I Caved Last Month and Joined Instagram

After many of years of pretending to be cool and unique by being a hobby photographer who didn’t have an Instagram account, I woke up and realized, wait this is actually really cool. You can put up pictures and people will actually see them and care! I expected to make my account and then get over it pretty quickly, but I am more or less still committed to updating it and seeing what other people put up, particularly accounts with nature photography.

 

My all time favorite Instagrammer is Konsta Punkka, a nature photographer from Finland. I am even more in love with his work now because a few weeks ago I commented on one of his photos (along with hundreds of other fans) and he responded to me! It’s the little things in life right? I first learned about him watching a travel vlog from the Vagabrothers on YouTube. Konsta is a magical human being who gains the trust of wildlife creatures such as foxes and squirrels and gets them to pose for selfies, albeit very professional and well edited selfies, but selfies nonetheless.

I was worried before getting the account that if I joined Instagram I would put too much weight on how many followers I had or care when I lost them, but that should never stop you from sharing your work with other people if that’s what you think you want to do, that is, if that’s where you are passionate.

Plus, did you know that a bunch of Instagrammers apparently use apps that automatically follow and unfollow people and comment random generic things on people’s photos? I always tell my friends I am for all intents and purposes a social media grandma, therefore I did not know this. So that’s another reason why you don’t have to feel upset if you wake up one morning and realize you’ve lost a few of your followers, because Instagram is after all an instant gratification platform with finicky users who may or may not actually just be robots at any given time. I find this of comfort at least.

This “advice” can stretch more broadly to day to day life. People aren’t paying as much attention to your every movement and flaw as you think so just keep on moving through your life the way you want to. Put out there what you want to and strive for the goals that you set for yourself. Aziz Ansari said in an interview last month that if he were going to fail at something, he’d rather “fall on his own sword”, that is, he’d rather fail delivering his own writing and jokes than to play it safe following the directions of others.

So all you artists and movers and shakers out there: keep making cool stuff, keep sharing it with the people you love (and also total strangers if you so desire), and keep on dreaming, even if you don’t make your hobbies into anything more than hobbies income-wise. We create to express ourselves, whether people are watching or not.

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Tidying up Can Apparently be Therapeutic: My Pursuit of Minimalism Continues

I’ve been feeling pretty low most mornings if I’m to be completely honest. Sometimes I combat this by stopping by the new Yoga Studio my boss just opened in Charleston, (Yoga Power if you’re interested). This morning I decided I’d try to throw away loose papers, maybe gather up all the stray hair ties and bobby pins that seem to multiply themselves around the house. I did this for about an hour or so. I was really quite surprised how good that felt. Somehow this materialistic based action felt as if it was clearing away existential dread.

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Secretly, this photo of flowers in Baden Baden, Germany has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m talking about right now. (Shhh don’t tell anyone!)

I suppose it makes sense that pairing down my belongings would give me a sense of security. I’m hoping within the next year or so to move back to Europe. There’s a lot I’d have to figure out to make that a reality. Most of the journey will just be figuring out more about my career goals for the future. Some of the journey will just be getting the courage to believe I can make such a drastic change again after years of moving back and forth between school and home and foreign destinations. I want to be settled somewhere. I want to grow roots, but I loved the life I lived abroad. I love the confident person I became there and though my path doesn’t appear clear to me right now I hope to carve out my own destiny slowly: one form submitted, one epiphany made, one leap of faith.

While I was cleaning I found a list I made in January of New Years Resolutions. I was surprised to remember that a lot of goals I’d set for myself back in January I had already accomplished now. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but at least I’m further than where I’ve started. For now I’ll focus on being my best self, including on days where I don’t really feel my best, or don’t really know where to begin to grow.

What do you do when you need some new energy in your life? Write about it in the comments below 🙂

Rejoining the West Virginia Symphony Chorus

Yesterday evening after an ACT tutoring session, I drove down to First Presbyterian Church and added my name to the sign up sheet for the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, a group I used to sing with for a few years in high school. I couldn’t remember whether I used to sing alto 1 or 2 so I just wrote: “A1?” . The lights in the chapel were turned on high; I entered as the choir was singing the entrance to John Rutter’s Magnificat in more or less perfect harmony. (I’m not saying it was bad or something. I’m just pointing out the comical fact that there’s only so much a choir can do learning a difficult piece of music for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, it was the loveliest sound I’d heard in a long while.)

