just this past weekend was my 10 year high school reunion, to which I actually made an appearance despite many fervent vows over the years that I, when the time came, most certainly would not. When I think of high school, I just think of awkwardness and lots of crying. I will let the following Daria memes do the talking for my overall thoughts on the whole experience, seeing as we were pretty much the same person. I even kind of looked like her when I didn’t wear my contacts.

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I put in a half-assed effort at mingling, but the real reason I was there was to see my core group of friends who I am still close with to this day. The golden opportunity of us actually all being in the same place at the same time was too good to pass up. The following day, I attended a baby shower for one of them with the rest of the squad, which is another thing that made me feel all awkward and adult-y.

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It is actually one of my life goals to never change a diaper even once, and I think I am putting in some good strides towards its achievement. I wish her all my love and the best though, and can’t wait to meet the little miniature version of my best friend sometime soon.

It’s funny to think about how completely 99.9% different we are after 10 years, but in some ways still so very much the same. This idea is something I touched on in my last post about my new project. You’re always going to have thoughts about the past like “I wish I would have known, I wish I would have done …” etc. etc., but putting some things in perspective early on never hurts. To conclude, I will leave any current highschoolers who may be reading this with some things I wish I would have realized that would have made the journey a little less tumultuous.

Not to use a cliche phrase, but you do you.

If you are naturally more introverted and are content to not be flapping your gums 24/7 during a school day, then don’t feel pressured to interject yourself into conversations just so that you look more “social” or “normal”. You will end up completely draining yourself. On the other hand, if you are aching to talk and get to know people but are holding back because you feel like you may say something awkward and embarrass yourself, don’t – just let it out. I mean, you totally will do it, that saying something awkward thing, but it happens to everyone and if you’re confident and can just laugh at yourself no one is going to give you a scarlet letter for it. By the way, you’re going to put your foot in your mouth plenty as an adult so you might as well practice up.

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Definitely work hard and do your best, but enjoy learning. Don’t overestimate the significance of high school as it plays into the rest of your life so that your only goals are to look good on paper.

Don’t waste your times on classes, clubs, or activities just because you feel like they somehow make you “look good.” Seriously, if I wouldn’t have spent every day coming straight home from school and going right down to the basement to draw until bedtime, I would not have the skills I have today in the field I actually ended up going into as a career. Having a long, exhaustive list of all this stuff that you do is only just that… a long exhaust(ive)(ing) list. Spend your time doing what you like. If that’s being involved in 15 different sports and after school clubs, then more power to you. If it isn’t, then don’t sweat it and don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re lazy just because you have different ways you like to spend your time. You’ll wish you had as much free time as you do now when you’re an adult with a full time job.

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Don’t obsess over having a date for formal dances.

Dates are boring. I had exponentially more fun during the homecomings I attended in a group with my single friends. You’ll have plenty of time for uncomfortable dinner dates as an adult, trust me.

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It’s ok to not be invited to parties. They aren’t that fun.

I know fomo can be rough, and as one who understands I have but one life to live and wishes to maximize the potential joy and newness of every moment, I still struggle with it hardcore to this day. But, I promise you, you truly aren’t missing anything. When you’re in your mid-20s, you will actually start making up excuses to avoid having to go to parties, because gigantic loud house parties filled with sloppy drunk people and bad music are tedious.

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And lastly, your hair doesn’t look bad.

No one is looking at you that closely, because in all actuality they are too busy obsessing over what their own hair looks like. I used to be hard-pressed to be out the door an hour and fifteen minutes after waking up for school, and that was with showering the night before and my mom making my lunch. Now, I get ready for work and am in the car in 20 minutes, and I don’t actually look like an ogre from outer space. Score!

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If you just aren’t feeling like high school is the “time of your life” it’s supposed to be, take solace in this … It’s basically all uphill from here.

Artists To Know! Installment 5

I know I promised sculpture in my next Artist To Know! post; I even had all the images picked and everything! But, with another semester of Express Yourself Artshop coming to a close, it seemed like a good time to share some of the empowering art about disability and mental health I’d been archiving. I hope these images encourage, inspire, and maybe get you to think a little differently about the people you encounter in your day to day life.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. – Wendy Mass

Carol Rossetti

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Kelly (inspired by this beautiful video – I implore you all to give it a watch. I never cry during touching videos but this one had me tearing up).

