2016: A Year in Review

It has been a WHILE. I’d like to say that I’m an avid writer who picks up my notebook to scribble down lines of poetry and little philosophical bits on the daily, but sadly, I don’t live up to my own standards of artistry. Life gets busy, to put it simple. My urge to write has been strong many times, but I could never get myself to sit down and write a cohesive thought. But here I am again, partly out of necessity and partly because I have time for once. So here I am, prepared to describe the changes and journeys of my past year that I hope will encourage you, help you feel less alone, or to reflect on your own year in your own specific fascinating way.

A year ago I was recovering from a anxiety/panic attack of the worst kind. I truly believe that sophomore year of college is where growing up really hits you, at least for me. I found bravery in myself that I never knew was there, and decided to fight the deep pains and and questions head on. I am so glad I did that, because I am a changed person twelve months later. This brings us into the first chapter of what I like to call “Becca gets back at Becca.” This phrase was coined by my dad who observed that after crying about a fear of mine, I turned around and got back at myself by driving on the highway at night for the first time (I had just gotten my license, which is why it was a big deal.) This year was full of moments like these, moments of me pushing myself to fight for life without fear. No one else was going to be able to do it.

My first months were me saying no to more things, giving myself grace, and taking care of myself, which is an art in itself. I decided to not put deadlines on my art, because school is full of them. I knew that I couldn’t fight the process of growing up anymore, but I also didn’t need to rush it. It is a process that takes a very long time. So I worked all summer, got a license, and stabilized myself. The biggest changes happened when I went back for my junior year. I felt like so many fears that I head been relying on had been crippling me and I couldn’t lean on them anymore. I found less and less excuses to avoid difficult decisions. I kept deep friendships that were healthy for me and distanced myself from those that were causing me pain. That was the hardest thing of them all. The growing pains of life and the shifts in those who surround me are the hardest.

My parents moved to Poland, which was the big shadow looming over me this past year. But I had people loving me though it and letting me cry, laugh, and process. I discovered that I am so much more strong than I thought I was. I processed heartbreak by getting bangs and playing Florence and The Machine on full volume. Thanks to my roommate for dealing with my artistic whims. I dealt with grief by dancing, I asked questions and let myself not know the answers. I doubted so many things, my faith in God was challenged, but through it all I always found peace. The truths in my life that I could rely on were that I do believe in the Gospel, despite my struggles, I am equally capable of weakness and insurmountable strength, I am made of many places that have equal value, and I am an artist who needs to work, to ask the important questions.

I turned 21, grew as an actress, learned Shakespeare, studied the Holocaust while being in Fiddler on the Roof at the same time, which was both a balm to my soul and a sobering challenge, I was blessed by wonderful female friends who raised me up daily and helped me grow, I took more baths, burned more candles, ate more cheese, walked in the snow barefoot, finally illustrated the majority of my secret project, danced my heart out, grew my hair out, cared about the world in a new way, cried about politics, organized my life in small and big ways, saw theater that changed my life, made theater that changed my life, props managed three shows because I’m crazy, cried in the rain, saw old friends, drove for the sheer purpose of feeling independent and maybe getting ice cream, truly appreciated my North Carolinian heritage, revisited my home in Ukraine, made a home in college, painted a blue sky, grew closer with my best friend of a sister, celebrated the small and big things, lost my voice when the Cubs won and felt patriotism, cried in the elections and felt patriotism, asked God countless times about the evil in the world and death, grew plants, spent time alone, sang songs with a new voice, remembered ancient memories, played like a child, went on adventures, held tight to those who hurt, learned when to say no and close books, and traveled by myself for the first time. The list is endless, but years are full of the days when we do the small things like clean, paint, and do laundry, and those days when we encounter pieces of eternity, the impossible and amazingly possible.

Photo snippets

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

My favorite place to think. The courtyard of Arena Theater.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Days with my sister are the best, and her boyfriend is pretty great too. #joshmo

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

What a group of women.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Saying Goodbyes.

Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

Sitzprobes are magic and so is Fiddler on the Roof. Spot me scratching my head.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Shakespeare inspires. Rehearsal preparation.

Processed with VSCO with lv03 preset

Travel experiences. Familiar sights. Krakow, Poland.

 

Advertisements

How I Introvert

image

As busy as I may get in life, there is no doubt in my mind that I am an introvert at heart. At college I don’t really have the time or space to be my true introverted self, but I find ways to be by myself and unwind from my day. Most of the things I love to do alone are done when I am home for breaks, especially in the summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but mostly just my close friends and family. My introverted tendencies aren’t against being around people, but for me doing things that I love, which mostly mean I am alone in doing them.

Other than theater and dance, every thing that I do, I do when I am alone. The list is long, but the commonality between everything is that I enjoy the small things in life. The scent of a candle, the flavor of tea, the sound of music I like, and a plethora of other various enjoyments occupy my time. Now is an especially introverted time in my life. It is summer and I have a room to myself. The possibilities are endless! This isn’t supposed to be a post about how cool I am when I am by myself (not cool), but hopefully an inspiration to you. What are the things you do that give you peace, energy, and healing?