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WV Symphony Chorus Christmas concert December 2011

Since I’d arrived late and missed a couple previous rehearsals, a woman was kind enough to share her music with me, whispering to me about parts she found difficult or things that the director David told us to keep in mind. Members I had known previously were turning around in their seats between movements to wave to me. I felt like I was coming home again. I’ve been in Charleston again for a few months now and have been making the efforts to re-integrate, to make future plans for myself, but last night was the first time I’d really felt settled. I’m looking forward to upcoming rehearsals 🙂

Fall is Coming to Denmark

The weather is slowly getting chillier.

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This is my first full experience of “real” fall weather since high school. Naturally it’s causing me to become quite nostalgic, conjuring up good memories and bad. I’m revisiting photos and feel myself looking at a stranger. How I want to be that naive girl from the past and how I am also glad that I have grown up and moved past those rocky formative years.

Regionals 2008 Regionals 2008 2

I miss being so thin and feeling so fast and strong. I miss running through the mud and the creeks and sprinting hard up the last and final hill. I miss long slow runs with a chilly breeze while the leaves turn yellow. I wish I wouldn’t have demanded so much of myself back then. Sometimes the voice in my head was so cruel when I ran (or really when I did most anything), so demanding of improvement. Sometimes I wanted to quit back then all together, but I long now to be running down a West Virginia country lane with good friends and shoes caked with mud.

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I don’t really understand why I miss these times so much. Perhaps its as simple as being reminded for the first time in a while that there is such a thing as seasons, which makes me think back to earlier times when I experienced seasonal differences every year and wasn’t surprised by them.

I don’t know why I’m having all the nostalgia for high school and West Virginia right now. Perhaps the early onset of fall this year is reminding me that the sun is slowly setting, not just on the shorter and shorter days but on my time in Europe. I worry that this year will be some sort of peak in my life and that I will not readjust to my old life. I also don’t want to readjust to the life I left behind because it was filled with unhappiness, anxiety and depression.

I truly am so happy here and I am terrified to lose this upon my return, but I guess I just have to remember that my stay in Copenhagen really has just begun.

West Virginia Fall #1, Acrylic, 8 x 16 (my sister Alex and her cool hat)

West Virginia Fall #1, Acrylic, 8 x 16
(my sister Alex and her cool hat)

Seeing signs of fall reminds me how easy memory can be triggered and how richly one can remember. I can feel old anguish all over again. At the same time I can also can feel old happiness, like the faint autumn sun streaking over my face on an early morning run: flashes of yellow, red, orange, brown, blending together. I want to hold on to this memory, this feeing forever.

Memories of Saturday Mornings Past: Reflections on Moving Past Depression

There are few Saturdays that go by without me remembering the Saturday mornings in high school that I woke up early to go to my voice lessons. My instructor was a beautiful woman from the Netherlands named Mariel. I loved her like a parent and have always said she was like my second mother.

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On those Saturdays I gladly traded sleeping in late for practicing, putting on my prettiest clothes and going to those hour long lessons. Then usually my mom and I would go grocery shopping in Southridge and proceed to get lost in Target buying a few things here and there we didn’t need and then go to Book’s a Million to read magazines we never intended to pay for.

Though I continued to take voice lessons in college the level of commitment I felt I could afford to give to singing became less and less as I became more critical of my abilities to sing and slipped further and further into depression. There were a lot of lies I started to believe during my time being depressed. Whereas in high school I believed in pushing myself and having high goals, I started to believe in college that if I didn’t conserve energy, if I didn’t limit my activity to the absolutely necessary in order to succeed academically that I would inevitably fail. I stopped exercising, and though I continued to sing, the notes became stuck into my throat not wanting to come out. I concluded simply that I must have never had any talent. I stopped taking it seriously.

Thankfully I never stopped painting during that bleak period because I was curious to see if sadness really did make a better artist. My conclusion is that all of that is irrelevant. Good paintings arise out of thin air when you least expect it. Usually right after you think you’ve made a huge mistake in your work you realize it was the most beautiful mistake you could have made and creates a picture never possible before.

That’s what I hope my life is turning into. It’s difficult to remember the exact causes to my depression because mental illness is complicated and I simply don’t want to remember all that pain, but what I do know is that there were some negative attitudes I had towards myself during this time. I convinced myself that all the talents I thought I had were either unimportant or non-existent. Essentially I gave up everything I had been passionate about in favor of trying to “not be a failure”, an extremely vague concept that the more I think about makes no sense.

The only way I could fail is if I gave up on the things I find important to me, and even though I came close to this for a time, it is never too late to start life back up again. It’s time to realize that there are things I love to do that I need to keep doing for the sake of my own happiness even if they never contribute towards future success. It’s time to realize I have great talents that not only can be enjoyed by myself but hopefully can inspire others.

