Photo of Kathryn McClellan

The reflections project focused on essential questions like "who am I?" and "what do I have to offer the world?" We did several projects related to those questions, including the perspectives project, a personal essay for college applications, and the lyrical essay, which focused on telling not our story, but the story of someone else.

The project was heavy on introspection, and helped me to articulate past growth as a person, and helped me to grow as a digital artist, as I learned new methods of producing digital art and new mediums to work with.


The perspectives project focused on how we view the world around us. What our perspective of the world says about both us and it. After we finished writing the perspective pieces, we recorded audio of ourselves reading the paragraph in ProTools, and then submitted the audio recording to PBS as part of their perspective segment. My own perspective focused on my experience dealing with depression and anxiety, and the pressures society put on me to pretend I wasn't experiencing those issues.

Making this video was very valuable for me as a person, because it allowed me a space to express things that I've been dealing with for most of my life. The introspection involved also helped me to better understand those issues and how i interact with them.

When I was 10 years old, I decided my family would have been better off if I’d never been born. When I was 12 years old, I tried to kill myself. When I was 15 years old I finally got help. Most people would think that after trying to kill myself, I would’ve realized something was wrong. But it took another three years and a second suicide attempt to make me see that. Why? Because I was at a nice school in a nice neighborhood. My family was kind and loving. Aside from a year in 5th grade, I wasn’t bullied. I had friends, and I got good grades. My life was great, right? Wrong. I had an anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Because of societal pressures and perspectives on mental illness, namely that it’s not real, I was afraid to admit the truth. My brain was physically unable to produce enough serotonin and dopamine to sustain myself. It took 5 years of wanting to die for me to realize I wasn’t just being a drama queen or overreacting, and that what I was feeling was real and valid. And once I started taking an antidepressant, my life improved drastically. Suddenly life didn’t feel like an impossible burden. Instead of just going through the motions of a meaningless day, I was enjoying my classes. I was interested again in things I loved. I laughed and smiled more. I grew more confident and less scared of the world around me. I found motivation again. I still struggle with feelings of worthlessness, but now I have a weapon on my side. A weapon in the form of knowledge that I’m actually suffering from something legitimate. A weapon in the form of the chemicals I take daily that urge my brain to produce more of the essential endorphins that sustain me. A weapon in the form of vocabulary to describe what is happening in my mind. A weapon in the form of resources now available to me, like therapy and coping mechanisms. Yes, depression is a powerful foe, but now, thanks to the help I finally sought out, so am I.

Personal Essay

The personal essay project aimed to help us create a personal statement to use on our college applications. Each essay type was specifically formatted for different kinds of students, and I ended up choosing an essay type that explored challenges I had faced and connected them back to the career I want to pursue. I chose to talk about the struggles I faced with depression and anxiety, and how dealing with those sturggles has helped me to regain a natural curiosity about the world necessary for a marine biologist, the career I want to pursue in college.

When I was twelve years old, I found myself locked in a bathroom, coming to terms with all the things I would never do. I was twelve years old and had decided that I would die without ever making it past the 7th grade. My sister sat outside, sobbing. The whole time I was locked in the bathroom, she never left. My mother called 911, terrified that I had actually taken action. That night was the first of many times I would think about ending my life in the next six years.

Those thoughts and actions changed my life forever.

I can remember a time when I was happy and curious, carefree and exuberant. I will never be that way again. I used to be the girl who would go out of her way to seek new questions and answers, new puzzles to solve. I took joy in knowing the unknown. I’ve always been the girl who got excited about sharing obscure information. I was the girl who took apart pens to understand how they worked. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. And the only time I ever lost that spark was when I was ready to end it all.

And as my depression took over, my powerful brain that had once sought to solve each and every puzzle or question it encountered turned against me. I was trapped in my own mind, unable to bring myself to care about anything around me. This apathy would invade and control my life.

Finally, in December of my Sophomore year, I sought help.

