Often, I write prose in my head as I walk. I tell myself that I’ll write it down later, but I hardly ever do. It’s a meditative act, and I struggle to recreate that peace and unease when no longer in the moment. In particular, I prefer to numb myself outside of those moments, scared of feeling too much.

This week I felt too much. The fear of my actions in that moment still leave me in nauseating unease. My fight with depression has become so livable in these last few years, but my God, the control I lost for just a couple of hours on Thursday haunts me like no relapse before.

Someone recently asked me what it was like to fail so hard that I ended up in rehab. He was referring to my stint four years ago at the end of my senior year of high school. It was odd because I’ve always been so scared of failure, and it never occurred to me that some people may view my stay in rehab as that. The only part of me that ever considered it as failure was Ed, my eating disorder. He was quite disgruntled to hit that road block. However, I never saw it as such. In fact, I’ve often wore it as a badge of pride. I’ve survived, I’ve thrived, and I’ve continued to strive for more. It was interesting to be reminded that failure, though considered that in some eyes, is only growth, and the opportunity to see more or clearer.

This week I relapsed, and though I’m scared of it, I’m proud. It was my first relapse in over a year– that’s the longest I’ve gone! I’m thrilled because I picked up the pieces again, I brushed myself off, and I told myself I’ll be okay. I told myself I’ll be okay because that’s what I believe. Except for a few moments of panic, I am in control; I am capable; and I have proved that I will continue forward. It was one step back, but what is that one compared to hundreds and even thousands stepped forward since my last relapse over a year ago? I have faced fear, panic, and depression in between, and I’ve stepped through it all each time.

On Friday, after Thursday’s events, I packed my backpack and headed for the hills. Well, the mountain, actually. I headed for the place where I knew I’d thrive; that I knew would restore my heart, despite the emotional burden that was trying to hold me down. I found great success just by following my heart. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true, and I am proud. On the last day of 2016, I went for my first ever solo hike, and on Friday, I went for my longest ever solo hike. To some, that might not be an achievement, but for me, those seven or eight miles on Friday were complete and utter freedom and bliss.

I was completely and totally alone on that mountain, but despite that solitude, the smile that grew on my face as I hiked higher, could not be chased. My heart was happy and full of joy, and as I reached the top of that bald, I laughed because not laughing wasn’t even an option. Laughing was so natural and so needed, and completely and perfectly okay. I was alone on a mountain, sitting on a rock with 360° views of southern Appalachia all around, laughing as the wind whistled quietly past my ears and lowly over the open mouth of my water bottle. My boots were caked in mud from the soft ground, squishy with melting snow, and black with a richness and happiness that can only mean that spring is on its way. I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked because I wanted to get back to my car before dark. As I hiked downward, the sun disappeared behind some mountains, and reappeared in the dips of valleys and gaps between other mountains. For just that little while, there was enough joy in my heart to quench a generally unquenchable desire for more than just school, work, and stupid expectations of fulfillment from the confines of a tradition classroom.

When I got to my car, I actually switched backpacks and headed back into the woods. I didn’t stay the night, but I gave myself the option to do only what I wanted to do. I ate dinner with a view of the sun setting in the valley. The wind continued to whistle, and at times, blowing out the flame of my stove, reminded me I should acquire a heat and wind shield for my cook kit. As the sun set, I turned on the red light of my headlamp and delved into an hour of reading. With the setting of the sun, the temperature dropped and my shivers made me need to pee three times within an hour. I laughed and made my decision for the night. I’d wait for warmer weather for my first solo overnight, but with the sky only lit by stars now, and temperatures that I’m positive were cooler than the forecast (thanks, wind), I packed up, and hiked solo in the dark, another first for me.

The trail is one that I know well, but the adventure was new. I was completely on my own and completely okay. I know how to care for myself but still struggle to fight off obligation to fulfill other’s desires. I’m learning that 2018 is for me. I may not be graduating on time; I may be pushing back other plans or turning some opportunities away, but I’m making those choices because I am the most important thing in my life right now. I am the only person I will for sure ever live with, and the only person I must for sure always nurture. 2018 is my time to show myself– I am here to stay, and I am here to be healthy.


Caught up and Confusedo

I get caught up in expectations. Caught up in other’s expectations of me, and even more caught up in my own expectations for myself. I get caught up worrying about what others will think, and forget to be unapologetically me. I got so caught up, that I stopped blogging even though I made this blog for me. Well that, and I hate typing on my iPad, and computer problems were inhibiting me from blogging from my laptop. But really, how silly is that? I get caught up confining myself, pretending I’m not superstitious, but then not doing something because I dropped a strawberry at breakfast and thought it was a sign I’d get in a car wreck if I left on time, or walking a different way to class because I saw someone looking angry and thought that if I follow their route, I too would end up angry. I make myself anxious, and then I never talk about it.

