I identify myself as a creative mind, getting to look at things through a lens that’s more abstract than not.
Growing up, I idolized my older sister. She’s one of my best friends and biggest influencers. Since I can remember, she has encouraged me to try new things and not to be afraid of failure. She went on to study art in college, making and creating, and I was always really inspired by her drive and zeal to try new things.
Art is something that I carry closely. It’s a language all it’s own and I am in constant pursuit to know that language better. For the longest time, I was intimidated because I wasn’t studying it like my sister, so I automatically counted myself out.
But I loved drawing. Doodling. Looking at things and thinking about how it would look through different lenses. All of it, deconstructed lines that come together to create something beautiful.
Growing up, my story wasn’t something people were really interested in. Sure, my family was interested, but that pivotal time that is “middle school” I felt really alone. After having people be truly interested in me, my heart, and my dreams, I wanted to be the person to love on people and show them that their story is important and needs to be heard, because every story is important.
Showing Up Naked is a book that goes to the root of the art of deconstructed story telling. Raw, true accounts from people you and I can Identify with. The people writing are people you and I interact with on the daily, and it’s a beautiful thing to see that the only thing that separates us is a simple ice-breaker conversation.
So why the doors? Every heart and soul of a person is so unique and different from the next, yet more important than anything. The people that get to look through the window of my soul aren’t that many, but when they do, I imagine the outside looks like a little house, with a cute little door and a welcome mat, complete with a key underneath. Getting in may be easy, but getting to the entrance is harder than you may think.
My inspiration was to create a series of doors that are all unique in some way, shape, or form, in color and style, just like the stories that will reside in the book, written by people like you and me. They are organic, deconstructed, and simple. They have character, but aren’t hard to look at. They are the doors you walk through to read these stories in a raw, real, understanding way. I see a lot of myself in these doors, imperfect, but filled with a lot of stories that make me who I am, and that Jesus loves my stories, regardless of how imperfect the door to my heart is.
Art is a way for me to express myself. In anything and everything I do, I get to look at it through a lens that sees things a little differently– an abstract, simple, real lens that sees the people and the story first.
Vote on Kelsey’s cover using the link below!
Cut cocaine with my cheekbones;
they’re too sharp for kissing,
And I’ll lay here in bed,
While drunken giggles chime on
Clawing the air apart with their caws,
Yes I’ll lay on.
Or I’ll float away,
Drifting and catching air,
Like a single strand
Of golden thread
Plucked from my head.
Fly on, netted by the arms
Of ozoned sky.
Do you remember
That time I found my sublime?
Tie dye faded with holes gnawed through,
Like worm bitten silk.
Light woke me,
Though the shades were tucked.
Jackhammers pounding on,
Yet my concrete-cratered slab of body
Just lay, rolled out,
Ready to trip.
Sheets shackled to ankles,
I touch my blistered fingers to the sky,
And the petals unpeel.
Mystic makes me mourn,
Gut a clementine whole
And tear through its skin,
Juicy leather drilling
Into my canines, just to
Forget your glazy eyes.
At the station we say our last goodbyes
No second glance, for that, infinite scorn.
I never did turn my head enough for you,
You ran around, corralling me, net on a pole;
Cork hangs on wall, you’re primed for killing,
I was a speckled butterfly, pricked by your pin.
Bruises drip down left shin,
I hide amongst the waist-high ryes,
Peer through fuzzy heads, eyes filling
With rows of soldiers, neatly lined corn.
I pull an ear, shuck with teeth, spit in hole,
Yellow, green, brown, all coming up blue.
A leaf, a scratch, handfuls of soil, stir and brew
Rub the paste into your face, the butt of your chin.
The leaves of palm, shade of trees, comprise your stole,
Feet tanned as buck hide, goddess you lay out as clay dries
As earth cracks around you, you goddess, are reborn,
Naked and earthen, stallion mane unbraided and spilling.
At the water hole we hover over libations, milling,
Flipping hands, veiny as leaves, starting over, it’s true.
Avoiding eyes, fear of Medusa within, we sneak glances, forlorn,
I can’t help but think, this is the end of our story, finito, fin.
Metal scrapes tile, dental at best, and goddess, she cries,
She yips and hollers, dancing across my bed of coal.