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I have been in love with Carol Rossetti’s “Women” project since I first discovered it. Since then, her incredibly personalized drawings have gone completely viral, and I’ve been seeing them everywhere in the great, vast world of the interweb! Her pieces highlight different women’s stories of judgement, with a response of affirmation from Carol herself below. Many of the stories are about women who have been judged based on their age, physical appearance, or life choices; but I’m so glad she also decided to include women with disabilities. Clicking the link on her name and also visiting her facebook page, which shows all of the stories, is worth a look. Some of the women’s stories I found myself nodding along with thinking “Oh my god, I know exactly how she feels!”, others were as far removed as can be from experiences I’ve had or decisions I’d ever find myself making. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We all have stories to tell, and judgement gets us nowhere, it just blocks our ears from reading and our eyes from seeing a new story different from our own. As well as hurting others, we miss out on reaching out and forming important connections.

Christian Hopkins

20-year-old Christian Hopkins says he was never good with words, which is why he loves communicating with pictures. He is studying biochemistry, but has had to take some health leaves due to severe clinical depression that he has dealt with for the past 4 years. This struggle is the subject of his photography. Though his work has gotten notoriety, Hopkins says photography for him is just a hobby, and a medium through which he can express himself. He has never had a single photography class or any form of instruction, which is pretty amazing when you see his intense, moving images. Using creativity as a means to come to grips with personal struggles, and explain parts of your life you find hard to talk about with others is something I wholeheartedly believe in, and one of the reasons I have such a passion for art. Creating is so much more than making pretty pictures.

Viktoria Modesta

This Latvian singer and model was born with a dislocated hip and leg. She endured terrible bullying at school because of her disability, and underwent 15 unsuccessful surgeries. She moved to London for better medical care, but still the surgeries she underwent didn’t help. Finally, weary of surgery after surgery that did nothing she convinced doctors to amputate her leg. She has never looked back. She has more confidence now after what she went through than she ever did, and is living her life doing exactly what she loves. She is the first widely known amputee pop star, and is paving the way for other talented individuals with disability to take their turn in the spotlight.

Steve Rosenfield

The tagline for Rosenfield’s powerful photography project is “Building security through insecurities”. Rosenfield himself didn’t start out in photography, but network administration. He describes how his former self of over a decade ago as “a very opinionated and materialistic person with a huge ego”. He never shared his feelings or insecurities, afraid that they would shatter his carefully constructed image, and this left a lacking in both his relationships and personal happiness. Fed up, Rosenfield began to “research” why he was so unhappy through reading and journaling, trying to get to the bottom of the lack he felt. When he found that the key was honesty, compassion and transparency, he quit his 9-5 to travel the world and start over. A friend he met in France got him into photography. In his series “What I Be”, subjects are exposing a side of themselves normally hidden from the world, and proclaiming “I am not my ____”. It isn’t about whitewashing over their struggles, but admitting that though they have these issues in their lives, the struggles do not define them. “I am not my amputation.” “I am not my cycle.” “I am not my fatness.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed another art immersion! Lastly, I’d like to leave you with some work from some super cool artists with disabilities that I know personally through Artshop, my wonderful students. We’ve had another great run :).

Adorable mixed media birds

Adorable mixed media birds

Bright watercolor flowers

Bright watercolor flowers

Cool collage mandalas

Cool collage mandalas

Watercolor tiger

Watercolor tiger

Naked no more! These bears have a snazzy new wardrobe thanks to the sewing class.

Naked no more! These bears have a snazzy new wardrobe thanks to the sewing class.

Redefining Pride, And The Daily Battle Of Artists.

From "One Thing To Say", 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

From “One Thing To Say”, 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

As someone who has always been interested in perception, how it is formed, and generally what makes people tick, I sometimes have to turn the tables on myself and question why I have the knee-jerk reactions to certain things that I do. It all started when I saw a little girl wearing a t-shirt that said “I love me” across the front in gigantic, metallic gold block letters.Wow, that’s obnoxious. I would never let my non-existent imaginary future-children wear something like that, went the immediate dialogue in my head. I’d seen shirts with variations of it, “I’m awesome”, etc at the stores lately and had a similar internal reaction. But the more I thought about it, couldn’t I have used a reminder at that age that I was pretty awesome? Most definitely.

