Be Passionate About Your Art

Most of us here at Mississippi School of the Arts have been asked one simple question: why?  Why are you pursuing art?  Why not do something that is safer, that can guarantee you money?

Art is important for a lot of reasons, and I know we’ve all heard the classic saying that art is what separates us from animals, but it delves deeper than that.  Art transcends us past a point of getting from Point A to Point B, elementary school to middle school to high school and so on, job to promotion, etc.

This is about more than a mundane existence; it’s about confronting fear, life, and reaching into a world that’s different than ours.  A world where, yes, there can be triangles floating behind someone’s head.  Screw it, the triangle can be that someone’s head, and we can make it purple if we want to.

There are plenty of studies out there that art can also physically help you.  It can make you happy, do better in other subjects, and even help your general health.  Even if we set that aside, art makes you connected with not only yourself, but other people.

I wrote a really personal poem when I was twelve years old.  It was pretty good for a twelve year old, if I may say so myself, and my dad was so proud of me.  He started showing it to all of his coworkers, even to our neighbor.  I was so scared because it revealed details about my life that no one knew.  He pointed out that people weren’t actually thinking about me and why I wrote it when they read it.  They are instead letting it reflect inside of them, thinking of their own experiences, and how they can relate to it.  It bonds us together in that way.

It changes your perspective on things.  It can help you back up and look at things on a bigger scale, or get closer and even see tiny little details that you never would have seen.  It can take you to lives that you’ll never have, parts of the world that you’ve never visited, and concepts you never would have thought of on your own.  It can make you feel connected to someone halfway across the world and help you understand their lives.  It makes you nicer, if you let it.

Bad art is important, too.  I might even argue that it’s more important than good art.  I didn’t pick up a pen and suddenly write a wonderful story one day.  I practiced for years, and out of the ten years I’ve been writing, I’d say that I’d cringe at eight and a half of them.

Even if you don’t hone your craft, it’s important to stay bad as well.  Art is about expression, not perfection.  I can’t even draw a straight line, but I’ve started an art journal.  You have to get out of your comfort zone and stop being afraid of feeling embarrassed or not being perfect at something your first time doing it.

You should do something that scares you today.  Try something new.

Something Inspirational

When I was in first grade, I decided that I wanted to be a cartoonist for a newspaper.  I honestly don’t remember why, but my mind was made up.  I hadn’t thought of any characters and had no story in mind; these were both bridges I’d cross when I got to them.  I hadn’t read any particular cartoon that made me want to be a cartoonist.  I hadn’t read a lot of cartoons period.  Still, I wanted to be a cartoonist.  I liked the idea of being one.  There was something appealing about the idea of being a cartoonist.

I later decided that I wanted to be a comedian.  I remember what it was that made me want to do this.  My dad showed me a comedian on television. I don’t remember what comedian it was or what their act was.  This was the first time that I understood what a comedian was, and the concept alone was enough to make me want to be one.

My dad didn’t like this idea and tried really hard to talk me out of it.  I’m not sure if he was successful; if I just lost interest; or if I was distracted by something else, but I ended up deciding that I wanted to become a writer.  When I was in second grade, I had a teacher who made me love reading more than anything else, and I decided that I loved reading so much that I wanted to create works that other people could read and enjoy.

I wanted to do this on and off for years until around middle school.  It was then that we had a career dress up day.  I remember specifically not being sure how to dress as an author.  I decided to borrow a set of scrubs and go as a surgeon instead.  My parents latched onto this idea, and I even convinced myself that I really did want to be a surgeon.  I decided that I would be a general surgeon; the stakes for brain surgery were too high.

It wasn’t until ninth grade that I changed my mind.  I wrote a story called “Greg.”  Looking back, it wasn’t a particularly interesting story, but it was my first story in years and the first one that I would consider reflective of my style as a writer.  Despite a lower quality compared to many works I’ve produced since, this story was very significant to my rediscovering my passion as a writer.  Since then, I’ve realized that I am drawn to storytelling.  This led me to the Mississippi School of the Arts where I am currently enrolled as a literary student.

While there, I started writing a fantasy series with a wide scope.  As I wrote it, something felt wrong about it though.  I had imagined very vibrant imagery for the story that I didn’t want to waste page space in describing, but I also didn’t feel like this project was meant to be a screenplay like I had written a few of in the past.  Recently, I decided that the story would work best as a comic and have started working on it as such.

In a way, I’ve circled back to where I started in considering what I wanted to do with my life.  I’m not sure if that’s inspirational or just funny, but I have a lot of feelings about it that I’m not entirely sure that I understand.  I am at least sure that I am happy to be working on a project that I am passionate about.

Finding Self

The other day one of my friends and I were catching up and he referred to me as a Tumblr girl, and I understood exactly what he meant.  All my life I’ve been this image of balance and I’ve preached about loving and finding yourself, all while trying to find myself; trying to figure out self love. Some days, I absolutely love myself, the way I look, who I am as a person, what I stand for. I think i’m the greatest thing on two feet. Other days I look in the mirror or i’m sitting in my bed and i’m questioning why I was ever born. Why is it that i have to live this life, in this body, at this time. Self love is important, and I don’t lack it, but I do often forget to exercise it.