She nays and whinnies, finally free in my soul,
Pulling the pins, she lets the insects fall or fly, if willing,
She savors the fruit’s juices drop by drop, a lip-smacking prize,
With violet eyes, she stares into mine, and I finally view
Myself, cut like glass, no donut glaze; no longer tin,
Frail and scraping, to be crumpled in the wind; I am born.
Because of you
I realized within
I will never be shorn.
“What do you want to do this summer?”
This was a question Brandon’s dad asked him every summer since he could walk.
At age 12 his dad and his uncle traversed all across Europe, from the Notre Dame Cathedral to the breathtaking Berlin Wall. His father’s adventurous spirit inspired their atypical itineraries of adventures that ranged from zip-lining through the mile long canyons of Costa Rica to relaxing in the natural warm springs of Thermopolis, Wyoming. It was a typical Tuesday night and they were congregating around the dinner table.
Brandon’s eyes shot at his father with a confused stare and waited for further explanation. He explained that he wanted to go to Washington and do some hiking in the mountains. Over the years his dad had taken him to Seattle several times and Brandon was infatuated with all the natural beauty he saw.
He was enamored, the countless evergreen trees fertilized by the reposeful rain; so as you can imagine, he was all for his dad’s suggestion. Little did he know what he was getting into.
At last it was summer.
His dad, his brother, and Brandon himself flew out to Seattle to begin their journey. The night they arrived, they conversed with the mountain guides that were taking them up the ten-thousand seven-hundred and eighty-one foot summit of Mt. Baker. They informed them of what they would need and supplied them with some food and gear. Imagine your food supply for five days only being encompassed in two gallon sized zip-bloc bags. This was made possible by dehydrated foods.
As Brandon’s bag began to fill with food, his stomach began to fill with butterflies.
After a good night’s sleep, they were off to climb. It’s not that he thought that climbing a mountain would be easy. However, after the first day of hiking, he quickly realized that he had underestimated the task at hand. Hiking was not a foreign activity to him, but never had he hiked as he did on the first day of the Mt. Baker ascension. He was required to carry his sixty pound backpack consisting of all of his food, clothing, and supplies for four and a half miles at a stifling incline the whole way. This was only to reach base camp.
He was enjoying himself, learning, and having fun in the snow, but still there was the underlying thought in the back of his head that he would not be able to complete his journey after the draining difficulties he faced on the first day.
They were sitting around the campfire the evening before the summit day. Their mountain guides were clarifying any last minute questions and were getting them ready for an early wake up call. Brandon was worried about the climb, but when they asked who was ready to go, he masked my fear with a yell as everybody cheered in unison.
Next thing he knew it was two-thirty in the morning, the moment of truth; they were waking up to start their ascent. They opted to wake up before the sun rose to avoid as much of the day’s heat as possible. At the beginning of the hike he was so groggy that he couldn’t even feel the intensity of the slope in front of him. All Brandon could think of was putting one foot in front of the other.
Hours passed like minutes and then all of the sudden, the sun began to peak up over the mountains and highlight the various jagged peaks around them.
It was the most riveting sunrises he had ever seen.
The ravishing colors, the burning orange, and the crisp yellows put him in a trance. The entire day Brandon was captivated by the beauty of the nature surrounding him.
It completely took Brandon’s mind off of the pain of his aching legs and the mental agony that never ceased to burden him. It motivated him in my climbing and drove him all the way to the top.
Once Brandon had reached the summit, it felt like he had arrived to a surreal, tranquilizing place. Although it was not his home, it felt like he had fulfilled a destiny.
Parallel with the clouds, adjacent with the once intangible peak, Brandon had reached ten-thousand feet, the vertex of heaven and earth. He knew that climbing a mountain would be a huge risk, but in doing so he became a stronger person, grasping the concept of mental endurance. Through the miles of intense hiking, he also re-defined my idea of physical endurance. This was one of the most miraculous experiences in Brandon’s life. What was once merely a fantasy had become a reality.
This particular work of art was presented to my drawing class last spring for a critique. Our assignment was to draw whatever we wanted, however we wanted, and with whatever we wanted. No rules to break, no limitations to adhere to.
I chose to draw a nude figure with acrylic paint and indie ink and make a mixed media background for it with newspaper.