I was very shy as a kid, anxious around new people and sometimes even around familiar people depending on the day. At about a .05 on the confidence scale, I constantly worried that if I did or said the wrong thing, the whole earth would explode (or something equally horrible would happen). By upper elementary, I felt like I wasn’t even worthy to talk to others in my class who were more outgoing or had a lot of friends. I felt like most people flat out didn’t like me, and it caused a lot of unnecessary heartache because really, I can count the times a fellow classmate said something bad about me on one hand. The only time I ever felt comfortable was in art class. I finally got to feel like a star, and I wasn’t afraid to mess up, like I was certain that I would everywhere else.

Most artists rage a daily battle with confidence. In order to get others’ excited about your art, you have to project the fact that you believe in the art form you are presenting, and that you know you’ve created something amazing. You have to exude excitement to share your craft with others before you can ever expect them to care about what you’re doing. Yet at the same time, real art, good art, is an extension of the artist themselves and a reflection of how their brain works and who they are as a person. Getting excited about ourselves can be really awkward. I cringed when I first saw that in the write up for one of my new classes I had been described as “The instructor, award-winning artist Allise Noble…” Why did I feel so uncomfortable being described that way? It’s not a lie, I have won awards. Why was I so embarrassed to be publicized? I’ve mentioned the book by Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking”, before. It deals a lot not only with asking for help and the journey of an artist; but with the struggle to recognize, yes, have the confidence, to call yourself an artist. She writes, “When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.” – isn’t that the truth? You’re not an artist until you say you are, and often times our own minds are the hardest to convince. It doesn’t help that pride is even, what, one of the 7 deadly sins or something? Yikes. Thanks a lot past humans, you guys have done a really good job at making confidence seem like a flaw rather than an asset. Now, no one likes an obtuse, conceited braggart who thinks they are better than everyone else (I’m looking at you, Kanye West). That is in no way what I’m advocating here, balance is always key. However, I think that the idea of pride being something so heinous and despicable, something to avoid at all costs, pervades our culture in a myriad of negative ways. Just look at the comments on any body positivity blog or human interest article where people submit instagram photos of themselves feeling beautiful. The fact that a bunch of women have the audacity to take a photo of themselves and say “Hey, I look damn good today,” is apparently shocking enough to send multitudes of normal folks into a blind, troll-y rage.

[There is bad language in this comedy sketch so if that will cause you unhappiness, I’d suggest not clicking play. My aim is not too offend anyone, but this clip made me laugh out loud when I first watched it because it so accurately pokes fun at the philosophy I’d just been thinking about. For those who don’t watch, I’ll summarize. You know that moment when you compliment someone i.e. “You look really nice today!” and they respond with “Oh, you’re so nice, I look like I just walked out of a smelly, steaming dumpster!” Have you ever gone against this unwritten social code and when someone compliments you simply said, “Thank you. This is my favorite outfit,” and seen the complimenter now give you the dirtiest look ever? That’s the gist. For some reason, this seems to mostly happen amongst women. Ugh, women… I know I am one, but seriously!]

Human beings are really good at creating false dichotomies. After all, if I see one more film where a main character that has ambition and cares about or *gasp!* actually gains fulfillment from their job portrayed as a greedy, heartless ice-queen/king I’m going to lose it. Not that that never happens, but it shouldn’t be treated as the norm because it isn’t. You can love your family, and love your job! Similarly, we all actually have the capacity to love ourselves and still love other people! The definition of self-love isn’t self-centered, because our love is not a pie chart where we only have so much to give and if we give too great a percentage of love to ourselves, there will be less left for other people. Actually, someone who goes around saying “I wish I was somebody different, I’m a failure, I’m worthless …” is going to be the worst at reaching out to other people and forming healthy relationships. More wisdom from “The Art of Asking”; “When you’re afraid of someone’s judgment, you can’t connect with them. You’re too preoccupied with the task of impressing them.” Pride may be a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I love who I am. I’m pretty darn awesome!” Whether it needs to be emblazoned across a shirt is a matter of opinion ;).