- I am an emotional.
- I am a quiet and reserved.
- I am an over thinker.
- I am introverted.
- I feel deep.
- I fall hard.
- And I am extremely guarded.
I have lived most of my life resenting these things about me because I thought they were all working against me, not for me.
I was criticized for crying over everything. I was always compared to others. I was always told that I’d be prettier if only I smiled.
I hated that I over thought everything. I hated that I sought recognition and acceptance. I hated that I always felt misunderstood.
But what I hated the most was the hurt. Being let down. Felt like I didn’t matter. Having my feelings and emotions dismissed.
And finally, always being asked ‘what is wrong with you?’
Let’s take a quick second for a PSA on what NOT to say to the little people in your life such as your kids.I cannot stress enough how detrimental this statement is to a fragile growing little mind.
Don’t ask them “what is wrong with you.” Don’t accuse them of “having something wrong with them.”
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM. or YOU.
So, I learned very quickly that I feel everything extremely deep and it is the easiest way for people to hurt me. And I did not like being hurt so it made shutting off my emotions and never being vulnerable a very easy thing for me to do. If I didn’t feel, I wouldn’t hurt. Great logic right?
My ability to present myself as an emotionless stone was surprisingly very simple. Extremely unhealthy, but simple. The longer I did this, the easier it became and before I knew it, it created the great continental divide. I was at war with myself and didn’t even know it. I was constantly separating everything into two very different areas in my brain. There was logic that will get your through life and there was your heart that would get you eaten alive. This created a huge disconnect between my heart and my head.
The Japanese believe people are made up of three faces:
Except I had one face I presented to the world including friends and family and one face I tried to hide even from myself.
The further I withdrew the more of a shell I became. I was empty and I was numb. Nothing bothered me. Nothing excited me. I was just existing, going through the motions. This was fine for awhile and then suddenly it wasn’t. Everything I suppressed was inching closer and closer to exploding.
I avoided connection. I kept my friends and family at arms length. I could not drop my guard and I always had to be prepared. I avoided hard questions. I shy’d away from attention. I kept pouring from an empty cup. And the worst of all, I perfected the art of pretending everything was perfect. I didn’t lie and I didn’t make up any stories, I just simply didn’t say anything and when asked how things were, they were always ‘fine’.
I fought this battle internally, subconsciously, and alone for a very long time. I was so oblivious to this battle I didn’t even realize how much it was affecting my mental and emotional state. The one thing I have finally come to realize is ‘you can always run, but you can never hide”.
Your demons will find you and they will force you to acknowledge them.
So I began this journey of earning a Masters of Fine Arts Photography degree (MFA) and this was ultimately when my demons decided they’d make themselves known and demand they be confronted.
I applied to grad school because I could. I wanted to earn a degree without the pressure or need for it to land a career. I wanted it for me. I call it my selfish degree. A degree I also chose to obtain because I didn’t want to face reality yet.
The program brought out the good, the bad and the ugly. I learned so much about myself, something I never imagined I’d do by simply applying to grad school.
Classes started and I was doing fine. I was learning the history of photography and about some famous photographers processes. It was nice, enjoyable. And I could start feeling myself feel excited so of course I had to stomp that back down into the ground. Because I wasn’t allowed to feel anything.
Then, after we learned about the greats and their ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ we were then to start applying it for ourselves. We had to find our why and develop the how and present a body of work for our midpoint and final review which ultimately decided if we passed the program and earned our degree or not. I thought I had this in the bag. I took pretty pictures so I’d be fine.
It is true, I created pretty pictures.
But I did not create meaningful pictures.
Images that made you feel something.
That moved you.
That sparked something.
That resinated with you.
And in order to create images that did that, I had to feel. I had to connect with my work and I had to be vulnerable.
I did not like that at all. I didn’t want to do that and seriously considered quitting; instead I…
I cried many tears. I fought through a ton of anger. I failed not once, but twice.
But I persevered.
My determination and my undying desire to prove people wrong picked me up and awakened the beast inside myself. It was ugly. It was painful. It was growth. And I am eternally grateful. I did not just gain an education and perfected my art. I became a new person. I finally loved myself and chose to fully embrace every part of me. I learned to take chances. To allow myself to FEEL. To accept the fact that I might be hurt again or I wont, but either way that it would be OK. And I will be ok.
I found my voice and then I struggled the entire time closing that continental divide. Merging two parts of myself back into one was the longest, hardest, yet the most rewarding part of it all.
I learned that it was OK to be vulnerable and that I wanted to be. It was OK to be emotional, in fact its a basic requirement as an artist.
If you can’t emotionally connect with your work then you are doing yourself a huge disservice.
I haven’t just accepted all this, I have allowed it to continue to foster and grow. I have the ability to see where I am at and where I want to go and now encompass the tools to get me there.
Where I would normally shy away from group settings, hard questions, anything that would open up the possibility of feeling something I have now been consciously running head first into. Because… Challenge Accepted! Let’s go!
I have learned that everyone is not out to hurt you. Abandon you. Or destroy you.
- I have strong emotions.
- I am an observer.
- I was born to stand out.
- I have a strong personality; I am not for the weak but I am in no way in the wrong for it.
- I am worth it.
- I love so deep.
- I am me, and I am amazing.
And you know what? I PASSED my final review! The flood gates opened and I literally cried the entire hour I presented my thesis body of work. I cried through every word of my ‘why’ and ‘how’. I cried through my growth, explaining what I have learned, and where I will go and how I will evolve into my next body of work. It was an amazing experience.
I recently discovered a tribe of photographers I have grown to love. I walked into their life with a wall they weren’t going to tear down. It was a transactional agreement to share a studio and that was it. Or so I thought. I was so sure I would not like this group and would have never sought a friendship with them otherwise. Because I assumed I knew who they were and wasn’t interested in giving them a chance.
Little did I know… I was wrong.
Wrong about everything.
If you knew how hard it is for me to admit when I am wrong you’d really be impressed with this realization.
This group came into my life at the most perfect time. They are exactly what I didn’t know I needed. They didn’t care about my wall and they chipped away piece by piece until it was safe to jump over. They blindsided me.
They taught me to continue to learn about myself, push myself, and never stop growing.
They asked all the hard questions, which lead us to learning about each others Enneagram Types and Personality traits and how our lives have shaped us into who we are and how we will move forward with that knowledge. I am proudly a INFJ and Enneagram Type 5. So it gets weird sometimes.
These things are working FOR me and not against me. These are what make me who I am and the more I learn the more I am able to understand how to adjust my perspective.
This taught me that I am not broken or abnormal like I grew up thinking. This taught me to better myself. Recognize my triggers, downfalls, and how to overcome them. All of which circles back to me being able to embrace who I am and create emotional connections within my work and everyone I come in contact with. To be vulnerable because:
Im am ready to fly.