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!
It’s 4 am. The sinews
in my legs are on fire and
my chest feels like it’s caving
Like I’m being
Like I’m being interrogated
as a witch, when I know full well
that the witchcraft
doing this to me is coming
from somewhere buried deep within
and I don’t want to afflict
Why does It even begin?
The walls twist and spin, my heart races,
and my mind is the only thing
that outpaces it.
And I. Can’t. Seem. To. Fucking. Breathe.
My sick, slobbering, staccato mind wrings the muscles
in my abdomen, in my thorax,
in my gastrocnemii, (to put it medically)
while my vision wavers
I force myself to move, to stretch, to push
out anything deeper than the shallow breath held
in my lungs with each passing second.
I scroll through my instagram feed
searching for an escape.
Pretty landscapes, Pretty people,
Something prettier than this,
prettier than me.
Something whole or
Something that at least has the visage
because right now I feel
This is new.
This poem is about my experiences dealing with Anxiety and Panic Attacks. They’re very new to me. Up until last semester, I had never had a panic attack, never felt what it was like to have crippling doubt about if I was normal, if this was normal, if I could control something like this. With the help of my friends, family, and the love of my life—my sweet and supportive girlfriend—I’ve been able to keep myself in a good place. Some days, it still hits me for no discernible reason. Some nights I wake up with cramps and attacks out of nowhere, like I described in this poem. I hope that by sharing my story, other people dealing with anxiety, especially those who are just finding out what it entails, can find comfort in knowing that someone else knows what they are going through. Anxiety doesn’t define you. There is always a way to combat your anxiety and you should never stop searching for what it is that makes you feel grounded and safe!
Thank you so much to Emily Covais, Dana Sauro, and Kyle Marchuk for your efforts in partnership with Active Minds Loyola, Maryland Chapter.
“Why not”. Two syllables, one question, and a myriad of possibilities. To some, hearing these words may seem insignificant. For me, this simple question is incredibly powerful. It opens our minds to new ideas and cannot be asked enough. I believe that our words hold a tremendous amount of value. If they are thought-provoking, that value is immeasurable.
When our thoughts are challenged and our mind is tested, we are forced to think creatively. It’s in these moments that the magic truly happens. This is when ideas are formed, when problems are solved, when inventions are created, when revolutions are started, and when progress is realized. Asking this question helps us accesses our full capabilities.
They encouraged us to participate in their debates and ask them questions whenever we needed clarification. Apart from discussing the day’s affairs, dinner was often a time to present us with short lessons or teach us about whatever life had in store for us.
Any chance they got they would find a way to translate the issues they were dealing with into a version that we could relate to. While math and science were handled at school, I learned more about taxes, investments, philosophy, and life in general at the kitchen table than I did in any classroom.
One of the most influential lessons I learned during these talks was the importance of the phrase “why not.” A graduate of Cornell, MIT, and North Carolina State University, my father has received some of the best education this country has to offer. He first presented the wonder behind the phrase “why not” to me about ten years ago. After discussing one of my older brother’s psychology projects, my dad digressed a bit to recall one of the more memorable lessons he learned as an undergrad.
He began to tell us about one of the philosophy tests he took while attending Cornell. Like most of the tests he took in this class, this one was a short answer format. It had a series of essay questions, of which only one had to be answered. Among the possible problems was the shortest test question I’ve ever heard of, “Why?”
I couldn’t understand how a teacher could grade students on their response to such a vague question that seemingly had no definite answer (college has helped me grow a little more accustomed to such practices by professors). Sensing my confusion, my father continued the lesson by leaning towards me to ask, “What would you have written?” Determined to come up with the correct answer, my mind began racing through every possible answer.
After a few frantic moments, I accepted that my efforts were to no avail. I couldn’t wrap my head around what the question was asking. The question “Why what?” kept popping into my head. My only explanation was that it needed more clarification.