When I heard this, I was shocked. Not because of the seriousness of the subject – because art deals with dark and serious issues all of the time – but because this could not have been farther from my intentions when I went to create this work.
I simply wanted to practice my figure drawing skills while using media I thoroughly enjoyed working with. I expected to be critiqued on my technical skill work with the figure’s anatomy and perhaps the interaction between the figure and the background.
When I expressed my intentions for the work to my classmates, everyone simply shrugged their shoulders and we moved onto the next student’s work hanging on the wall.
Later that day I called my mom, a professional oil painter, and I explained my classmates reactions to my figure drawing. My mom is a portrait artist by trade, and she also is a master of the human figure.
This work that I created was her favorite of mine up to that point in my life, which is something I am very proud of. She told me that she experienced similar things in the art world that I had experienced that day in class. Sometimes she felt that her art was boring compared to art other people were creating in the art world today. I can assure you, my mom’s paintings are far from boring. However, I knew exactly what she was talking about.
My generation of art students, at least based off of my observations for the past year and a half as an art student, is so caught up in being the next new crazy thing that the world has ever seen.
I am not saying that every classical nude painted in Europe in the 18th century is fascinating, but I am saying there is something important we must take from work like that. Not all art has to have some deep, bizarre interpretation that may sound crazy to many people.
Some artists, like myself when I presented my nude figure, wanted to be appreciated for the technique and the creativity behind the work. I do not mean to say that I do not create work that has a deeper interpretation than the surface level, and when I do, it is up to the viewer to determine what that is.
I do hope, however, that while we, as art students, are taught to think and interpret creatively, we hold onto what interested us in the art world in the first place. For me, that was the love of drawing and creating, but I had to learn how to draw before I could even become decent at it. As many say, you must know the rules before you can break them.
I clutch the armrests of my seat with clammy hands as the plane takes off. This being my first flight, I tried to revert back to childhood and pretend I was simply on a rocket ship that was headed toward the moon.
My fellow passengers glanced around to see where the dragon-like heavy breathing was coming from, and smirking with amusement when they saw a wide-eyed, young girl who clearly was not used to being this far off the ground. “Just play it cool,” I thought to myself. “People do this every day.”
Before I knew it, the airplane landed and I began my grand adventure in New York City. At first, I was completely overwhelmed by the massive buildings, crowded streets, and lack of nature. I was appalled at the filth of the city, the non-existence of Southern manners, and the rat-like pigeons that flock the streets and stare at you as if they’re preparing to attack. I felt as if I was drowning in an asphalt sea, and on the first day, I was terrified of being swept away by the currents of people that seemed to be living their lives way too fast.
Guilt consumed me that night as I realized how deplorable my attitude was. I began the next day making a strong point to open my heart and mind as widely as I could to one of the most celebrated cities in the world. I prayed that God would open my eyes to the world-renowned beauty that I just could not see when I first became acquainted with New York.
During the second day of my trip, my friend and I were strolling through the hectic and spaghetti-scented streets of Little Italy, looking for a nice restaurant to relax, eat lunch and watch the World Cup. While I was glancing around at the different restaurants, searching for the right one, I finally found what I was looking for.
This colorful painting was the stunning face of a woman, with each piece of her fragmented visage a unique design of different colors and patterns. It was an extraordinarily striking work of art.
I realized in that moment that New York City is that woman.
Every single piece of this city—the joyful, the blue, the brown, the beautiful, and the ugly—were all necessary to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. By only focusing on the ugly pieces, I was missing the larger picture.
By the time my adventure in New York ended, I understood that people moved so expeditiously because they were zealously chasing the dreams that they refused to let escape them.
I learned to love all of the massive buildings, because they were a product of years of sweat, irreplaceable hard work, and inconceivable accomplishment.
I discovered Thoreau-worthy nature in the form of Central Park, a picturesque area that contained the lushest, greenest grass I have ever napped on in my life. The waters surrounding Lady Liberty, the globally recognized symbol of freedom, sparkled and proudly beamed like the stars on our flag.
I visited the deepest and darkest scar of the city, the 9/11 Memorial, and witnessed the inexorable patriotism of those who work to preserve the memories of the fallen. I will never forget the tears that came to my eyes as I tried to rationalize the pain and horror that occurred exactly where I was standing a little over a decade ago.