I realized that you have to practice what you preach, but I find it a lot easier to put my energy into others, to love and care for them, to guide them; even if I haven’t gotten it all figured out for myself.

But I know you can’t always put other people first, because you matter! 

I’ve often been in situations where I put myself on the back burner, given up on myself, my dreams, even my writing. But I’ve also always been there to pick my own head up, put the pen back on the paper, or at least have enough sense to look for encouragement. I have made it a point in my life to give myself breaks, regroup, and come back refreshed. As people, we tend to be hard on ourselves. Nitpicking at small things, being insecure, obsessing on materialistic matters that won’t matter after a while. You’ve got to remember that you are a living, breathing being. You have feelings. You’re emotional just like everyone else. It’s completely okay to cry.

There was a point in my life when I felt completely hopeless. I felt as if my worth wasn’t good enough, as if I was only spitting out art because I had to. I’d lost my passion, my drive, and I had no intention of reigniting that flame. I didn’t see a reason to, as in my mind, my life was already in shambles. How pitiful does that sound? For about three months it was like this. I’d go to class, sleep, and never leave my room. I was the party pooper of the year. After some self reflection and thought collection, I realized I didn’t like my own energy. It was as if I was making myself sick. And who wants to be sick?

As a self help and/or remedy to my problems, I went out and bought some new journals and pens. I wrote for hours, expressing on paper what’d been trapped in my mind. I expelled all the negative energy and used it to get my head in a good space.

I fell both out and back in love with myself and my writing in a matter of months. It just had to be done, because sometimes you have to look at an old thing with new eyes and readjust. It was a necessary evil of sorts. And I say all of this to say:

  • practice what you peach
  • learn to love yourself
  • never give up
  • give yourself a break
  • you’re only human

Let’s Hope This Works

I have a terrible habit of being terrible.

I feel like that was an attention grabbing sentence for a post that is supposed to inspire and drive people to do better things, or maybe I’m wrong and it was just awful- you see what I’m talking about? 

This last year, starting around this time, I decided to change how I was looking at things in my life. I had a tendency to look towards the worst-case scenario in anything I did, whether it be my writing or everyday tasks like going to Walmart. 

This sounds like the most cliché thing I have ever written, but I feel like maybe it’s supposed to be. Mrs. Sibley said that if we cringed when thinking about writing something inspirational then her lecture was needed. I won’t say I cringed, it was more of an internal moan that is still echoing around in my rib-cage. I try to do the best that I can in any given situation, but sometimes I get distracted by what hasn’t even happened yet, and will probably not happen anyways. 

I mentioned my trips to Walmart earlier, and I want to touch back on that subject. I can’t stand going to Walmart for the sole reason that there is a 95% chance that I will see someone I know there. My secret wish is that one day MSA will magically teleport to somewhere other than Brookhaven (which happens to be where I’m from), so I can just be surrounded by strangers. BUT, this goes along with my own personal journey of making my own life more enjoyable and easier to live. I’ve decided I can’t be scared anymore. I have to realize that things might not go my way, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t change them to. 

I took a trip over Christmas break to a place that I have horrible memories of. I have not been there since the terrible things happened, and I was terrified. By the time I got there I felt like I needed another shower and change of clothes because I had sweat so much (sorry for the TMI). As my mom and I were driving into the city, and I was so very close to crying, I made up my mind. I will not and refuse to be controlled by things that have hurt me in the past. I cannot think about them daily and have my dreams filled with what-ifs and if only I had. That’s no way to go about living- because it’s not really living at all. It’s being thrown around by  the outcomes of your past while ignoring the fact that you have control over your future. 

I will not say that I am perfect. I have days that I struggle to do simple and ordinary things without having some sort of negative thought or action towards the task. I’m working on how people see me (although if we’re honest, I don’t care how people see me). I want to be known for my kindness and understanding. This is something I have the most work to do on, because I was raised a certain way, and it is proving difficult to change that part of myself. But the most important thing is that I am working on it, and I’m trying to better myself for the good of me and the people around me. 

We’ll Always Know What Thanksgiving Tastes Like

Mama Odelle’s house smelled of roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, cigarettes, and sweat. The fat under her arm was swiftly moving every time she stirred the contents in her favorite mixing bowl.

“You have to stir it in one direction the entire time. That’s what get it all right, “she’d say every year.

We were all huddled in the living room watching the Hallmark channel. Mama O’s tv was small and so was her living room, but we all made it work. It reminded me of the nights when all the cousins slept over. We’d make pallets and sleep head to feet, feet to head. Jr. would always complain about my feet being all in his face.

“Man, I swear to God if your stinky feet touch me, I’m going to fight you,” he’d say with a playful undertone.

This year, almost everyone in the family came, just enough to fit at the table. Well, except for Aunt Sheryl’s husband Jake. The family eyed him each step he took. They’d only been married for a couple of months, and none of us were invited to the wedding. Aunt Sheryl said it all happened last minute, but her Facebook says differently. She and Jake were smiling big alongside his family at their ceremony. I didn’t say anything about it though.