Defeated, I admitted that I was stumped and asked my dad what he had written. My father laughed and said that he had left it blank too. Out of thirty some odd students, only one had attempted to answer that question, and they did so in less than a minute. As you may have guessed, this student simply wrote down “Why not?”
Again I was shocked. But this time I was happy about it. At first it was only because I loved how bold the idea of walking out of a test after writing two words sounded. But as I thought more about it, I began to realize how incredible the response was and why my dad had told us that story. Although I didn’t fully understand the magnitude behind “why not” at the time, there were two aspects of the answer that really stood out to me.
The first was how profound it was. It’s not that it was particularly hard to grasp, it was just something I’d never given much thought to. Responding with “why not?” can be both a question and a challenge to authority. This becomes incredibly powerful when it is used to reject a conventional thought to explore new ideas.
The Wright Brothers said “why not?” when people told them it wasn’t possible to fly, Roger Bannister thought “why not?” when everyone said humans couldn’t run a four minute mile, and Steve Jobs didn’t hesitate to ask “why not?” when he was told he wouldn’t be able to compete with Microsoft. At some point, every great innovator starts with the simple question “why not?”
The second aspect that stood out was its simplicity. After I realized the depth behind the response, I was immediately impressed by how effortless it was to get there. But the more I thought about it, the more it just made sense. Why should we always accept what is presented to us? Why shouldn’t we ask for more? Why not?
At that point in my life, this was probably the greatest philosophical understanding I’d experienced. The fact that it had only taken an exchange of three words to get there was remarkable to me. My whole academic career, the value in the answers had progressed linearly with the complexity of the problems and the methods to get there. But this disregarded that rule. “Simple is beautiful”. I’d heard it before, but I hadn’t truly appreciated it until then.
The end of my fall semester marked a major transitional period in my life. Despite my performance in my classes, I was no longer interested in pursuing an engineering career. At the same time, I decided to step away from an Internet marketing business that I had spent well over a year building. On top of all this, my soccer career came to an end, a moment almost 18 years in the making. Seemingly overnight, my schedule changed drastically. At one point I was actually confused by the amount of free time I had. There was a massive void in my life to say the least.
After a few weeks of growing restless and not knowing what to do with myself, the remedy to my situation presented itself to me. While working on a problem set, one of my good friends Nick told me there was a small MMA club at our school and that he’d recently attended one of their training sessions. Thinking I might be interested in joining, he asked me if I wanted to go with him the next time he went. At the time I didn’t know much about MMA, but I knew it was a great way to stay in shape, so I said, “sure, why not.” Flash-forward to the following weekend.
The leader of the group, Sean had about 40 pounds on me and grew up learning Maui Thai. He takes personal ownership in not only training the club, but also in breaking in each new member to gauge their skillset. Needless to say I was a little concerned going into this fight. Fortunately I didn’t have much time to think about what might happen before the stopwatch started counting down.
Sean obviously held back and I actually landed a few good punches, but I got absolutely worked for three minutes. If I had to guess, watching that fight was probably similar to watching a dog chase a laser pointer, a good mix of comical and hopeless.
The next day I was in a world of hurt, but a beautiful thing had happened the day before. For those of you that have never fought, the first time you take a good strong punch is an eye-opening experience. At first you’re in a state of shock and panic. You can feel your nervous system trying to frantically figure out what’s going on. But the fight’s not over and you have to continue to deal with the next combination. Eventually you get used to it. When this happens, when your body finally adjusts to the concept of getting hit, your fear escapes you.
The only way to conquer your fear and to grow as a person is to get out of your comfort zone and to face whatever fears are holding you back.
After Sean’s first two punches, my brain had accepted that I could survive getting hit. It was a surreal feeling and it all stemmed from the question “why not?” That experience was a gentle reminder of just how important that question is to me.
From then on I took it upon myself to embrace those two words again. In doing so, I’ve beyond filled the void that once existed. Over the past few months I’ve done more than I ever imagined. I went snowboarding for the first time, I took up rock climbing, I took a ballroom dancing class, I became a weekday vegetarian, I found an internship outside of my major, I went off-roading at 6,500 ft., met Jay-Z, worked out with a Victoria’s Secret model, and had a cook-off with a world renowned chef.
