So as I mentioned earlier in a different post, I have been doing a continuation of my project, The "Wash Away" Project through out this summer of 2013. So I decided to put the whole collection of pictures from the series up on my blog. You can also view the ones from last year and this year on my website or on my facebook page
Please read these stories. You might find more in common with the people behind the pictures than you may realize.
When I was younger, I suffered from a very severe speech impediment, a stutter. So severe, to the point I was physically not able to put words out of my mouth. No matter how hard I tried, the words just got more and more stuck and it got more and more frustrating. So I gave up speaking altogether. Not only was it frustrating, but quite embarrassing. It was during that key time in a kid's childhood when they begin to make life long friendships and I couldn't even introduce myself and say "Hello, my name is Ta." I was bullied and put down for the way I spoke and sounded. It made me become painfully shy and quiet. I see people just throw words around, saying stupid, hurtful things, just to hear the sound of their own voice and taking such a simple ability for granted, speaking. When I tried to speak and voice my opinion, all the eyes in the room began to roll and voices toppled over mine because no one had the patience to hear it. One of the very few people that actually did in fact have the patience wasn't even a person. It was my dog. Dante. Our family got our boxer dog when my stuttering was at it's worst when I was about 7. I spoke to him for hours about my day and how I was feeling. I was able to say what I needed to say and actually get it out before someone interrupted me. I didn't get talked over or made fun. It must sound ridiculous that I spoke to a dog, but Dante was such an incredible listener. I felt I always had his attention. Very recently, we had to put down Dante. He was 11 years old. He was one of my best friends and I miss him terribly. There are a couple good things I got out of my impediment. The first, I realized my passion in life is animals and becoming a veterinarian. How perfect of a job would it be to heal the best listeners, animals! The second, is that silence is golden and many things are better left unsaid. To this day, I fear public speaking and meeting new people. My stutter did continue through elementary school and middle school, and even a little in high school, but less severe due to speech therapy. One of the greatest things I learned in speech therapy is that the people that matter are the ones that care to listen.
When I was younger, I used to get lost for fun. I would lead the way down the streets, turning every chance I could as I tried to forget where I’d just come from. That should have been my first sign. Even at that age, I was running from my problems. But the difference then was that I liked being lost. It was my choice. I liked the feeling of adventure. Now? Not so much.
In a few short months, I’ll have to be apart from my big sister as she travels oceans away for the first time. I’ll have to watch as one of my best friends leaves for his 8 year contract in the Marines. I will stay back and watch my friends leave for college. One by one, I will lose the friends that I worked so hard to hold on to. Those same friends that gave me the courage to be myself and to speak for myself. Will I lose that part of me when they leave?
The few constant things in my life have been wavering. I find myself questioning relationships I’ve had for so long. I find that the goals I had set for myself are unsteady. All because I’m lost. But in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” And he was right. I know myself better now. I was able to reevaluate my life and realize what I know to be important. I truly am thankful for the times I’ve been lost. Some bad things just have to happen so that you’ll be able to see the beauty in the good things. And though I may find myself lost again somewhere in the future, maybe being lost isn’t too bad. It helped shape the person I am. And, thinking of how far I’ve come, I realize now that I am so proud of where I am today.
I am the kind of person that can never take a situation seriously. I am always judging things and stating my opinions on it in a sarcastic manner. I am not afraid to point out all the negative aspects of a scenario, and I avoid all emotionally engaging situations by going in with a objective, cynical attitude. I love to crack jokes about things that make me uncomfortable so it doesn't seem so daunting, but in reality I just don't want anyone to know that I can't always be in control of everything. If I have no idea how to do something, I will laugh it off and make some sarcastic remark about it, because I never want to admit that I don't know what I am doing.
I also use my cynicism to detach myself from situations and people. I am not the kind of person who loves to express their emotions and wants to talk about their problems. I learned through experience that when you let someone know you for all your flaws and perfections, you are trusting them to love you for all that you are. And when they break that trust it is the most painful thing in the world. Through the same experiences I have built up walls with my sarcasm. If I never take anyone seriously or let them truly know what I am thinking, I will never have to worry about being hurt by anyone. It is easier to joke about or mock a situation in which I feel uncomfortable than face it head on, just as it is easier to satirically ridicule a person who is trying to connect with me, rather than let them in.
While my cynical nature can offend people, and I have been told that it is a mask I put up to distance myself from others, I love it about myself. I know that I use it as a wall to keep people out, but I am happy that it is a part of me. It makes me who I am, and it really does help me through difficult times. Being sarcastic keeps me from taking life too seriously, which can be difficult at times, and it helps me remain strong in the face of hardships. While it makes letting people in difficult, I know that those I do let get close to me are truly there for me and deserve my trust. While cynicism can be a pessimistic and satirical attitude that many people look down upon, I embrace that it is a huge part of who I am, and how I approach life.
