It wasn’t the most eloquent choice of words, but I could tell Tarela was trying to make a point. So, I waited for her to continue. “What I mean,” she sputtered, “What I mean is that you’re really smart, but you don’t flaunt it. You’re chill and not arrogant. You’re a contradiction!” Her comment verged on being a compliment. At the time I laughed, not knowing how to handle its intent. My only response arrived late and to my own mind, “Well Tarela, I am a product of my environment.
” My world knows a battle of contradictions. I was a “surprise” baby, born a decade after my siblings. This means that by the time I turned eight, I was being raised by four adults. Transitioning between home and school life each day was comical. Silly daytime banter between elementary kids met practical applications of words in the evening. From each, I learned, and to each, I adapted.
My mind continues to mature while my childish enthusiasm remains. Gradually my school life advanced into a world more similar to that at home. The TI-83 calculator I had puzzled over in childhood is now my reality. Years of cheering at football and baseball games, track meets, and dance competitions, became years of engaging in my own sports. Drawn to math because of its absoluteness and track because of its competition, I find new realities. Although these are two areas I am fond of, they are trivial in my art world.
Seven Mona Lisas smile at me when I walk in; a step inside the painting room envelopes my world in a sea of color. The vibrancy of the walls resonates with the enthusiasm of the students. Over the years, this room has served as my solace. It is my escape from mundane routines; it is my exploration of another side of life. As such, I observe almost as often as I create.
A giant fish head, an avocado seed, and a red mandala currently sit at my art table. Strangely juxtaposed paintings, now common sight, still work to excite me. Taking notice of my classmates’ creations, I am inspired by their imagination and originality. Through supportive sharing circles, there has developed an atmosphere in which my only competition comes from the internal drive to succeed. I strive to produce pieces of interest, my pride drawn simply from my own accomplishments. I credit my art class for the hours I pour into my academic schoolwork, refusing to settle until my assignments are “aesthetically pleasing”. It’s a humorous tribute to the class that has nurtured my innovative side. My aspirations find base in the different aspects of my life. A dream of mine is to create and maintain a charter school, which would accept students through use of a lottery system. My hope is that it would allow children with financial need the opportunity to procure a quality education in an inspirational environment. This vision grows from my own exposure to intellectual experiences. From older siblings to the rigor of schoolwork, thoughtfulness surrounds me. I realize how important this is, and it is something I wish to share. Yet, I understand the difficulty of bringing ideas to light. Determination takes ideas far, but true success is in the ingenuity and generation of thoughts. A strength of mine since childhood, my ability to spark interest, develops with my continued involvement in art. My world consists of math books and track meets. It is the wonders of a painting class and the parenting of siblings. My world is young, and hopeful, but practical always. To Tarela, this is an oxymoron. To many, my life is a contradiction. Call it what they may, to me, it is balance