I beat the house gambling, I explored Lake Tahoe, I played soccer in the U.S. Open Cup, I went bridge jumping, I back-flipped out of an airplane, I gave a speech in front of 400 people, I began teaching myself how to play the guitar, I rode some of the highest, fastest rollercoasters in the world, I began collaborating on a smartphone app, I raised money for a volunteer trip in Kenya, I became a licensed Realtor, and I wrote a published article. In the same time I’ve traveled to seven states and six major U.S. cities. Within the next two months I will travel to two more continents.
While none of these events are anything to marvel at, they are all things that many people, including me, long to experience. Unfortunately, they are also things that the same people often allow themselves not to experience. The only reason I ended up doing them is not because I’m some amazing human being (I can promise you I’m no different than the average Joe on the street), it’s because I made a conscious decision to ask myself “why not?” That’s it. That’s all it takes.
My challenge for you is to remember those two words. Ask yourself “why not?” as much as you can. Ask “why can’t we do this?” and “why shouldn’t I experience that?” This is not a call to spontaneity, or a request to blindly say yes to every opportunity that presents itself. It’s simply a matter of considering all of the options that are in front of you before you make your decision. There’s nothing to lose, and in my experience, there’s an incredible amount to be gained. So why not try it?
As a senior in college, I look forward to the many new beginnings that are fast approaching me—a new internship, new jobs and career to explore, new people to cross paths with, new places to adventure off to, and whatever else “new” that life might bring my way.
I’ve got no clear idea of what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, but I am up for the journey and feel confident that I am not alone during this pivotal moment in life. I am not the only one without a clue or sense of direction and I find comfort in knowing that we are all doing our best to figure it out. We are all hustling to make something marvelous of our lives, big or small, and the only thing we can truly promise to ourselves is take each day at a time and embrace the place where life happens. To live in the present moment, head held high and back to the wind, not worried about the past or future but rather making the most of the very moment at hand.
I’ve been back at school for almost two months now and have been constantly bombarded with questions of my future. “What are your summer plans?” “What does your resume look like?” “How many internships have you applied for?” “Are you graduating on time?” “What’s your next move?” “What’s your 5-year plan look like?”…I barely know what I am going to have for dinner every night so I’m sure you can guess how well answering those questions has been going.
But things got pretty serious when one day I got tired of telling someone that I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do. Why don’t I have at least some idea…because I have hopes and dreams as big as the damn ocean but for some reason when I’m asked, “what do you want to do?” I always come up short and default to an answer that is within some broad stroke of communications. Is it because of some social construct that I fear my aspirations won’t be “good enough”? Or is it because I fear failure rather than embrace the opportunity it brings to reshape, refocus or redirect?
I recently found myself passing time in the library before a lecture class. During this time, I spent the majority of it on my computer bouncing around to randomly selected and suggested philosophical sermons on YouTube. Strange, I know, but it was totally inspiring. One that really struck a chord with me was entitled “What do you want, really?” by Howard Thurman. In this 12-minute audio clip, Thurman shares a very insightful message with his audience and talks of the moment that we ask ourselves, “what is the fundamental thing that I’m after with my life?” What drives us forward? He then explains the two types of people in this world. Ones that believe life to be fixed, hard, pre-determined and finished. And ones of the mind that life of its essence is fluid, creative and that purposes, goals, dreams, ideas, etc. can fulfill themselves because of the fluidity that exists in all life.
Thurman goes on to talk of how people who think of life as fixed and hard quickly exhaust their minds and rarely see the light of happiness and that those who believe in the ebb and flow of this creative life remain inspired and respected. As human beings, it is within our very nature to have a pinned goal or dream, or many, that is of transcendent significance to us. The difference in reaching that goal or dream all relies within the heart and mind of the person. It requires a person willing to put all resources to their disposal, a person unafraid of failure and motivated by all of the challenges along the road. Thurman says that this is the kind of world that honors that journey of the mind and spirit that together can say one thing and be that. This is the type of world that validates the struggle of all dreamers and pushes those dreamers to exceed even their very own limits.
