Thursday, October 30, 2008

Me at 19

all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

-- Peter Gabriel

This is me at 19 years old, my photo taken by my friend Lisa and fellow student at Parsons School of Design. It was taken in my apartment in New York City for an assignment that we had to do for our communication design program. It was before PhotoShop or any kind of accessible digital media. You can click on the picture to see a larger version. The photo is film from a SLR 35mm Fuji camera. The scratches and damage are real. I left them in because they tell a story. When we're 19, we are so uncertain and yet so cocky that we think we own the world. Simply, because we don't know enough about it yet. We think we're going to be able to maintain that level of being untouchable. We don't see the forthcoming scratches and damage that will alter our perception of ourselves.

I'm glad I have it. Digital media wouldn't reflect the passage of time. I look at this picture and remember it being taken like it was yesterday. Yet, it's completely foreign. She's completely foreign, that young little naif. I wonder what she'd think of me now. Then, I wonder if I care. I often get angry at my former self for not seeing the obstacles that caused that damage and those scratches in the paths I chose to take. Obstacles that are so obvious to me now. But, I guess that's the whole point of growing. You have to do it your damn self.

And here I am, wondering when I'll be able to look her in the eyes and tell her that I did right by her. My creativity and fire was rife then, even though I found it difficult to channel and many times that manifested in anger, rebellion and faltering in my studies. And, I had Titanic-sized anger (we all know what happened that that boat). At the people in Topeka, KS, at my parent's divorce, at a lack of feeling prepared for a creative education. For having to fight so hard to get to exactly where I was in that photo. Mostly, for not knowing how to handle it once I got there. Funny enough, when that was taken I was also working at American Ballet Theatre and had been assistant to Baryshnikov, or, was about to be that summer. I had so much to prove. I wanted my artsy New York experience right then and there.

I was lucky that my parents could afford Parsons and life in New York when I decided to win that fight. Back then, I wasn't as grateful for it because all I saw was the fight that I'd had to endure each day in Topeka against people who were clueless or discouraging regarding my goals. Which were, getting the fuck out of Topeka to New York where I could start living. It was a huge internal and external fight. There wasn't the Internet or anything that made things accessible. You were limited by what your bookstores, video stores and libraries decided to carry. And in Topeka, that wasn't much. But, I did it in spite of all that. By the time that I got into Parsons, I felt owed, almost as if I'd done enough already to just get there. I wish I hadn't felt that way, but I guess that's being 18, which I barely was when I started college.

Like today, I did have some great successes there. But, like today, they weren't consistent. I lacked the maturity to "get it." That difficulty in channeling my creativity to be productive hasn't changed to this day with many things that I do. Not due to a lack of maturity, but because of imagined or actual obstacles. But now, I have no one to blame but myself. There is no one stopping me from doing anything. I'm old enough to have learned the lessons on how to manage it. Now, it's not feeling owed, or that I own the world. It's deciding on whether I'm worth it. And, that's been the hardest thing to do in the last few years. Instead of the short-sighted dolts and limited resources in Topeka, KS, the struggle is against myself. Sure, my depression certainly plays into it. But again, I can identify that and do my best to work around it.

It's these unfinished creative goals that gnaw at me. Sometimes, I get terrified thinking that I'll never get to express that voice because I simply can't find a way around myself to do it. Even more frightening is the thought of just not caring anymore. That's the one that has risen lately and it's done two things. One, it's actually helped me in settling down and being able to create, as the pressure is off. The girl in that picture thought that everything she was rode on her creative execution and that if it didn't turn out just right it would bury her. I had to excavate myself out of a lot of self-dug holes because of that. I don't think that anymore. But, when you don't care, it's easier to well...not care and do nothing.

Thankfully, the anger and rebellion are under control. Sure, there are flare ups, but they aren't as destructive as they were back then. I can pretty much deal unless like in my last job where I was mislead about the position and subjected to insurmountable bullshit plus an intolerable working environment. I'm more raw now. A little less polite when that happens and unwilling to endure it. The scratches and damage have done their job, making me tougher when I need to be. I also have nothing to prove anymore.

The good thing is that I'm continuing to plow through. That 19-year-old wouldn't have done that. She'd have crumbled or self-destructed because she would have feared being seen as less than perfect, or not in control...or, "not knowing what she's doing." She needed a bit more wear and tear before being able to expose those imperfections in order to move to the next step. Before being able to sit down and understand that creating something unique from within yourself isn't easy or perfect. It's full of frustration, dedication, patience, flaws, moments of glory and moments of despair. It's feeling stupid, looking stupid and going into something knowing that you don't have all the answers and, that you'll be forced to find them once you've started the process. Moments of not caring, then digging deep to discover that you really do. And once you're done with that process, to keep going knowing there's going to be another one.

Lastly, understanding that even though I have the knowledge and tools to digitally correct the scratches and damage on this photograph, not feeling the need to do so.

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