Unneeded. This word represents every obstacle I’ve placed for myself socially, everything I’ve let get in the way of making friends. Beginning in elementary school, and progressively worsening as the years have passed, I’ve worried that I’m more interested in being friends with people than they are with me. I don’t fear this because I think people dislike me. I can get along with almost anyone. Instead, my doubt is rooted in the fear that I’m simply not necessary to others. That I’m nice and that people like to be around me, but that when it comes to initiating conversations, friendly gestures and hanging out, I’m simply not thought of. That it just doesn't occur to others because they they already have enough friends. People they've known longer, live closer to, have more history with.
I realize now that friendships can’t be as easy as when I was little. We all have busy lives and if I want lifelong friends I need to silence my irrational fears and take the initiative. I know now that the desire for friendship isn't black and white and that I can’t guess at the thoughts and feelings of others. People don’t always say what’s in their heart and, frankly, how often do I express what others mean to me? I can’t expect people to do what I don’t.
Although things are much better now, I still occasionally struggle with feeling unneeded. When I force myself to take the initiative socially, my old fears crop up and I begin to feel discouraged. They are so much a part of me that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to silence them completely, but I’ll keep quieting them in hopes that one day I will. Even though it’s hard, I’ll keep taking the initiative because I know that, like me, everyone wants to be needed and if I can do that for someone by expressing my wish to be friends, then I should. All I can do is keep making an effort and trust that there is someone out there, right now, who would love to see my face as much as I would absolutely love to see theirs.
Desolate. To be empty, barren and feel isolated. These are many feelings I have become too familiar with this year. Throughout this last year I've done my best at suppressing these emotions with school, sports, theater and friends. Most of the time it works but underneath it all I'm empty. I've tried to figure out the root of this emptiness. Was it loneliness? It couldn't be, I had plenty of close friends with whom I kept myself very busy with and this feeling of emptiness was present even in the company of friends and family. There are many days at school where I'd be there and I'd seem happy and content, but really all I was doing was masking my true emptiness and going through the motions. I'd walk around feeling like I had no purpose and wasn't truly present in the world. This year was full of many new experiences and lots of happiness. But with all this elation came an equal amount of obstacles and self-hatred. By self-hatred I mean feeling as though I'm insignificant, stupid and am not good enough as others. Fellow classmates and close friends were awarded for achievements in academics, athletics and extracurricular. Here I was with nothing and it made me feel like I was destined to have no future. This created the pit in my body and soul and I struggled every day to find some new meaning and purpose. To be desolate is both a physical and emotional feeling. Physically my insides feel knotted and emotionally I feel as though I am a shell of a person and that I lack any real substance. I only feel this way on my very worst days and most of the time I really am happy and very content, but when I have that feeling of desolation there is almost nothing I can do to fight it and it feels like I'm being eaten up inside. The only thing that I can do is to acknowledge these feelings and talk about them with close friends. This year I went on kairos and the thing I really took out of it was the power of talking with others about your problems. I'm someone who is good at listening to other people and helping them with their problems, but i never talked about my own feelings and problems out of the fear ill be judged. On my kairos for the first time in my life i opened up to others. When i talked about my own problems and struggles i broke down, but the people in my group picked me up and put me back together. Talking with my friends about my desolation has helped me to heal and feel loved.
There’s something in all of our lives that we want to hide from
others. But while we hide to feel secure, there is a danger in
developing a dependency on the masks we wear and allowing them to
become our face.
I hide from failure. Sure, I’m not talented at everything and I accept
and learn from making mistakes, but failure is different. Failure is
the daunting idea that no matter how hard I try, it isn’t enough; I am
not good enough, to meet my goals and expectations. Too often I’ve
feared that “my best” won’t cut it or I over think what I’m doing to
the point where I get nowhere. Over time, my fear of failure and
disappointing myself taught me to mask my potential, be
self-deprecating and hold back from taking more risks.
It’s easy to hide. Whenever I feel tempted to take that path of least
resistance, I remind myself that I am better than that; that that is
not who I am. I am one to adapt to difficulties, look for the bright
side and work hard for what I want to accomplish. I’ve learned to let
go of that part of my selfish pride that tells me to conceal my
problems and my shortcomings. Those weaknesses are a part of who I am,
as are my strengths. If I want anyone to know me, I need to first be
honest with and about myself. Given the option, I would much rather
fail or be vulnerable than be disingenuous to the ones I care about
and who care about me.