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I’m not saying any of this to brag about myself or try to attract attention. I am writing this because if one depressed person who has given up on their passions can read this and pick themselves back up again, I would be beyond happy. If one person who has lost their voice, can get up early again on a Saturday, put on a nice dress and go out and do whatever puts a smile on their face, I would be even happier than I have come to be now at this stage in my life.

Countryside Run

I went on the first run I’ve been on in over a year today. It was pleasant and easy unlike many runs I’ve been on before. It’s been years since I’ve ran competitively or participated in any competitive sport for that matter. It used to compose such a huge part of my identity, but I don’t look back at it as an entirely positive experience.

Junior Year Cross Country Portrait

This is me on the very left, junior year, with my cross country team

Today when I ran I did it for myself. I was feeling lethargic and unsettled and needed simply to move. Before I was much more critical. I started out running cross country with my coaches thinking I had a lot of promise, so I tried my best, sometimes not listening to my body for when it was time to stop.

My first two years I was on varsity. By my sophomore year I became quite anemic, needing to take naps during the day and crying when I woke up from them because it was 8 o’clock I had hours of homework to do and I felt more tired than when I went to sleep. I didn’t realize there was an issue till the end of sophomore year. It’s quite common for young women who run and also young women in general to develop an iron deficiency, so if you are a young female runner I highly recommend getting tested for serum ferritin, your stores of iron. By senior year my iron levels were a lot better and I was ready to take on my last season, but midway through I had to stop due to a hip injury.

I tried on and off during college to run but it always ended up being an activity that I was too critical on myself for. I’d go out wanting to run times I had achieved while actually training competitively and judged myself for my body not looking the way it used to when I was in shape. In college I battled with depression. When I was depressed I often sat for hours not moving at all. There was no one I wanted to see, nothing I wanted to do. I was doing my work for school but little else. I spent more time hiding how unhappy I was than I spent actually trying to heal.

Last semester in Freiburg I got into better shape simply because of the amount of walking it took to get most places there. Working at a farm also helped with gaining a little more muscle. People working at the Lebensgarten were very, very in shape, but not because they wanted to show everyone how muscular they were or beat someone in a competition. They just love to be out in the sun, farming and they know when their bodies are tired. They know when it’s time to sit out and drink coffee and when it’s time to call “Feierabend”.

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Lebensgarten Dreisamtal

So here I am with a new fit body that for once was gained almost purely by accident in an attempt to achieve something good for the earth, as opposed to getting it by being hard on myself and pushing limits that weren’t meant to be pushed. I hope to approach life in a similar way. I want to stop being so critical, overanalyzing every perceived flaw that I have in order to finally give myself over to something greater, to be in tune with the world around me, to finally love myself the way I show love to the world around me.

Alexandria, VA Weekend Painting Workshop

I’ve just come back from a weekend visiting my sister in D.C. and going to a painting workshop at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, an incredible center for art. The class was on landscape and ran Saturday and Sunday from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.

 

 

The instructor, Patrick Kirwin, was excellent. He introduced me to Acrylic Glaze.

This stuff is similar to oil mediums for oil paint, except that it is of course for acrylics. It makes your paint transparent and gives acrylics the ability to blend like you would not believe. Props to Patrick for teaching me how to use this formerly mystifying substance, which now opens up worlds for my future art.

On the first day he had me working on a picture of a blue spruce tree. I don’t have the photo on hand, but here is the painting.

The tree itself took the majority of the class to finish, and I suppose it could be more detailed if I devoted some more time. Still, this is far more detail than I ever put into most of my paintings. I like to tell myself that staying more abstract and expressionistic adds a unique quality to my work, (which for the most part it really does. I never want to completely lose that side of my art), but really I don’t usually go into much detail because of a weakness I feel in myself to create details. I lacked artistic ability in general when I began painting at age 13. I promise I was awful. Here’s a picture of one of my early paintings.

This picture makes me so sad 😦

There are worse ones that I’m too embarrassed to put onto the Internet for all to see.) I’ve always spotted a more general weakness in myself for all things that involve a close attention to detail such as math and science.

And the really funny thing about that is that when I was in elementary school and middle school, I was excellent at math and science and had no problem with using analytical skills. Even in high school I was still far more advanced at math and science than most of my peers, but as the math got harder and I found myself making more mistakes, I doubted my own abilities. I began to deeply fear the mistakes I felt I had no control over repeating over and over again, because I began to see them not as problems I could work toward reducing, but as innate flaws and a lack of ability within myself to achieve the perfection that people expected of me as a “gifted student”. I no longer felt worthy of my label as intelligent and since high school I’ve been constantly trying to prove to myself that I am worthy of my label. After all, what makes me so much smarter or more talented than anyone else? I still believe the answer is that I’m not. I suppose what I have on my side is luck and a lot of support.