Once my mom told me the Peace Corps probably wouldn’t accept me because I’m medication dependent (I get migraines). She said it out of love, but now it always fills my head. At work a couple weeks ago, my knee starting hurting and feeling inflamed because I really need to stretch, and a coworker asked “how are you ever going to hike the whole AT?” I get caught up hearing those words more and more. I did the math, and not graduating on time will cost me around $60,000. I get caught up thinking about that.

Why do I keep getting caught up in those things? My body craves dancing, but there’s not an accessible dance studio on campus and I can’t think of a big enough open space with positive juju. What even is juju? I runs my whole damn life. I just typed “juju” into the webpage search bar on safari. It took me to iTunes. Not helpful. Now I typed in “what is juju?” Wikipedia says, “Juju is a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa. The term has been applied to traditional West African religions.” Oh wait, further down it also says, “The term ‘juju’ is commonly used to refer to the feeling of something. For example, if a person feels offset by an object or place, they would say that the object or place has ‘bad juju.'” That’s more like it.

Hell, what is this blog post? Like the fuck bro, whatcha typing? I need a cat. Or a dog. I really want a brown poodle, but would feel like a terrible person if I didn’t rescue a dog. I also want to downsize on all my clutter, but I’ve been incredibly unsuccessful thus far. Also, I want to make art, but how the fuck do I do that? I feel like someone calling themselves an artist is an incredibly self absorbed thing to do. Like, who are you to call yourself an artist? It a term I feel like other people have to name you. Like a hipster but more covered in paint, and more naturally an existentialist. Yikes, today’s grey day is messing with my brain. I want to hike but its cold as balls outside. Like ice balls, I don’t know of any other kinds of cold balls.

Okie dokie, toodles.

One Day in Rome

Today I went to Rome with two of my house mates. According to my Fitbit, we walked 29,000 steps today, which is not surprising at all. 
Because tourist season has begun, the cheapest train tickets we could get were for 5:50am, so we started our day at 4:45am. 
Once we arrived in Rome, not long after 8:00, we caught a bus to the Vatican City. We promptly walked in the wrong direction and ended up walking more than half way around the city to the entrance of the Museum. Once we arrived at the museum, We were blessed that my dear friend, Sophia, who was in Rome from Denmark for the weekend, was already waiting in line for us! Getting to see Sophia was an unplanned joy. She just happened to text me earlier in the week inquiring about Florence’s distance from Rome, only for me to realize we would be in Rome at the same time! We went through the Vatican Museum together, along with Sophia’s friend, Lindsey. The Sistine Chapel was smaller than I expected, and the men working inside it were very grumpy. 

After the Museum, we went out to lunch before Sophia and Lindsey split ways with us. Lauren, Clio, and I went back to the Vatican, this time to the city. I discovered that I have a dreadful verbal filter and need to significantly decrease several words from my vocabulary. Hopefully, I also got a little tan. 

After the Vatican, we walked towards Largo di Torre Argentina, a square containing Ancient Roman ruins, that also conveniently contains lots of cats! The cats who live there help Rome with its rat problem in exchange for health care and housing. The US government should probably check this system out. I also lost my new camera lens’ lens cover in pursuit of a cat. I do not recommend repeating this, but I made a pretty spiffy tape replacement. Good thing I loved duct tape back in middle school– still got my skills.

The rest of our day contained lots of walking– a half marathon total. We got gelato at Giolitti, a gelateria that is supposed to be one of the best in the world. For such a rating, it was surprisingly well priced, and quite delicious. I indulged in a white chocolate dipped cone with white chocolate, cinnamon, and bailey’s Irish cream gelato. I do recommend this combination. 

The rest of today’s walking included visiting the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, which contains three Caravaggio paintings in one of its chapels. One of these paintings actually contains a self portrait of Caravaggio because a lot of Renaissance and Baroque painters would paint themselves into scenes as one of the characters. It’s always fun to find those portraits within paintings. 

We ended our day with a rushed walking tour past the Colosseum, which was closed for most of today due to a European Union meeting taking place close by, and then walked in the complete opposite direction to the Trevi Fountain. After this, we rushed to catch our 8pm train, excited for the chance to finally sit. 

My Tummy Project and Where it’s Coming From

Working on my mid term paper for my art history class, Women and the Arts in Italy, I found myself looking through the photos on my computer of paintings in various museums. I accidentally hit a key on my keyboard, and my computer jumped all the way back to pictures from my senior year of high school. Oddly enough, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about that time in my life. The series of paintings I’m currently working on, casually being called “The Tummy Project,” for the time being, was actually brought about as a celebration of sorts of how I’ve changed and grown in the last three years, since my senior year.