Finally, the food was done and Mama Odelle shooed us all into the dining room. Everyone sat, and Auntie Jean led grace. The whole time she was being shady saying, and God please bless our unexpected guest, Mama O took over from there. Uncle Dennis was laughing silently the entire time.

We began to eat and eat. Mouths were full of dressing, ham, turkey, pecan and sweet potato pie. Everyone grabbed a slice of pecan pie except Jake.

“Why you ain’t eating none of that pecan?” Auntie Jean asked.

“Oh, I’m—”

“He’s allergic to pecans,” Aunt Sheryl cut him off.

Auntie Jean sucked her teeth.

“Mmm. Well, if you brought ‘em around more often, we’d know that.”

Uncle Dennis quickly grabbed his drink and swallowed hard, peeking from the rim of the glass.

“Well, if you stop running the streets all night, maybe you’d get to see him.”

Mama Odelle slammed her hand on the table.

“Look, we’re not doing this year. I’ve slaved over that kitchen stove to make this meal for y’all ungrateful devils and all you want to do is fight,” she said as she continued to eat her roll.

“Tell your daughter to grow up then Mama.” Aunt Sheryl said.

“You’re the one who needs to grow up. Didn’t invite your own family to your wedding. What? You’re ashamed of us or something. Got you a good job and a maybe decent man and you think you all that now huh?’

“Like, I said. The wedding was last minute. There were barely and guests.”

Auntie Jean shifted in her chair and laughed.

“Girl, stop that lying. You’re lying for no reason. I saw your Facebook. Mmhmm. Maybe you should make your page private,” auntie jean said.

I thought I was the only one who saw all the pictures. I guess I wasn’t the only one snooping around. Auntie Jean an Sheryl kept arguing back and forth like they were teenagers. The rest of us continued to eat like nothing was happening. Maybe Mama O decided they’d get tired eventually and shut up. Jake kept tugging at Aunt Sheryl’s arm, trying to get her to calm down.

It wasn’t until the food was thrown across the table that everyone tuned back in.

“Now, that was a perfectly good piece of pie, and you just wasted it,” uncle Dennis said playfully.

He was enjoying the drama, probably was even hoping he’d get to see a fist fight that day, but he didn’t. After there was no more to food to chunk, they screamed I hate you at each other and stormed out. Neither one of them told Mama O thank you or the food was good. Uncle Dennis joked for the next ten minutes until they became lame. He eventually left. The house was quiet again except the rattling of dishes. I was drying the plates for Mama Odelle. She looked sad but not sad enough to ask are you okay. I imagined she was thinking to herself. Asking how did her kids become so angry at the world and each other. But she found solace in the fact I’d always be there for her. To clean her carpet, fix her air conditioner, or whatever else she needed.

That was the last Thanksgiving we all had together. Aunt Sheryl and her husband moved away and never looked back. Auntie Jean was a little of everywhere, and Uncle Dennis was ‘rebooting’ his rap career up in Chicago. He’d save up to get a train ticket. I was the only one who came back every Thanksgiving until Mama Odelle passed away.


Icarus and the Sun, Pt. 1

“Icarus and the Sun, Pt. 1”

Based on the art of Gabriel Picolo

He met her at the darkest hour,
and even in her flickering light,
she was brighter than any fire.
“Why are you here?” asked Icarus.
“To think,” said the sun.
“About what?”
“I’m troubled, too. Take a seat.”

He let her into his heart
the way she let the moon takes her place
—slowly, quietly, while he was sleeping.
Curled against her, her hair hot against his chest,
his arms cocooned around her flames
and their fingers locked together in a searing hold.

Sometimes he melted too much to handle, and he crept away in the quiet.
She dimmed without him.

It took longer for her to do the same.
She’d said, “Let me in.”
He’d asked, “Can I?”
For forever, it seemed, she had her back to him,
too busy in her own starless world,
in her memories and the black hole in her chest.
She finally turned around,
and her world twinkled once more.

She was a rose-tinted mirror.
In her presence, she mended him.
She turned his bare roots into wings
and his marks into wax.
He told her once.
“I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.”
She shook her head and kissed his cheek
and the wax melted.

They had doubts.

Once, when she felt calm enough not to burn,
he let her into the greenhouse.
She saw the words written on the short, prickly things.
Lifting “Puzzled” into her hands, she asked.
“My own fears and demons,” said Icarus.
“I get acquainted with them.”
He showed her a few.
“Lonely”—introspective, but likes new things.
“Anxious”—not talkative, but sincere when needed.
“Overthinker”—an asshole.
He did not show her the one tucked in the corner.
“Love”—never watered.

Once, as they walked through the darkest hour,
the sun said, “You don’t want me.”
“Why not?”
“I’ll hurt you.”
She told him how they’d travel over flatlands to distant hills,
to chase the moon.
He thought that was stupid.
He loved it
and ignored her unspoken plea.
“Don’t get too close to me. I’ll burn you.”