The stories we tell.
I have no regrets, living each day as if every breath were my last and cherishing all those who come into my life.
Each day is an opportunity to learn about someone new, and that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to; people. I might not what job I want for the rest of my life, but I do know that I want to capture the essence of all the people I’ve fallen in love with during my time on this earth. Creating films that make the audience feel like they’re in an alternate universe, when it was actually someone’s reality. Taking photographs with a depth and story that can only be told through the soul of a scene. Making music that makes us feel the heartbreak and joy of someone we’ve never met. These are the reasons why I create, and the overarching reason why I’m even here.
So with that, I started listening. Writing. And through others, I found myself.
Listening taught me how to understand. In high school I began to view the human condition as an art form. It had taken me a long time to realize the value of others, because I had never seen the value in myself.
From the tender age of five, I learned that happiness was an inside job. As an only child with a front row seat to her parents’ divorce after 18 years of marriage, I knew I had to mature quickly and emotionally support my family. But they didn’t need it, they never asked for it, and I never knew how much it ripped each of them apart until years later.
I moved schools in the middle of second grade - a critical moment where that pivotal hierarchy is determined - and it was tough. So developed a similar mindset to what my parents had showed me, a Stone Face Mentality. No one could hurt me if I didn’t show it, so I’d hurt on my own and make fun of myself before anyone else could. As a naturally big-boned girl, this was easy. But it backfired when I started believing in my own rude comments about myself.
Years went by and soon I was starting middle school. I decided it was time to make a proactive change for my own health, so I started playing volleyball. I was good - I mean, the fat girl could pack a punch on the court - but even better, I lost the weight after a few seasons on the court. Friends started coming my way and finally, I was accepted. But that didn’t last long.
Now that I was ‘skinny’ the kids were even meaner. They called every pretty girl a slut - it was the default term used for any female they disliked, and for some reason that term took a liking to my name. My mental health started to dwindle, and I had to take a step back so I could evaluate what I wanted, instead of what others wanted for me.
My mom saw the change in me, and she took me to a counselor who worked with me to unload the thoughts in my brain onto paper. It was the single best advice I’d ever been given.
High school arrived and on a whim I joined the Student Council, eager to meet new people and escape the toxicity of the past. I showed up early to the very first meeting and took a seat at an open table by myself. Another girl noticed me and came over, asking me what grade I was in. “Freshman,” I replied. “So what’s your story?” she asked, and I replied with a swiftly formed response of why I wanted to join the Student Council. Her face showed her disapproval so she asked again, “I mean what’s the story of your life?”
We spent the next 20 minutes talking, and before long it was time for the meeting to start. When she stood up and excused herself I was confused, wondering if I had said something I shouldn’t have. But then she proceeded to the front of the room and introduced herself as the Senior Student Body President.
How random, I thought. I couldn’t figure out why someone so important would spend so much time talking to me. But I never forgot how special it made me feel, and from that point forward I started showing that same kindness towards everyone I met; and not just the stereotypical ‘lonely dude’ sitting alone at the lunch table, but regular people who always proved to be not so regular after all.
I made it my goal to ask people that very same question whenever I felt a connection of any kind. People are always surprised that I care, but I truly enjoy these conversations. Rewind to the therapist who taught me to write down all my thoughts; I have maintained that practice every day since. Alongside my own thoughts are the stories of all the influential people I’ve ever met. Every important event, person, and story that someone has shared with me I’ve told in my journal to the best of my ability.
I have six journals now, and each one has helped to shape my view of others. We are all characters in our own story, and soon I started living my own life as if it were a hypothetical movie that was playing out in my journals. Even the nights I spend driving through town in my Nissan SUV are ones from a movie scene, though much too often from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
The world around me has shaped my wings, and as much as I would love to say that I am a prophet who triumphed through adversity solely on her own, I am not. People are the reason I dream. Talking, hurting, and listening to others has shown me the similarities in people who are sworn to be mortal enemies. We are much stronger together.
Through film, photography, music, and other forms of art we can express feelings that couldn’t be shared otherwise. I find such beauty in the human mind; the way we associate colors with mood and music with emotion, it’s the best way we can communicate.
I strongly believe that if we took the time as a society to better appreciate these art forms that we could better appreciate each other. As a lover of writing - the simplest form of communication - I can’t think of a better way to understand people than through the arts.
Maybe I’m impulsive, fall in love too easily, or take too many risks. But my plan of action has never been straight or narrow, and it’s never steered me wrong.