They are people that accomplish their wildest ambitions and contribute considerable amounts of productivity to the world. Because it challenged me daily to step beyond my comfort zone, I departed the city with a full dose of inspiration, thicker skin, and yearning to chase my dreams as fervently as they chase theirs.
I am so thankful to God for opening my eyes to this remarkable piece of His creation, and implore everyone to adopt the same mindset wherever they travel—discovering the beautiful pieces that make up the striking masterpieces there for us to learn from, grow from, and appreciate. Except the pigeons—I still hate those pigeons.
There are thoughts in my mind. My current state of mind. What I’m thinking, what I’m feeling is a consequence of the relationships I share with the world. I believe photographs have the power to depict what words simply just cannot. Moreover it’s a way to exhibit and project the thoughts in my mind. I have never felt better than expressing my mind in my photographs, as it makes me come to terms with myself, gives me a visual representation of what I’m feeling which comforts me. My only hope is that somewhere it does the same for someone else.
Sitting in the airport awaiting my 5’o’clock flight I was anxious, nervous, and totally unaware of the adventure about to take place. I arrived in Florence unsure.
Unsure about what I was doing, unsure about spending 4 months in a foreign country without my closest people, unsure about my relationships and myself. It took me a while to realize I had this giant opportunity at my feet and it was up to me and me alone to make it either the greatest lesson of all time or a measly, elongated vacation. I chose the first.
I found a home in a dated apartment with 7 other girls all on the same journey. At nights I planned my weekends away, filling my calendar with trips to places I had no idea would leave such an impact on me. I met the most wonderful people and experienced first-hand the most beautiful cultures. Strangers taught me more about life than my entire school curriculum ever has. (But I promise I still learned school things mom and dad.)
However, every day wasn’t picture perfect like it was portrayed via social media. I experienced some of my toughest battles while abroad, and being thousands of miles away from my support system was not ideal then. But that’s when I learned the most. Time and conflict are not compatible.
It was then that I learned how strong I really am. I learned that I couldn’t control other people, but I could control how I let them affect me. So I refused to let the bad ones get to me, not when I was surrounded by so much beauty and opportunity. I had the opportunity to waste my days abroad in a fumbled mess trying to put back the pieces of something so broken, but instead I chose to build something new.
I convinced myself that there was something so good to be seen in every single day, I just had to go find it. Whether it was something big like riding ATV’s along the coast of Santorini, or just eating a really awesome Panini, it was there, and it was important. My mind and my heart were stretched to new lengths. I found new wonders and treasures I will cherish forever, like my hideaway church on top of a lonely hill in Italy, or that hole in the wall restaurant where the owners know you by name. So sitting here throwing out my worn out shoes, I’m actually proud.
It came and went faster than it should have. There were so many pictures taken and “storage too full notifications”, so many 40 euro flights I wasn’t convinced were going to ever reach the ground again, and so, so many new friends and new memories that would be showcased on social media but would never actually reveal the true depth of the moment. Many feelings came to play throughout my months, but the one I found most consistent was gratitude. Every day I thank my lucky stars that I had this opportunity to see the moon from a new side of the world, to fulfill a part of me that’s been missing for a while, I just had to go find it.
I’ll never truly be able to properly put into words how much this experience meant to me, but if I tried to sum it up I’d do it with my favorite over-used quote of the trip:
“This just doesn’t do it justice.”
Dublin has been a popular tourist attraction for many years. And rightly so. The city boasts some of the liveliest bars and fun-filled nights out in Europe, and thousands flock to the Irish capital every week. But do not be mistaken, although Dublin is a warm and hospitable city that loves nothing better to sing songs with new friends, it also has a rich history of art and culture that makes it one of the most influential cities in the world.
In fact, Dublin is a Unesco City of Literature and boasts four Nobel Prize winners in this field. It is this stunning blend of entertainment, history, and culture that makes Dublin a must-see city. If you are planning a mini-break to Dublin, here are a few highlights of the city’s cultural heritage that you should look out for:
Just a few meters away from the bustling Temple Bar area of town you will find ‘Icon Walk’, a self-walk tour where local artists have created a gallery of important Irish figures in an attempt to introduce you to this city’s unique and enthralling identity.
This is a must for all visitors who want to understand how this beautiful city has developed despite many troubled years. Dublin Writers Museum – Housed in a beautifully restored Georgian mansion on Parnell Square, the Writers Museum is a fitting tribute to the literary giants that have come from Ireland.
