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WHY I MAKE ART

My grandmother says that when I was two, I sat at her piano and closed my eyes, nodding my head to some imaginary rhythm. My fingers so deftly swept across the keys that if you couldn't hear, you'd think I was a prodigy. I dressed as Christina Aguilera for Halloween in 1998, age seven, with a blow up microphone, a choker necklace, and a belly shirt. My sisters and I put on Spice Girls concerts on my neighbor's back porch with choreography and lip syncing and popcorn, and in the summer the whole neighborhood came to watch the show; I was Posh Spice. I'd record my original songs into a colorful, plastic Fisher-Price tape recorder and perform them for my mom in the living room. I knew who I wanted to be from the time I was born.

In middle school, when everyone was asleep, I'd sit on a pile of folded clothes inside of the closet, still smelling like detergent. Hearing only the sound of my breath, I'd turn on a flashlight and open my Song Box. It was inconspicuous, pale blue with Tweety Bird on the front, but inside was a treasure trove. There were dozens of folded pieces of lined paper with frayed edges where they'd been torn from my school notebooks. I'd unfold them gingerly so nobody could hear the crinkling. Each song was meticulous, with scribbled out sections and words written and rewritten, crawling up along the side of the page. I'd write songs called Perfectly Imperfect and Hurricane in My Brain until the side of my hand was cramped and gray from the smudging pencil. I'd write about the asthma constricting my chest and my sister's fourth grade teacher dying in the middle of the school year and how, one day, I was going to fall in love and escape to Neverland like Wendy, helping all those lost kids find their way, flying through the stars.

At sixteen, I came home from school every day and strummed my guitar for hours, my voice pouring out of my body like it belonged somewhere else. I played until my the tips of my fingers were aching and my mind was at ease, homework be damned. I stayed up on school nights to write long, in-depth theories about Bright Eyes and Leonard Cohen songs on lyric analysis blogs and went to open mic nights every week. I gravitated toward the misfits and artists. I found myself in poems and plays and paint; in Joni Mitchell's Blue and Regina Spektor's Begin to Hope.

I fell in love with performing and teaching at an arts camp in southern New Jersey called Appel Farm, a creative oasis surrounded by corn fields where the coolest people I've ever met gather to make art. The butterflies and forgotten words on stage made me crave more. The spark of light in a student's eyes when they finally got something amazed me. How incredible that I got to witness their catharsis! Throughout my 20s, I taught so many people, watching them grow and learn; doubting and then surprising themselves. I started my YouTube channel in 2017, scared to death with no video editing skills, just to prove to myself that I could do it. This decision changed my life.

When I make art, I am in a state of free fall. Whirlwind, head over feet, air whooshing past my face and popping my ears. The sounds are purple and blue and green and my voice comes out like a tidal wave that washes over all of the things I think and feel, all of the loss and hurt. It carries me to shore. Music is big, pink roses and strawberries in summertime and sunlight through open windows. Instruments are fidget spinners and clay between my fingers. Words bend like summersaults and flip around under my tongue, dancing. I write and puzzles are solved, mysteries are unlocked and the ground beneath me doesn’t matter anymore. Paint and scripts and videos and cooking; it’s all high heels clicking on hardwood floors and smiles so big my cheeks hurt. Songs are tomatoes in the garden that I tended for months, finally ready to be picked from the vine. When I share my work, I'm taking the braids out of my hair after sleeping in them wet and shaking my head until loose waves fall over my face, smelling like coconut. Art envelops me and I can only breathe inside of creation.

My whole life, I’ve been driven by this feeling. It's why I write music and work so hard to craft songwriting tutorials, online courses, and resources for people to explore their own creativity. The arts make me feel alive and my mission is to write songs, make art, and share my most vulnerable self to prove to everyone that it’s possible to let it all out.