The Tummy Project started the first week of this semester with me painting a picture of my tummy from when I had an eating disorder during senior year. I chose to paint the picture because I ran across it on my iPad one night, and was struck by how I no longer envied that stomach. The last week of February this year will be my three year anniversary since entering treatment in 2014. Though I entered treatment in February of 2014, it wasn’t until a year later in January of 2015 that I truly became invested in moving forward. Despite not always fighting for my own recovery, prior even to entering treatment in 2014, I always wanted my peers around me to view their bodies with positivity and love. In dance after school and in the AP art studio, the fall of my senior year was when I really started exploring this artistically. As I sought out peers to model for me, I found myself drawn (hehe no pun intended) to those with insecurities surrounding their bodies. I hoped that by painting or drawing them, they may begin to see themselves in a different light, as uniquely beautiful people. Since I began working figuratively that year, I have continued working with models who shared their insecurities and difficulties with me. Some of my work has stemmed by photographing someone the way they wanted to be, and other times, I made specific requests, but as my relationship to each person has grown, they’ve taken more risks in telling their own stories, both to me and others, in an effort to inspire continued recovery and growing positivity.

After painting my tummy a month ago, I realized that if I painted that old, skinnier tummy of mine, then I need to also paint the tummy I have today. With this, I decided to start painting other tummies as well. I reached out to some friends who I knew needed to appreciate their tummies a little more, and I put it out on social media as well. Since posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat that I was in need of tummies to paint, I have been sent over twenty images from people I see regularly, to people I haven’t talked to in years. People of varying body shapes have sent me photos, and I feel so blessed. I am thankful that so many people trust me with their bodies, and I am thrilled by how many people I wouldn’t have expected to participate who chose to put themselves out there. As I continue to paint stomachs, the project is taking a turn in the direction of becoming an installation in the future.

As I see these images of women at varying stages of life, I’m noticing how similar and different each stomach is. Each tummy has its own shape, favorite foods, and bad memories, but they also all house the same organs and serve the same purposes. Everyone’s belly-button is just ever so slightly different, reminding me how we all began the same way, but how we’re all unique. The more tummies I paint, the more I notice the similarities of each brush stroke and how beautiful each shape is— how similar we all are, despite all being so different.

This coming week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and a week to celebrate your body. For me, I get to celebrate recovery and how I’ve grown. There were so many times that I never believed recovery was possible, or even wanted it, but with people all around me, fighting their own fights, and encouraging others in their own pursuits of happiness, I’m blessed to be where I am today. I’m blessed to no longer envy an unhealthy body. I’m blessed to know that recovery is possible, and that relapses are not the end of the world, but a part of growth. I am blessed to be a part of other people’s stories, and to be able to encourage others as they learn about loving themselves. I hope that those who read this and those who don’t, feel blessed and appreciate their bodies an extra little bit this week. If anything, thank your tummy for digesting the nutrients you give it, thank your heart for beating, and your lungs for filling with air. Thank your legs for carrying you through the good times and the bad, and thank your arms for their ability to hug and bring nourishment to your body.

If you’re interested in sending me your stomach, you can message me on any social media we have in common, or through my blog’s contact page. I am currently only painting women’s stomachs, but if that changes, I’ll announce it. If you or anyone you know is struggling with body image or unhealthy methods of controlling their lives, take a look at the National Eating Disorders Association web page,

A Weekend with Zoë

It’s been quite a while since I last posted anything. I’ve been side-lined from blogging due to my busy school schedule and getting sick for a whole week. I’ve had so much to blog about, but not the time, that now I’m forgetting where to start. I guess I’ll start with this post, and then hopefully catch up over the next few days.

A couple weekends ago, my wonderful friend, Zoë, came to visit. She took the bus from Southern France, where she is spending this semester. You can follow her blog for updates on her experience.

I went to meet Zoë at the bus station at 7am, so I was blessed to see the sun rise as I walked next to the Arno on my way to the station. After Zoë arrived and we dropped her stuff off, we ventured into Florence as tourists. Because Zoë’s time and budget here were limited, we opted to do only one major touristy thing. We climbed to the top of the Duomo’s bell tower and dome! Without the mountains and my regular hiking that I do back in Tennessee, I’ve been missing what it feels like to climb up hill, but climbing over 800 stairs in one afternoon certainly helped with that bit of homesickness. According to my FitBit, we walked over 23,000 steps that day bewtween our Duomo adventures and wandering the city. We ended that day by going to a Shabbat potluck dinner at the apartment of some of my friends’. Zoë got to know some of my peers from SACI, and we celebrated friendship with food, impromptu hair cuts, and dancing.