Not only does this museum celebrate Dublin’s four Nobel Prize winners (Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, and Heaney), but it also looks at other literary celebrities from over the past three hundred years. You will find enchanting books, letters, portraits, and personal items from these writers as you take a look at their contribution to Irish literature.
This guided tour of Dublin is conducted by local actors who teach you the history of some of Ireland’s greatest literary artists as well as perform exerts from their best-known works. So popular is this tour, the Sunday Times has ranked it 4th in the World’s 50 Best Walks. Starting in an upstairs room in the Duke Pub off Grafton Street, the pub crawl takes you through historically important locations throughout the city.
The pubs that you stop at for a drink are not randomly chosen, they all have a part to play in the story that is told by the engaging and witty tour guides. Trinity College and the Book of Kells – Trinity College is a must-see while you are in Dublin.
Founded by Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1592 to educate the Protestant Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, the college is now enjoyed by students from around the world and is one of the geographical and social hubs of the city. The university sits on College Green which is an island of magnificent buildings, open squares and green spaces, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city and its sea of traffic.
The Book of Kells is a historically important text; the lavishly decorated book contains ornate text of the four Gospels written in Latin, and attracts 500,000 visitors a year. Dublin has always been a special city as millions of visitors will agree.
Come for the great music, the lively pubs, and sparkling banter with the locals; but also come for the architectural elegance, wonderful museums, and the chance to walk in the footsteps of some of the greatest men and women to grace the world scene.
Missy Taylor peered over my shoulder as I struggled to remember the combination to my locker from the past two years. “Lyla,” she paused, holding out the end of my name for much longer than was necessary.
“Did you hear?”
“Hear what, Missy?” Missy loved discovering the latest gossip at Walburn High School. We were juniors, finally upperclassmen, but all Missy wanted to talk about was which football player hooked up with which cheerleader who was actually dating that soccer player. I had college visits and advanced placements tests to worry about.
“Let me help. What’s your combination,” Missy asked, pushing me out of the way.
“That’s the problem. I don’t remember.” Missy sighed, rolling her eyes at me.
“Why don’t I tell you my news as we walk to the office for you to get your new combo?”
“I guess so.” Missy interlocked our arms, and smiled widely at me, ignoring the distress in my face. “Okay, so I’m sure you’ll like this news.”
“What is it, Missy?” “So, I hear there is a new creative writing teacher this year,” she said, nudging my ribcage with her elbow.
“Wait. They fired Mrs. Cummings? Who could possibly be more qualified than she?”
“It doesn’t mean she wasn’t qualified,” I stated, opening the door to the office.
Missy slammed it shut. “I haven’t finished.” Missy tossed her bottle blonde hair behind her right shoulder and checked herself in the reflection of the office door. “The new teacher is really cute and super young. I think he’s like only 27 years old. I heard that he graduated from Yale. Like as in the Ivy League,” she gushed, exhaling dramatically and smirking at me. “Rachel who was in biology class last year told me that apparently he was fired from his last job in a private school and that’s why he is working here now–but Rachel is not that reliable of a source.
“Why does this matter to me?” “C’mon, Lyla. I thought you would find this news interesting. All the girls in your writing class are talking about him.”
“Look, Missy. I have bigger things to think about than the new creative writing teacher.” “Like what,” she sneered.
“Um, like maybe getting my locker open before lunch.”
“Well, first period starts in five minutes, you better hurry.” I glanced at the clock, realizing Missy was right. I ran into the office, hoping they would be able to save me, not just from my locker woes, but also from Missy. Missy wasn’t wrong. The new creative writing teacher was cute. He actually tucked his buttoned down shirt into his khaki pants, and his hair was slicked back without any gel, unlike most of the boys in my grade. Even though I was late to first period, Mr. Davis did not really seem to mind. He had the desks arranged in a circle; he sat at the head of the circle, on top of a desk, rather than in the desk like the rest of us.
The class was retelling their favorite moments from summer. Aaron mentioned that he went on a fishing trip with his father, but they didn’t catch any fish because his father went into anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting on his finger. Sydney, swinging her ponytail from side-to-side, told a story about how she got to visit her new baby cousin in Maryland for a few days. She got to hold him, and he was the first baby she ever held. The baby spit up on her. Then, the circle stopped at me. I swallowed hard and glared at the clock, hoping the bell would ring before I had to utter my first word.