Now that my perspective has been adjusted, I am full-heartedly seeking my dreams no matter how unattainable they seem—because to me, that is a life worth living. I hope to get out of my home state and possibly move west, and what better time to do it than now?
No matter what I choose to pursue, I remain hopeful that it incorporates my love for the arts and requires my creativity to be tested constantly. If you too are feeling bogged down by constructs of society, rest assured knowing that this world honors your journey of self-discovery and that there is no “right” path. Always remember to keep an open mind and open heart while exploring the fluidity of the beautiful life you’ve been given. Happiness will meet you along the way.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
The worlds will never know about it.
The cries I cry go unheard no doubt about it.
The sting of the razor sharp edge piercing my skin.
I’ve become aware of my surroundings.
The dark room swallows me whole.
I stare into the nothingness of the wall.
This feeling is foreign to me.
Wanting to not exist, to be gone.
The thing that keeps me alive feels warm as it cascades down my forearm slowly as
water would in a tranquil stream.
Undoubtedly my wrist goes numb.
I feel nothing.
I am nothing.
I slowly fade away into the darkness becoming another case filed into this unjust world.
By: Dasia Jackson
On the outside, she is brightness, radiance, beauty, and kindness.
On the inside, her light has gone out.
The darkness that lies there is emptiness, loneliness, hopelessness.
There is nowhere she can hide from the darkness that lives inside.
She puts on a smile to try to hide the darkness from others, but there’s no hiding it from herself.
She does not want to be a burden, so she conceals.
She lies to her friends when they ask how she is.
She tells herself that it’s just easier that way.
There’s no reason to bother anyone with her problems.
There’s no reason for anyone to have to look at her differently or treat her as a fragile being.
She doesn’t want to be known as too weak or too broken or emotional.
So she doesn’t let anyone have those thoughts about her.
It’s just easier that way.
She is kind to everyone.
She strives to help others in any way she can.
Because she knows what it’s like to feel empty and hopeless and she doesn’t want anyone else to feel that way.
She has a big heart and enjoys showering others with love and compassion.
She could probably use some love and compassion herself, but that would be a sign of weakness and vulnerability.
So she denies herself the love she needs and instead sends all of her love to the world.
It’s just easier that way.
But the truth is, it’s not easier that way.
She struggles alone because she believes it’s easier for others, when in fact it is the hardest thing to do it alone.
Reaching out for help feels like a cry for attention.
So she doesn’t reach out.
She struggles alone and stays out of the spotlight.
It feels easier this way, but it’s not.
Growing up in Naples wasn’t so bad, you’ve got plenty of beaches and beautiful women, along with a handful of other chicks fleeing from the cold up north during vacation. You’ve got the Everglades around the corner; couple miles south on an open road, and you’re bound to see some gators if that’s what you’re looking for.
You want a crazy atmosphere for young adults and college freaks? Take a two-hour drive to the other side of the peninsula and you’re in Miami, man; the hub of nightlife. You can ask me all you want about what the place was like back then, but I have no answers for you. I never went to Miami when I was younger. And I never planned to.
I grew up with my father and my twin brother, Kyle. Don’t ask about my mother, she’s more of a coward than I am, letting a name push her to abandon her children. I don’t want to talk about it. My father came from a long line of Irish scum, but believe it or not, he was the first in a long line of O’Keefe men that didn’t end up abandoning his children for the bottle. Yeah, he chose the bottle over my brother and me on a daily basis, but let me tell you something, man; he never left. He’s a better person than my mother if you ask me. And let me tell you something else, he tried.
