In the reflection unit, we were asked to look more deeply into ourselves and express ourselves in more intimate ways than we had in previous projects at Freestyle. In English we worked on our personal essays for college and took time to find the stories in ourselves that we most wanted to tell. We then moved into finding out more about others by reading and writing stories about people unlike ourselves and looking at how the things in the world effect others. In Digital media we recorded ourselves reading both our personal essay and a rant about something that we didn’t like, then we edited the audio and created a video for our rant. In Design, we made Aboriginal paintings and collages, the Aboriginal art helped us explore a culture very different from our own and learn how seemingly simple tasks can take a lot of effort and mean a lot to those that are creating art. Our collages made for more subconscious art that taught us to think abstractly and out of the box. I learned a lot about what values I hold and how strongly I feel about different issues that I confront in my daily life.

Clean Slate

The canvas in front of me is empty, daunting. The paint is fresh and the cup of water on the table next to my easel is clear and unmuddled by my indecisive switches from color to color. Starting is always the hardest part; I question myself over and over again: Will this piece turn out looking beautiful, or will I just be wasting my time? Maybe I should just put my paint away. With a decisive stroke of my brush, there is finally some color breaking up the negative space. No turning back now.

When I was younger, the art I made was sloppy and unrestrained by technique or any thoughts about whether what I was making would look good to others. I was ready and willing to throw myself in front of a crowd, and often did since I was in the local youth theater group. It wasn’t until after my parents’ divorce that I started becoming more introverted. My dad, who often encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, wasn’t around as much anymore.

My mom quickly remarried a rigid man who often belittled her and me when things didn’t go how he wanted. My creativity was forced to bubble beneath the surface, something I could share with trusted friends, but otherwise kept to myself. I would rather not rock the boat and said little to strangers or adults unless I was told to.

There was one place where I still felt safe enough to be my creative and extroverted self:; my dad’s condo. Unfortunately, things soon changed when my dad started dating someone. I didn’t know how to feel about her, but I was excited to welcome her into my life. A few months after I met her, however, she too showed to be oppressive and lashed out at me and my father. This got better after a while, but the damage was done. She had pushed my dad’s family away from us and my mom and dad could no longer seem to have a conversation than didn’t end with yelling and tears.

My last safe-haven had been taken from me, and I quickly devolved into an painfully shy child, afraid of making close relationships or showing any sort of flaw. I started reading books and escaping into fantasy worlds, never sharing my thoughts or imagination with anyone or anything.

It wasn’t until my mom divorced her husband and we moved to California that I finally got in touch with my extroverted and creative side again. I was encouraged by my new friends to write and draw things with them and share what I made. I would draw characters that my friends and I had come up with and create elaborate stories for these characters. I had finally convinced myself that opening up and making a mistake was infinitely better than never trying new things or meeting new people.

Even my sexuality, something that I discovered after I moved to California, felt less defining to me. When I came out to my uncle, he told me that if I ever got a girlfriend, I shouldn’t bother coming home. He told me I was just confused and that I would “find a nice boy” that would change my mind. My self-esteem was practically non-existent, but over time I learned to stop living my life based on how I think other people will look at me. I have started to explore my creative side more, experimenting with everything from makeup to food to new art mediums.

And so, I dunk my paintbrush into the water and quickly clean it before dipping it into another vibrant color. Going back and forth from the canvas to my paint with feverish and energetic strokes of my brush.

I take a step back from my canvas and smile at the colorful picture that confronts me. My canvas is full.

Cringe culture

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I hate cringe-culture. It is the best example of the worst parts of the internet, and the following that it has is not only surprising, but disappointing. For those that don’t know what cringe culture is, I’ll explain. Cringe is basically an intense feeling of second-hand embarrassment. The word was popularized on the internet and has practically become a meme in and of itself. Cringe culture, described in the simplest terms possible, is the wave of people on the internet that have taken images and videos of people and basically belittled them for their own amusement. The videos that are shared on the internet are often called “cringe compilations” and include various clips of things that could be considered “cringe-y”.

I don’t think that cringe compilations are necessarily bad, but this thinly-veiled bullying often gets out of hand and never makes the people in the videos feel any better or make any positive change. The objective of a cringe compilation isn’t to call people out on their destructive or disruptive behavior, it is to point and laugh at them for their differences and inadequacies.

So, to summarize, just be nice to people on the internet.