“Lyla. Lyla Douglas.”
“Very well, Lyla. What did you do this summer?” “Uh, well…I wrote a few short stories.”
“Really,” he paused, “what about it?”
My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. “Nothing really that interesting.”
“Well, I have a feeling that you’re not being all that honest,” he laughed. “But, that’s quite alright. A great writer never reveals his secrets,” he said, winking at me before moving on to the next student.
I learned that Mr. Davis was also a painter. Since teaching took up most of his time, he could only really paint on the weekends. He showed me his artwork once when I stayed after school to edit one of my stories with him. One of his paintings would be shown at a gallery in town. It was reminiscent of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’avignon, or at least that’s what he said. It was a painting of an ex-girlfriend. Her body was all distorted–only visibly displaying her face, which looked both fearful and relieved at the same time. Mr. Davis gained inspiration after his girlfriend threatened to leave him if he didn’t agree to marry her. According to him, she had issues–but she inspired his best work. I always wanted to share something interesting and elusive about myself, but the only snippet from my life that I could ever think about was how when I was ten my parents had left me at a carnival. It took my parents two hours to realize that I was missing. I was too embarrassed for the both of us to tell Mr. Davis that story.
Usually, we discussed the piece for a few minutes and then moved on to other conversations. Mr. Davis was a great storyteller; I longed to be able to tell stories like him. I had never met a person who seemed to take me so seriously. My mother was often consumed with her eating and exercise habits, refusing to allow anything other than raw food in the house, while my father stayed way too late at the office and smelled like brandy and cigars when he did finally make it home. Mr. Davis made me feel important.
It had been two months that we had been meeting after school to look over my writing. Mr. Davis had finished more paintings for another gallery show in town. He told me that he had just decided on a theme for this new show: heat. I stared at him blankly, waiting for him to explain what he was talking about. He just smiled at me and continued to mark up some poor student’s short story with his red pen.
“What do you mean,” I asked, trying to sound intelligent, while still being confused.
“Hmm” “Why ‘heat’? Oh, that,” he paused.
“Was it like really hot when you painted these?” He laughed to himself.
“No, that’s not the heat I’m referring to. I mean, heat as in the feeling a person gets when they feel passion.”
I glanced at the two misplaced commas in the student’s story. “How does that relate to your paintings?”
“Well, as you already know, my ex-girlfriend inspired most of these paintings. We had a pretty tough relationship–lots of fighting and making up, which led to more fighting and eventually our break up. We had a lot of passion for each other, despite the fact that we ultimately hated each other. Does that make sense?”
“I think so.” “Yeah,” he asked, refusing to let go of our gaze. I shifted in my seat. “Heat embodies the nature of that relationship, all the tension and the passion. I couldn’t imagine a better word myself.” “You know, Lyla,” Mr. Davis hesitated. “You are more than welcome to come to the art gallery showing on Friday. I mean, that is, if you’re free?”
I could feel my cheeks burning up and beads of sweat forming on my upper lip. “Uh…well…sure, I’m not doing anything.” “Really, you would like to come?” “Of course. I wouldn’t mind coming to see your paintings.” “Perfect,” He smiled, biting down on his red pen.
I was hardly able to see Mr. Davis until close to when the show was finishing. He spent the evening chatting with other local artists and art curators, who seemed genuinely interested in his work. Near the end of the gallery show, I made my way out to the patio. The bushes were decorated with white lights and matching candles were flickering on each table. Mr. Davis was sitting on a bench with a cocktail in his right hand. I couldn’t help but notice how handsome he looked that night–wearing a gray tailored suit with a thin black tie, his hair combed over, and he wore thick rectangular framed eyeglasses. As I got closer to him, I could smell his cologne, a mixture of pine and cinnamon, which seemed like an unlikely combination, but made my knees begin to quiver. He jumped when he noticed me standing in front of him.
“No, that’s okay. I understand. Do you mind if I take a seat,” I asked, pointing to the spot beside him. Mr. Davis patted the wood. Our knees touched slightly as I took a seat next to him. He shook the ice around in his glass. I could smell the whiskey on his breath as he exhaled heavily.