He’d have this desperate sparkle of hope in those helpless blue eyes. When he wasn’t boozed up that is, but still, you could see it. There was some sort of savior, or something that was in him that wanted to escape, something deep down was fighting the darkness within, but that darkness is strong in us O’Keefe men. But every night would swallow any bit of hope. And those blue eyes. Those blues eyes would transform into tainted black pits bordered by bloodshot red veins. And my father would fall, and all hope would be lost as a monster emerged from the depths of an old Jameson bottle.
My brother and I would go to school every morning with new scars and bruises reminding us of our painful past, and only faith in ourselves kept us from seeing it in our future. We would hide in our shells and only converse with each other. After a long day of avoiding any sort of interactions, Kyle and I would escape for just a few hours every day. While our father thought we were at track practice, we would make our way to our own little safe haven. It was this little, discrete area of the Naples Pier beach that not many people walked by. We would sit there for hours, man, and we would just talk, you know? And from two o’clock until five or sometimes even six, everything was okay.
We would survey the waves as they crashed and listen to the palm trees in the wind. We would take in the warmth of the sun and we could smell the briny refreshment of a life free. We would talk about whatever came to mind. A lot of times we made up stories, you know? Stories about escaping from that demon back home.
“See that boat out there, Chris? Imagine if we were on it. Imagine if we were just so far away from here that we didn’t even know what pain was?” Kyle would say.
“Yeah! What do you think we’d be doing out there?”
“I don’t know about you, but I’d be fishing. Try to grab a nice catch for dinner, you know?” Kyle really knew how to make me laugh, man; we’ve never been fishing in our life! But if we were out there, let me tell you something; Kyle would have caught something.
“You don’t think they would have some fancy meals served to us?”
“Depends what kind of boat we’re on, I guess. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, Chris, let’s just get on any boat we can before we pay to board the fucking Titanic!” He would laugh and jab playfully at my shoulders. Anyway, we weren’t strong enough emotionally to actually be on our own.
So we would go home every night before the sky turned red and before his bottle popped. And every single night— I mean it, every single night— we would walk through the front door and hear the old man. I don’t know how he managed to get out of work before dinner every night. I mean, he worked for the town, aren’t those shifts usually pretty random? I don’t know, that’ll always be a mystery to me. Every night though, we’d walk in and he’d be like, “Listen. I’m, sorry okay? I would never mean to harm you. We’re cursed, boys. Don’t you ever pick up a bottle. We’re cursed.” Two hours later he’d be throwing bottles at us, calling us spoiled scum bags for trying to watch TV. We’d hide from him in the room we shared.
“Oh go cry in your rooms, you little faggots! My father.” He would slur. “Let me tell you about my father! You know what it’s like to have cigarette burns up and down your spine?” But his father didn’t do that as much as my father said he did. My father only had a burn or two. His father left when he was seven. It was different for me.
I went to bed every single night, not looking to escape to my dreams, man.
Dreams didn’t exist in that life.
I went to sleep every night waiting for the sun to rise. I went to bed every single night of my childhood, hoping that the beating I got after dinner was the last one I’d get until after dinner the next night. I went to bed every night looking Kyle in the eye from across the room, watching hope fade. I saw our demons in Kyle, and he saw them in me. Those demons, they were our fathers eyes; our eyes. We’re O’Keefe’s, just like he is. We’re the next in a long line. But we weren’t about to unleash any more evil into the world. Kyle and I were going to be the ones that got away. We were going to be “Good O’Keefe’s” who worked hard for their families and made it back from Hell. That was the plan, and we believed it could be done, man. We were going to do it.
All we needed was enough money to get on a bus to Saint Petersburg and rent a hotel for a few nights. We knew we’d be able to get part time jobs over there and ultimately work our way up. Eventually we would find some nice beautiful women and take care of them, show them love that no O’keefe man has ever shown anyone. Then we would get married, live in a two family home if we had to, or on the same street, and our children would be more than just cousins. Not a drop of alcohol would ever make it through the doors of our homes. Our family curse would simply cease to exist.
After a year of high school, though, and the summer going into next, Kyle started taking it pretty hard. The abuse was catching up to him, and I did all I could to help.