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Above is a compilation of many of the introverted comforts I have. I mostly just draw and watch movies, but there is definitely more to a day at home for me. Being a night owl, I generally like waiting until sunset to watch movies and draw or paint, because that’s when I can justify burning a candle or drinking a whole pot of tea. Don’t ask me why, its just a weird quirk of mine.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Art! Yay! I love micron pens. They are a life saver. I do a lot of lettering, but I mostly illustrate. I draw with pencil, use the pens to go over it and add details, and then I use watercolor. To the left is a sneak peak to A SUPER SECRET PROJECT of mine that includes illustrations of stars and such. Since I spend the majority of my alone time doing this, I watch a lot of movies and listen to a lot of audiobooks. So, here is a list of my favorite movies, tv shows, audiobooks, etc.

  1. All Harry Potter audiobooks (Jim Dale version) and movies.
  2. Outlander. It is a tv show, and my favorite show ever. Scotland, accents, history, romance. What else would I need?
  3. Gilmore Girls.
  4. Cranford. It is a BBC series based on the books. old British ladies concerned with the mundane in life, but are also amazing. Its amazing.
  5. Jane Eyre. Michael Fassbender. That’s all.
  6. Downton Abbey. Obsessed.
  7. About Time. One of the most inspiring and heartfelt movies ever.
  8. Little Women. My favorite movie of all time. I weep every single time.
  9. The Lord of The Rings. duh
  10. Emma. Any version. Especially the Gwyneth Paltrow version, because Knightley.
  11. Pride and Prejudice. Also any version.
  12. The Tinkerbell movies. Trust me. They are beautiful and have gorgeous celtic music.
  13. Disney. All of it, but especially the classics. Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan.
  14. Swan Princess. The hidden gem of animated princess movies.
  15. The Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells. The most beautiful movies I have ever seen. Irish stories with breathtaking animation. DO IT!
  16. Becoming Jane.
  17. Anne of Green Gables. A must see. (all of these are, but especially this.)
  18. Amelie. Its French and beautiful.
  19. Everything is Illuminated. Ukraine and the music!
  20. The X-Files. Woah, science fiction, what are you doing here?! Sooo good.
  21. Miss Potter. It is about Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit, and I relate to it on sooooo many levels.
  22. Ever After.
  23. The Prince of Egypt.
  24. Anastasia.
  25. Bringing up Baby. Funniest old Hollywood movie ever.

The list is endless, but these were the first that popped in my head.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

My newfound obsession is embroidery. This is literally all I have done so far, but I love it. I feel so relaxed and focused on it. It is a wonderful way to slow down. Also pictured is a lavender pouch that I sewed. It is a great item to have in a sock drawer, or even in your bag. I listen to a lot of music when I embroider, so here is some music I love. Explore my Spotify. Go crazy. I would suggest my dance playlist, Soundtracks, and starred music. I’m really random. Be warned. Also, just look up my name in spotify to see the rest of my music, if you so desire.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

 

I love to dance and do yoga. I try to do yoga every day, but Its hard. I prefer doing yoga alone, because introvert. I like burning a candle and having soft lighting. I also play soft music or nature sounds. Essential oils have become a huge thing for me now. I love applying them to my wrists for a peaceful feeling. I recently made a yoga mat cleaner/room spray that makes everything smell so good. Here is a video on how to make one, if you so desire. I also watch the rest of Yoga With Adriene videos when I do yoga. She is phenomenal.

image_3

Lastly, I love my bedside table. There I keep all my special notebooks, journals, and current books I am reading. Here you can see my daily to do list notebook, by art journal, my journal journal, another notebook, Anne of Green Gables, an acting book, my Bible, and a devotional book. I don’t actually use everything here every night, but they are all so important to me. Other books I have been loving lately include,

  1. My Name is Asher Lev.
  2. My Antonia.
  3. Harry Potter.
  4. The Silmarillian.
  5. The Icarus Girl.
  6. Everything is Illuminated.
  7. Anne of Green Gables.

There are so any more books that I love, but I am now exhausting myself with lists. I hope that you are inspired to introvert in ways that replenish you. With that, I finish. Parting is such sweet sorrow. (Read that in McGonagall’s voice, please).

The Fight to be Human

zombie photo

Photo by Cristina Otero

Today, I spent a good couple of hours reading about zombie movies. I don’t really know how I ended up reading about them, but I was fascinated in the genre in a way that I have never been before. I enjoy a good apocalyptic movie, or zombie outbreak film every once in a while. I don’t like any of the actually horror of these movies, but I do love the story. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many horribly done movies that just catch on to the trend and make a gory film without any real meaning behind it. Anyway, through my strange perusal of the internet, I came across one particular film that struck me to the core. It is called “Maggie” and it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin.