I love to live in the world of wish-washy art, which requires me to develop skills and to analyze the world around me, but which need not be so exact and can’t be criticized as often for being incorrect.  I’m not saying art which is not realistic or detailed is lesser than detailed art. I’m not saying that at all. I love the more abstract and energetic pieces. But what I am saying is that even though I’ve improved tremendously in the last few years in my ability to render life with my brushes, I haven’t made many serious attempts to make detailed work, believing that it is beyond my own capabilities.

On the first day of my class, I was so surprised when at the end Patrick told me that I had a great drawing ability. I appreciate his class so much, because he did not judge. He was kind and also persistent about getting me to paint what he wanted to see.

“Go back in with the darks.” “Go back in and shape the background. Don’t get lazy. They have to look like trees. Make them look more…treelike.”

For faithfully following his instructions, I was rewarded with a decent painting of a pine tree and the unforgettable compliment that I, in fact, have “a great drawing ability”.  I was convinced for so long that I was deficient in talent for all things exact. I was so sure of it. After this first day, I was awakened. After so many years of feeling inadequate and talentless in multiple areas of my life, I became enough just the way I was. The chains of my own mind were broken. My limits were revealed as self imposed.

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Day 2: After Patrick went through some pictures I brought with me, (and I’ll never forget that he called them tremendous photos), he picked out two for me to work on. The first picture I spent most of the day working on.

Today he really made me work for details and softness, encouraging me by saying that he was asking for more from me since I demonstrated such an “ability for detail” the day before. I’m proud of this piece:

The second photo, Patrick really liked, so he told me to park my easel next to his so we could paint it together. We spent the last hour of class painting it. The class watched for about the first ten minutes, (the first time I’ve really been observed painting for more than a few seconds). I found I couldn’t even sense the presence of anyone watching me paint, because I was so absorbed in doing what Patrick was doing.

Although I was only asked to make a painting alongside the instructor because he really liked my particular reference photo, it still made me feel special that I got to sit next to him. It gave the illusion that we were equals, at least just for that hour since his art degrees and experience clearly make him far above my level. But nonetheless there was almost a sacredness in this hour session, the master teaching and the pupil following: knowledge being transferred to a new generation.

At some point in the day, he asked me if I was an art major at school, and earlier another student also asked me the same question. I was flattered at the thought of this kind of question being posed to me. I previously didn’t see myself as having what it takes to be successful studying art formally.

I’ve come out of this experience much more alive and ready to become a better artist and also a better student in all areas. I know now that most limits really are imposed by the mind and are merely constructs, a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier. I’m still young though so I’m sure there’s lots of time left to take advantage of what I now know to be true.

Adri is out :p
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❤ Color Me Adri

Makeup and Why I Don’t Usually Wear it

 I remember back to all the times when I was little that the family would be ready to go out and Mom would suddenly remember that she forgot to put on her concealer. I never understood because I swear she literally looked the same with or without it. (Her skin is already pretty perfect, a trait I was lucky enough to inherit from her.) But just the same I could see the apparent anxiety in her eyes from even the thought of leaving the house and having people see just her bare face. Eventually though we were able to convince her that there was really no visible difference in her appearance either way and she hasn’t touched concealer since.
Watching my mom learn that she didn’t need her one and only makeup product instilled a pretty deep message inside of me that I didn’t need makeup either. I bought some basic makeup from a company called Physician’s Formula a few years into high school because there are times when it’s fun to experiment with all the different colors of makeup, like Prom and other special events. I don’t think I look bad with make-up but I still don’t feel like I look prettier with it than without it.
I know that a lot of girls feel that they aren’t pretty without makeup though and that kind of makes me sad. If you’re a girl who feels that they need makeup and you want to become makeup free, consider letting go of makeup slowly. Maybe try not wearing mascara for one week and then the next week maybe eyeliner and so forth until finally you get used to how your face looks without it. I feel like contrary to what a lot of girls think, they’ll still be just as beautiful makeup free. They’ve just gotten used to seeing themselves with it on and used to seeing a lot of their friends wearing it.
It’s not that I think wearing makeup is something horrible. I like to experiment with makeup just as much as the next girl, but wearing it every day can really take a toll on your pores and can create acne or make acne worse. Also, think of all the chemicals your body is absorbing through your skin and processing all the time when you wear makeup daily. Wearing makeup every day also sucks up a lot of time in the morning. Makeup shouldn’t have to be some sort of crutch we use to feel acceptable to show our faces in public. It should be sort of like occasional jewelry for your face. Trust me, your skin will thank you a million times over if you give it more time to breath.
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❤ Color Me Adri