“I don’t know how much longer I can take this, Chris. I don’t know if I can keep coming home.”
“No, don’t worry, buddy. We’re in this together. Just three more years including this one, then we’re out of here for good. I got you, Kyle. Don’t worry.”
Our father had taken Kyle’s shoes, saying they were too expensive or something, forcing Kyle to go barefoot to school for days. And the only reason he even got those shoes back was because our father started beating him in his sleep with them.
“Chris. There’s nothing good about being here! Don’t you feel safe when we’re at the pier? Don’t you wish we could stay there forever?”
“Well, yeah. But it’s not that simple.”
“It is though, Chris! It is! Why don’t we just go there and never come back?”
“Because, Kyle, we have to stay in school if we want to be different. We have to finish and get jobs so we can be stable. I promise, it’ll be worth it when we look back on these days and realize that we got through it together.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I just wish there was something that could make us feel a little bit better while we’re at home, you know?”
“Absolutely. But hey, at least we’re not alone right?” Kyle smirked as I tried to stay positive and he promised he’d stick it out with me.
A few weeks later I got a text from Kyle after school, got out of class early, meet you at the spot. Naturally, I thought nothing of it. Teachers at public schools in Naples couldn’t care less if you were going to amount to anything or not back then; we got dismissed early all the time. So I walked to the spot alone taking in every breath of free, safe air. I could feel the wind on my face; I could feel it heal my wounds. The humid warmth slowly transformed into the refreshing salty breeze. Yet on that day, the smell was not pure, it was like burnt marshmallows, but not in a good way. As I got closer to our spot, the stench only got worse, man. That was the day Kyle and I lost our therapeutic connection. He was smoking cotton.
“What the fuck, Kyle!”
“Chill, bro, it’s cool. It’s just me, don’t worry.”
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m just giving it a try, man. It feels good. I feel relaxed. This is what we need to help us feel better at home. It’ll help us. We’ll be alright.”
“No. You do whatever you want.” I was pissed, man. He wanted me to try it; I just turned around and left.
He continued going to the spot everyday without me, and he stayed later than we ever did as well. He would sneak into the house long after dark with his pockets shaking full of pills. He no longer had the demons in his eyes; he no longer had our father’s eyes. It was just an empty glass, as if Kyle was not actually there, and a shell of him remained in my life. He started talking back to my father, which I admired but also despised. I loved it because someone was finally fighting back.
Soon instead of protecting the family name and me, Kyle just packed up and left. Our father got him pretty good with a hook to the chin. Kyle stood up and returned the favor, knocked my father to the ground. He stood over him, but turned to me instead, and that was the last time I really saw Kyle. I mean, not even as a shell, his eyes weren’t glassy at that moment. I stared back at him and he turned away and walked out, almost as if he was telling me to follow him. He picked up the bottle for himself and found even more pleasure in it. He didn’t go to school anymore, and he lived at our spot by the Naples Pier. I never went to see him because, I don’t know, I was afraid to become him. I was afraid that I would go see him and end up with a bottle of my own. I was afraid to see the only thing that ever made me happy, and for the first time in my entire life, I was completely alone.
The nights became longer; the beatings became more frequent and twice as painful. One night, my father took a wooden baseball bat and started beating my ass with it. “You like that, don’t you? Let me help you out now that you’re butt buddy is gone. Ha!” He always thought he was so clever, which infuriated me. But those beatings, they really hurt, man. Couldn’t walk for a week after that one. And that was the first time I ever thought about what it would be like to be with Kyle. Part of me wanted to run away and join him, because then at least I could be happy. Then at least I could be with my brother. But no, I wasn’t ready to give in, I was more afraid of what the bottle could make me than what my father could do to me.
School became unbearable, because I could feel eyes on me no matter where I went. I could hear the subtle whispers about my scars, and I knew of the rumors that my brother was dead somewhere, but I knew he was okay. He’s my twin; of course I knew he was okay. The endless torment continuously ate away at me.