Zoë’s second day here, we met up with Olivia, another Fine and Performing Arts Scholar from ETSU studying at SACI. We got lunch at Gusta Pizza, a popular pizza restaurant in Florence, and did some more wandering. In the evening, we found ourselves in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, the 2017 location of Florence’s chocolate festival. The festival was small, but chocolate filled, so who’s complaining. As if life couldn’t get better than chocolate, we ended our Saturday with dancing and a drink or three with more friends.

Ultimately, our weekend was filled with walking the streets of Florence because there’s really no better way to get to know a city than to walk it, especially on a limited budget. More than the walking or the sight seeing, though, the best part of having Zoë here for a weekend was the simplicity of a familiar face and spending time with a close friend. As it was the weekend before Valentine’s day, I can safely say that it was one great Galentine’s day weekend, and I hope that we will be able to meet up again during our time abroad. So even though its a week late, Happy Galentine’s Day, and Happy Valentine’s day. As parts of our lives seem to be shifting in ways we may not like with 2017’s new politics, I hope you’ll seek out the love and company that make your life more joyous and positive.

And on that more positive note, off I go to write my art history midterm paper!

Stress Relief

I’m stressed about the new presidency, and some of the horrifying changes that have already occurred. Because of this, I have started and not finished writing at least two other blog posts. Hopefully these posts will be coming soon, but until then, here are some pictures of my cat, Clyde. Clyde makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so I figured I’d share his cuteness. Plus, one pic with Skipper.


Art History Everywhere

This week I started classes, and wow. I love this place. From the studio to the lecture hall, I am engaged. At the end of the day, I am exhausted, but ready to work the next day. As I get more tired as the semester goes on, I hope I will continue to stay focused.

While at SACI, I am taking only one art history class. I made this decision because I often feel overwhelmed by history. I am always so filled with ideas of how history can influence my artwork, that I want to read as much as I can. I also get discouraged in history classes because there is always so much more knowledge than my brain can soak up. My art history professor here does not have this issue. I am continually astonished by the quantity of knowledge in that woman’s head. Like holy cow, wow.
The art history class I’m taking here is called Women and the Arts in Italy. There were several reasons I chose this class. One, was simply my interest in feminine influence and success in history. The other reason was that it covers so much time. There is so much to be covered in this class that I know that it will only be skimming the surface, but I’m so excited for all the different directions my mind will be taken. I didn’t want to have to choose between High Renaissance or Baroque art history, so instead I’m learning specifically about the presence of women in both historical times.

This week, our first lecture talked about the artwork on wedding chests (cassoni) and birth salvers (Deschi da Parto). In renaissance times, these were both very common parts of marriages and child birth. A wedding chest was what a woman put her belongings in when she was married. After her wedding, it would be ceremoniously transported to her new husband’s home. The outside of the box would be painted with a story, often a tragic romance from the Old Testament or mythology. On the inside of the chest, there was often an image of a nude woman or Mary with baby Jesus to encourage baby-making activities and hopes of prosperity. Birth salvers were ceremonious plates given when I child was born. One side would have a painting similar to the stories on the outside of wedding chests, but the back of the salver would be more specific to well-wishing for the new child. Often these paintings illustrated chubby babies to express hope for a healthy child.

Today during my art history class, we ventured to Palazzo Davanzati, the Museum of the Florentine House. Here, we got to see a little bit of what it would be like to be a wealthier woman in late medieval and renaissance times. Women spent the majority of their time at home because they could only go outside when escorted by a man. Often, Sunday church outings were the only time a wife got to venture out of the home. In the palazzo, we got to see a couple examples of wedding chests and birth salvers.

After today’s class, I was finished with classes for the day, so I went to the Galleria dell’Accademia and saw Michelangelo’s David. Let me tell you, David is one tall dude. I’ve heard over and over of how amazing the David sculpture is, and I always wondered what was so great about just another statue of another dude. Well, it turns out, it’s a pretty big statue. In the 21 century, large sculptures are normal, but for a piece done at the beginning of the 16th century, hot damn! The rest of the galleria was also enjoyable. I found that all the old artwork I would have found boring just a few years ago is quite comical now. From Mary’s expression looking at baby Jesus in her arms to odd accents of gold leaf in unexpected places on a painting. There was a special exhibit of work by Giovanni dal Ponte where every rendering of John the Baptist looked an awful lot like a werewolf. I have to wonder how seriously these artists took themselves and their commissioners. Obviously, they were very serious about their work, but surely they giggled at each others oddly rendered faces and feet sometimes, right?