Sophomore year was my awakening. This was the year I really analyzed my life, it hurts now of course, but it's for the best. I realized how much I hated my family, how they treated me, and how depressed I really was. I stopped talking to everyone and isolated myself. I thought that what was happening to me would be my reality forever, but that was the depressed feeling that came along with discovering the truth. I felt defeated, depressed, alone. I thought nothing would ever come round. All I had was one person I laid all of my problems on. I just wanted to start my junior year and have the summer over with. My wish came true two emotionally draining months later. Junior year!! I started out with optimism; I was back, back to the place where I belonged. School kept my feelings at bay for a couple weeks...but the same depressed, DEFEATED feeling always came back. I felt so bad that I thought I needed to self-harm.. It helped for a period of time but things still got worse. These were my initial thoughts: All of my friends are leaving for college, I have no true friends, I'm alone. There were many times I felt like giving up, but I kept pushing. Then came October, a month of decision making. I went to Berkeley because I missed one of my closest friends, and I quit soccer because I didn't think I was any good. I couldn't talk to anyone about how I was feeling because I didn't think anyone would ever listen to a crazy person, or understand. I was still the same me though! Happy, energetic, always laughing and smiling. That's what I wanted people to think...I even tried to convince myself of it too. But the feeling of defeat always came back.. "YOU AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH, NO ONE LIKES YOU." That's what I would always tell myself, and for a while I believed it. But I would always feel better at school. It got worse though.. I lost friends because I couldn't keep my own secrets anymore.. This was around January. But then came February and junior retreat!! Junior retreat made me SO happy. I had the best roommate, new friends who liked me, old friends who loved me. I knew it too, but my happiness didn't last after I left...it made me feel more depressed than ever.. I DIDN'T BELONG. I belonged back at retreat. I needed it.. But I had something to look forward to: KAIROS!! Before I went on kairos I met Amy Crayne and Mollie Babich. Words cannot describe how much I love them. I told them my story. MY STORY. Everything, and didn't hold anything back. They showed me how much they cared just by listening, they gave me hope. But..soon I came to feel sad again.. I started to miss a lot of school, some people in class noticed, but I still felt invisible.. I wondered why I was still around.. But I couldn't think like that! I had Junior kairos to look forward to. It was my motivation for everything. So finally after counting down for months, I was on the bus to kairos. Kairos opened my eyes, heart, everything. It showed me how much I'm loved and how much I love others. After kairos I slipped back into my defeated self... once again I was sad.. really sad.. But I always find a reason to be happy! Isn't that why each and every one of is still here? Because there's hope for something better.. that light at the end of the tunnel. I have learned so much about myself from this obstacle in my life, this depression, defeated feeling is just going to make me stronger. Depression has taught me to appreciate solitude, and feeling defeated has taught me to fight back. I guess I'm not in search of myself, I'm in search of true belonging, love, and happiness.. That's what everyone deserves. You and me. I hope you know you're worth it, because it took me a long time to realize it too.
In those days of newsboys hats and purple paint covered hands was when people called me unusual. People never think of how kids always take things to heart. Being called unusual made me unsure of myself. I couldn't figure out who I was or going to be. Most people and even kids are an idea of what kind of person they are. I didn't When people said I was “unusual” they usually said it with a distasteful look on their face. I wasn't appreciated and had hard times in school. I felt like I was constantly being made fun of. The kids in my class didn't understand that I wanted to be like no other person that ever existed. I wanted to be an individual.The whole concept seemed like fiction to my classmates. All my classmates cared about was fitting in and being exactly alike with each other. All I wanted was to re-invent life and live it to the fullest. My dad always said I was a rebel like that. He is the one that taught me all about the odd people in life that gave life purpose. I have always inspired to treat every day like it’s an event and make the best of it and also being like no one else and why would you try being a copy of someone else? Everyone is their own version of an individualist. So rise against conformity. Be the best unusual version of you because it’s the best version
I chose the word inadequate because I constantly feel like a disappointment to everyone around me. There are so many expectations put on me by my parents, friends, teachers, elders and just society in general. I have an inside voice always telling me I'm not good enough for anyone or I'm not anyone's first choice. They may tell me that I mean something to them, but if they had a choice, they would pick someone else over me. It would be too easy to say that I feel invisible. Instead, I feel painfully visible, and entirely ignored.One of my biggest fears is loneliness because I would go crazy being forced to be alone with myself for a long time. I get annoyed with myself so easily, which is one of the reasons I love to be busy, because it keeps my mind occupied on things other than myself. ? I have starved myself and thought about the ongoing list of ways to end my life, all because I want to be happy. I long to feel beautiful and worth something for once in my life, but that’s not the way is it? God made me this way for a reason, so why can’t I accept that? Why can’t I be content with myself the way I am? That’s what I want. I want to feel beautiful while still eating 3 meals a day. I want to actually be happy without feeling sorry for myself. I want to feel worthy of someone else’s love. Knowing that these feelings of inadequacy can be washed away, even for a little while, makes me feel free. It makes me feel happy, and that is how I know I am worth it. My life is not defined by the mistakes I have made, but the lessons I have taken from them.