I couldn’t hide anywhere anymore, and I couldn’t talk to anyone.
Nobody could ever know or understand the pain I was going through, not even Kyle, man. I wanted to push myself to finish the year strong, and then I would figure my life out in the summer. There was no way I would be able to go through two more years of high school like that. Not a chance.
You know what happened, though? I didn’t even make it through that year of high school. I couldn’t even finish my sophomore year of high school. My father threw one too many bottles that night and he got me good. The bottle broke on my shoulder and the shattered glass cut my eye pretty bad. Been wearing this patch ever since. I fell to my knees and my father didn’t even realize what he had done. He goes: “Get up, you coward! Get up! I’m gonna make a man out of you.” Anyway, after that I left the house. And with an eye that felt like the devil himself was trying to crawl through, I couldn’t think of anywhere safe for myself to go… Except to Kyle. So that’s where I went— over to the pier where my brother was living in the sand.
His eyes were back to the glass I saw for the few months before he left the house. His hair was long, almost down to his shoulders, and incredibly messy. His clothes were filthy, but he had more on a tree that were drying off. He kept sniffing and clearing his throat, as if he had a cold that he couldn’t shake, and he had a crushed pill in his palm that he was about to snort. He welcomed me with open arms. “Hey!! Brotherfriend! What took you so long, man? Sit down, you want a drink? Want a smoke? A line? What brings your beautiful face to these parts?” He didn’t even notice my eye; he was on another planet, man. But he was happy, and he was peaceful, and that’s all I wanted. So I sat down and took some Jameson for myself. I took it without thinking, but I’ll tell yah, I thought long and hard before I actually drank it. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to become my father, but I couldn’t keep going on the way I was. Kyle seemed great. So I poured the dark bitter liquor down my throat and as the whiskey went down, the demons came up. They didn’t feel like I thought they would, though. I felt like my mind was free and my eyes could see clearly and the weights on my shoulders were lifted. I was alive.
We stayed up all night. Kyle told me how happy he’s been since leaving and about how “life is freedom, man, we just gotta do with it what we wanna do, man.” He was wrecked, he was gone, but he was right. I stayed with him and finally let go of any goals for chasing social approval. I stopped worrying about what my father would think the next morning when he realized I was gone. I stopped feeling the pain both on the outside and on the inside, and that’s when it hit me. We drink to escape; we drink to find freedom that we never had. And when the fear begins to return, and the shadows start creeping over our shoulders once more, we don’t let them take us. We simply drink a little more.
My father let those shadows in, because that was the only way to keep us from becoming like him. He failed, but he didn’t, because Kyle and I will never have children. We will never be like him. And although the curse is in us, the curse will never be awoken again.
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.
The two ran, hand-in-hand, as the lights began to fade behind them. Their backs glowed as their shadows cast among the reedgrass in front of them.
Silence. The groans of the town had faded. The blaring car horns were lost in the sound of the dry grass grazing their legs as they ran. For miles, all that could be seen was reedgrass as tall as their hips or shoulders, stretching across the hills.
Ava and Anna bounded towards the trunk with the beat of their footsteps cheering and motivating as drums. As they finally reached the roots of the tree, they collapsed to the ground. There, they lay panting; chests rising and falling, until their breath evened out and matched the serenity of the beautiful world around them.
“Let’s keep going!” Ava’s eyes beamed up at her older sister in expectation and hope. She was far too young to understand that life had so little to bring; her mind was just too full of hope and adventure.
Ava often dreamt of holding Anna’s hand as they ran through the hills. But instead of stopping at their tree, they continued to run. Past the dunes and the signs that lead them back home, through the fence that had entrapped them for so long, and to the edge of the world, wherever their feet would allow them to go.
Sometimes Ava would dream of a huge lake, with fish and lily pads, and the promise of change.
In darker times, she would dream of a long road, cracked and battered, and no matter how far the two of them walked, the road always led them back home.