The whole time I’d been experiencing these feelings, I had thought that I was being overly dramatic. I had an amazing and supportive family. I had plenty of friends. How could I have a hard life? But after getting help and a diagnosis of depression and a generalized anxiety disorder, I learned a few things. I learned that depression and anxiety disorders don’t care if you have a caring family or not. Depression and anxiety disorders don’t care if you get good grades. I learned that I was chemically unable to be as happy as those around me. It wasn’t about the life or the family I had, but what was inside my brain.

Once I stopped blaming myself for my misery and started on medication, my life improved drastically. I was able to take back control of my thoughts and emotions. Depression is still something I struggle with daily, but now it’s a fight that I’m winning.

And with that struggle, I gained a much stronger grasp of the value and frailty of life. Having come so close to taking my own so many times, it’s easier to see how thin the line between life and death is. And how stark a difference there is between the two. Life is hard and full of pain, but it is also full of beauty and mystery. Death is cold and empty. Only in life can my mind continue to explore and be satisfied with new answers and new questions.

My mind is one that needs to solve. When I was young, it was puzzles and games. A few years ago, it was the question of what my life was worth. Now, I want to solve the questions of the ocean. I want to keep doing what makes me happy and keep exploring the world. I want to see the beauty around me and learn its secrets. I want to surround myself with the wonder of the natural world, and never stop learning new things about it. And for me, that means exploring our oceans as a marine biologist. Beneath the waves is a whole world that we know so little about, just sitting there, waiting for us to explore it. And I want to be the person who finally does.

Cool Photo

The Cool Photo assignment was a project in Design that involved taking apart and reassembling a photo. We each chose a small object with some sort of emotional significance to us, and photographed it in different lighting and different positions. Then we reviewed the photos, and upon choosing the one we wanted to use and editing it in Photoshop, we printed the photos and deconstructed them in some way of our choosing.

For my photo, I took pictures of a pendant that an old friend gave me. The pendant held significance, because that friend and I no longer talk to each other very much. To replicate that feeling of sadness, I tore my photo in a shattered pattern, then glued the pieces on the foamboard roughly aligned with each other to emulate a shattered heart.

This project was valuable for me because it was very interesting to explore different ways to manipulate photos. Most of what we do in Freestyle is purely digital, so it was nice to shake things up and work with a more physical medium. It was also interesting to try and tell more of the story behind a photo by partially destroying it.

original cool photo broken cool photo

Lyrical Essay

The purpose of the lyrical essay was to tell the story of someone with a different perspective than ourselves. Basically, we answered the question "Who am I?" from the point of view of someone else. We interviewed the person we chose about a struggle they've faced due to some aspect of their identity, and then we wrote a lyrical essay, which is a sort of cross between a regular essay and a poem, about the answers we recieved during the interview.

It was interesting to view the perspective of someone different than me for several reasons. I was able to better understand my interviewee's life through the process of trying to put myself in their shoes, and I was able to better understand how everyone has a unique life experience that is worth being shared.

Are you...?

The same words, the same face.

Are you...?

Though they may not realize what they mean, you do.

Are you...?

To them you are other, some strange puzzle to solve.

Are you...?

You brace yourself for the questions, the shift in opinion.

Are you...?

No, you don't hate the LGBT community. No, you don't support polygamy. Yes, you don't swear. Yes, you don't wear short shorts. Why does any of it matter?

Are you...?

The same questions, the same answers; you are getting tired of it.

Are you...?

They don't see the history, the struggle your community has been through.

Are you...?

Yes. But not the way you think.

Cool Photo Video

The purpose of this project was to explore either our lyrical essay or our cool photo more deeply by using a different medium. During this project, we learned how to use 3D techniques in AfterEffects, and then used them creatively to make a 3D animated video about either the cool photo or the lyrical essay.

I chose to do my video on my cool photo project, since that was the one I felt had more to explore. I went deeper into the sentiment behind the photo, no longer being friends with someone who you used to be very close to, and created my video based on that sadness.

This project was valuable for me, because it was interesting to explore how to convey an emotion visually, not through a photo, but through moving parts. The animation gave both a sense of greater freedom and the sense of being constrained by the need to hold the viewers attention at all points of the video. It was an interestingly different way to produce art for me.