“Did you have fun tonight,” he asked. “I did. It was really nice to finally see your artwork. I could really feel the heat.”
Mr. Davis grinned. “Yeah? I’m glad you could understand what I was going for.” “Well, thank you for inviting me.” He shifted closer to me. “I appreciate you coming.” I shivered as a gust of wind flew past. I knew I should have listened to my mother when she told me to wear my winter coat, but a purple puffer jacket lacked the sophistication I needed to uphold at this party. Mr. Davis wrapped his suit jacket over my shoulders.
“Of course. We’ve been talking about this for months.” He moved in closer, resting his left hand a little above my knee. Startled, I scooted down the bench, but he pulled me in even closer to his body. “I’ve been really enjoying getting to know you these last couple of months. You’re a really special person, Lyla. You know that?”
Before I could answer his question, Mr. Davis placed his right hand on my cheek. His other hand moved up my leg, sending an impulse through my entire body. He lodged his tongue into my mouth. I didn’t know how to respond. I had never kissed a boy before, but I tried to mirror his movements to show some semblance that I knew what I was doing. His hand glided up my stomach and landed on my chest, grasping my breast with so much intensity that I gasped. This only seemed to make him more excited. I tried to maneuver my hands around his body like he did with mine, yet I was not as suave as he was.
After five minutes, Mr. Davis pushed me away. I didn’t really know what to say after a moment like this. I sat slumped on the bench trying to regain my breath. He began smoothing the wrinkles on his shirt and readjusting his tie. “I hope that you know that this is our little secret,” he stated, emphasizing the word secret. “I can trust you, right?” I shook my head in agreement. Mr. Davis smiled at me, kissing me lightly on the forehead before standing up.
“Thank you again for coming, Lyla,” he said, after swallowing the last of his whiskey. “I’ll see you on Monday.” I barely heard a word Mr. Davis said as he rushed back to his party. The only sound I could hear was my entire body throbbing as I wiped away my tears.
I took my first photography class when I was 11 years old. I was artistically ignorant, shy as a mouse, and didn’t know how to turn on a camera. It was horrible. Fortunately, my parents are strong advocates for facing fears and refused to let me quit the summer camp. I stuck it out for the rest of the week. Five days later, I was hooked.
After that first summer camp, I would carry a camera with me everywhere. I would be the one to gather the family for portrait photos, I would force my friends to fake candid laughter sitting on a dock with a sunset behind them, I would go on walks and stop every 10 seconds to take a picture of another pretty leaf. I was addicted to capturing life.
It was an escape – a way to literally and figuratively view the world from a different perspective. If I ever came home from a bad day at school, all I had to do to cheer myself up was go outside to our garden and take pictures.
Uploading hundreds of photos, playing around with Adobe Photoshop, scrolling through countless albums of flowers, and then forcing my mom to look at every single picture I had taken brought me SO MUCH JOY. I felt accomplished, artistic, unique, and motivated to do more.
By my senior year of high school, I was running a portrait photography business, I was working with multiple non-profit organizations on marketing collateral, and I was always taking pictures.
I was obsessed with social media and consistently capturing as much of life as my computer’s hard-drive could hold. I would fake poses and captions and locations just to seem like my life was as interesting as the bloggers I admired so much. I was literally living a filtered, digital life.
Today, my mindset towards photography has somewhat shifted. I’m still obsessed with social media, but not for the “likes.” Social media offers me an outlet to connect with fellow creatives in ways I never could have before.
I maintain my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Snapchat with the strongest aesthetic I can, utilizing photography apps such as VSCO, Prime, and Afterlight. I follow bloggers and hashtags, not to gain followers for myself but to constantly update my timelines with inspiration and creative content. I enjoy taking pictures with my friends because I like remembering life, not because I have to have a good picture to post.
The most important lesson I’ve learned, though, is to not get so busy capturing life that you forget to actually live it. I don’t see anything wrong with taking an interesting picture of your coffee, but then put down your camera and have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Forcing candid laughter is fun because it psychologically generates actual happiness, but don’t forget to appreciate genuine laughter when it happens.
If you take a picture of something, do it for the right reasons. Cherish memories, remember that trip to a trendy coffee shop, and then keep living. Life is too short to live it from behind a lens. You can find more of my photos here.