I’ve been scared all my life. I’ve been scared of the dark, rejection, judgment, and failure. These childish fears have been a burden to me my whole life. Now, in my mind being scared is different than having fear. Fear is natural and keeps us from doing stupid things, but being scared is unnecessary and has kept me from feeling whole and opening up to people.
I used to be a real worry-wart, growing up as a kid. I used to be afraid of the end of the world, of creatures in my closet, and of bad things happening to my loved ones. As I grew up, I became scared of rejection, judgment, and failure. Because of these three I never truly opened up to anyone. was scared that they would find me irritating, weird, and annoying. So I avoided questions about myself by asking them questions; getting to know them without them getting to know me. Their walls were down, but I was too scared to knock mine down. It took me a very long time, but I finally realized that I cannot live my life being scared about what others may think or do. I have to open up and trust that my friends will accept me for who I am. When that water hit me, I felt the word ‘scared’ being washed away and new word glowed in its place: brave. I know I will get scared in the future, but I intend to be brave and face those childish fears head on.
I’ve always felt insufficient; inferior; not good enough to others.
I’ve never had amazing grades. My parents always hound me on the fact that my grades are never perfect. I’ve never been great with math or science; I’ve always been consistently bad in those subjects. But I’m constantly expected to excel at subjects I’ve clearly never been good at. Looking good has never been something I’d truthfully use to describe myself. I’ve always been told I’m too skinny or that I need to put on my weight. Or that I always wear odd clothes that aren’t great looking. I’ve given up trying to reach others standards of beauty and I simply dress what I feel comfortable in; if that means jeans and a tee shirt, so be it. From as early as 4th Grade, I’ve been bullied and harassed for stupid reasons; the way I acted was ‘gay’ or the things I liked were ‘stupid’ or something. I never reached the unknown and unspoken expectations my classmates had set out for me and I was bullied constantly for it. I found haven in the Drama department; somewhere I exceeded people’s expectations and felt useful and wanted and I wasn’t bullied. During my 7th Grade year, my grandfather passed away and my mother turned to drinking. She would pick fights with everyone and yell and scream. Home wasn't a refuge for me. I’ve never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. I’ve never really had an entirely enjoyable time at the dances, usually due to the lack of a date. I’ve asked people before and always gotten a ‘no’. Once again, I just wasn’t good enough.
It took me a long time to realize it, but what I was waiting for was a fantasy; a fairy tale, and I will never have my chance and happiness if I do not fight for myself to make it happen.
I need to take a stand for who I am and show that I am far superior in my own light, regardless of what others may think and judge me as.
In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself, Everyone else is taken,”
I am not broken. I am perfect.
"We accept the love we think we deserve"
-Perks of Being a Wallflower,
Since I was little, I found it hard to believe that someone cared about me. I am not craving attention when I say I don't think they like me; I am being honest. For the longest time I didn't think there was anything special about me. I'm not unusually pretty, or smart, or good at a particular sport, or talented. I always wonder "why like me when you can like someone better?" I don't have any brothers so my house was always mostly filled with girls. I got used to people ignoring me and not being interested in what I do. Adults talked to my sister because she is older and can carry a conversation better. My friends loved to hang out with my sister because she would tell them crazy stories about her high school adventures. It's tough being the younger sibling who no one cares about. My sister goes through all the scary experiences first. She went to middle school first, she went to high school first, she will graduate first, and she will deal with college first. No one thinks that my experiences are different then hers, so no one asks about my life. I was a socially awkward kid and I hated having people look or talk to me, and most adults remember that and think that I still don't like to talk to people.
I started this process of washing away, in hopes that it would change the way I view myself and how others view me. I do believe that I deserved to be loved and that everyone deserves to love and be loved. I don't think that my past defines who I am today, or who I will be in the future. I don't want to forget the way I have felt for so long, because then I will forget the struggle I went through. I am going to use the pain that I felt and turn it into strength. This will only make me stronger and the wash away project helped me start my journey of preserving the memory and the feelings.