“We can’t.” Anna said, running her fingers through Ava’s curly red hair. She began to hum Ava’s favorite lullaby, the same one their mother would rock them to sleep with.
“Don’t be stupid” Anna mumbled. Tears began to pool under her eyes as she spoke. “You need to understand that there’s nothing out there for us, Ava. If you ran, I wouldn’t follow you. I know you’re curious, but when you grow up you’ll understand. All we have left is each other. There’s nothing out there.”
The silence became unbearably deafening, and Ava decided to run. However it was no longer in spite of what had restricted her, it was the security of knowing that Anna would indeed be running behind her as she went. She heard Anna screaming her name as she chased her up and down the valleys, and to the wooden fence they had never dared to cross.
Ava waited for Anna to come, and by the time she caught up, she was sobbing. Her ragged green dress was stained with dirt and splattered in tears.
“If you go, I’m not following you Ava.”
“Come on!” Ava bent over and climbed through the space between the wooden planks. She didn’t turn around as she kept walking, in hopes that Anna had jumped the fence and would soon clench her hand as they walked together.
She had walked about a mile until she saw the edge of the trees. They seemed to call her name as the occasional breeze came and went, and ruffled the branches in a dance of expectation.
She had never seen woods like these. When she began to immerse herself in the trees, for the first time ever she felt scared. The leaves and branches beneath her cracked as she stepped, while she watched many more leaves fall from the towering trees above.
The darkness of dusk crept, and began to fill the woods with dim moonlight. Ava started to hear more; a frog croaking, a twig breaking, an owl calling. She saw a deer grazing by a dogwood tree in front of her, and as she took another step forward, the deer cocked it’s head and stared at her.
The sound of the shot was deafening. Her ears rang as the woods spun around her, and she watched the deer dash away; dancing between the trees as if on stage.
She hadn’t seen the hunter, he had been aiming for the doe that escaped death.
She collapsed to the ground and watched the stars and trees that hovered above her twist and spin like a merry-go-round. She clasped her hands to her stomach and felt her blood begin to pool around her.
She closed her eyes and pictured herself floating in the lake she so often dreamed of. She imagined Anna floating next to her, humming their mother’s lullaby and reaching for her hand.
“Let’s keep going” Ava whispered, and the world fell silent.
Hi! We are Mackenzie and Isabelle and together we make MoonaLuna, a fashion blog that encourages others to express themselves through personal style.
Kenzie’s lifetime adventure of being a fashion-addict sparked at a very young age with creating fashion shows for her parents in their living room. While her living room fashion shows slowly came to an end, her infatuation with personal style has continuously grown throughout the years.
She enjoys incorporating many different styles into each outfit she designs and wears. She is inspired daily by artists (her sis Britt Bass, Andy Warhol, & Frida Kahlo), films/directors (Almost Famous, Wes Anderson, & Annie Hall), and people (Stevie Nicks, 90’s Drew Barrymore, & Jemima Kirke).
Isabelle’s obsession with fashion started at an early age due to an aversion to any physical activity (besides shopping). She was born and raised in Atlanta, GA and part-time in Brooklyn, NY. Her diverse family encouraged and inspired her unique sense of style and passion for expressing herself through fashion.
She draws inspiration from people (MiMi Elashiry is a current fave), places (anywhere from Paris to a coffee shop in Williamsburg) and the past (think 70’s).
MoonaLuna is the perfect combination of the two of us. We created this blog in order to have a creative outlet for ourselves in the fashion realm. Isabelle was about to move to New York and Kenzie was taking on Atlanta. We wanted to have a medium that would allow our shared love of fashion to eclipse distance while being able to showcase different perspectives of style in each city.
We also wanted to use MoonaLuna to inspire others to be creative, unique, bold, and confident through fashion. We want to encourage passion for all that you do whether it be fashion, singing, writing, etc.
We hope you follow along with us on this journey and feel inspired to be bold and fearless in all of your fashion choices. You can follow MoonaLuna on Instagram @_moonaluna and MoonaLuna.org.