Maggie-5

Unlike many other zombie movies, this one is about a father caring for his daughter who is slowly turning into a zombie and struggling to stay human. The story made me cry, because of the humanity in it. The struggle, the fight to be human. The truth is that zombie movies touch some of the deepest fears in life. The fear is not just of death, but of the other option; being alive, without being human. Having any consciousness, memory, or moral code stripped away to the point of desiring human flesh. The decay of the soul is shown on the body. The zombie slowly rots away because it has no soul, no life to keep it going, to keep it’s heart pacing and feeling.

It makes perfect sense that this genre of film is so pervasive in the modern world. As humans, we face violence and evils that do not seem like any human could possibly do them. The reality that a human could act without compassion, with evil content, and without any remorse for their actions is deeply frightening. Is there a switch in humans that can be turned off? Can something happen to strip your humanity away? What makes us human? Compassion, love, moral code, the fight to survive, community, connection, etc. make us human and more importantly, keep us human. In a world of technology, people are slowly becoming less physically connected. I don’t feel like I can really judge how beneficial or harmful social media can be because I am a millennial who doesn’t remember living in a world without a computer. However, I am very wary of how harmful it can be. Humans need physical connection, warmth, eye contact. They need to see a fellow human face to face to remind themselves of what it is to be alive and to have empathy. If we constantly stare at a screens with blank faces, where is the real connection?

Don’t let your life ever get to the point where you see a human and don’t feel some sort of connection. It could even be the fact that you are both breathing, or that you both have childhoods that contain beauty and even pain. We all wake up, eat, breathe, work, love, feel pain, feel loss, find connection, die, and struggle to keep humanity good. Every human act you do, one out of love, directly fights the zombies of this world, the people who’s souls are decaying, the people who are cannibalistic in their minds, the people who have no value for life. Fight to be human, find a cure for the zombies, and thank you for reading my strange rant. Next time you watch a movie, find the fears that underly the story, find the humanity, and think. Think hard about the stories in your life that you witness, and please fight to be human.

 

Women and Anger

FullSizeRender (1)

This past semester, I took a class called “Theater and Culture.” Needless to say, my understanding of the power of theater increased exponentially. This art truly has the power to change things in the world, address serious issues in a way that wakes people up, and grow communities. For our final projects, we created pieces of theater. Devising theater is not something that I have much experience in. I have thought about it, but I had never actually been in charge of a project before. I partnered with the wonderful MacKenzie Ward to create a piece about women and anger. Our first realization was that women tend to deny that they are angry about something. They say “I’m not angry, i’m just (fill in the blank).” I wasn’t interested in finding out if women were supposed to be angry, explore whether or not it was justified, or decide what the differences were between men and women. We were open-minded to find out what the project would turn into, according to our workshops and the women we would interview.

Now, here came the beginning of a lot of hard work. We did two workshops with groups of women. We used story circles, physical work, and theatrical games in order to open the discussion about anger. The stories that were told in those workshops were precious, and I hold them very delicately. We also made the discovery that using physical work/dance was vital to the project. Once the anger was expressed, it just seemed to linger in the air, so we added in movement. I collected classical music and began to choreograph, experimenting with different ways that dance can physicalize the journey of our piece. We interviewed women, and began to write a script off of those interviews. The show was cast, and we started rehearsals. The structure included opening monologues, movement and music, and then progressed to a point in which the actors wrote on a big board multiple phrases to complete “I’m not angry, I’m just…” The climax of the piece was the dance in the middle, that symbolized the anger finally being expressed. The second portion included monologues about expressing anger, as opposed to the first half being about containing the anger.

FullSizeRender

This all sounds super convoluted and complicated, but that’s because I find it hard to express how fascinating, growing, and beautifully hard this project was. Collaborating with Mackenzie was a learning experience in itself. We had to learn about balance, kindness, push and pull, and support. The lovely cast of women were the most wiling and eager group of people possible. Some of them were saying their own words, and some carried other people’s stories. Some were dancers and others had to learn. All of it had to be figured about, which is always how a show finally happens.

FullSizeRender (2)

They learned to wrestle, spin, carry strength, and move as an ensemble. I had never before been in the creator’s shoes of a show before, and I now understand how important it is to keep in the calm, be kind, and strong. The experience of a group of women coming together and talking about what it means to live with anger is something that I deeply value. There are not that many places where women are free to do that, much less welcome to do that, or have witnesses see it happen. The ethics of writing a devised show were hard to learn, but worth it. When someone tells you their story, you must respect it, carry it carefully, and only do with it what the person lets you. You must never just take their story and forget that is came from someone. All stories have an origination, even if they have been changed through time. I now value stories so much more now, in that I see them as something that was told to me by the original person, that I see the humanity behind it. Having women do that and carry one another’s stories meant that they were also carrying one another. I hope that from this project, people would be more open to talking about anger, stories, support, and the journey of working with people.

FullSizeRender (3)

All photos are courtesy of the talented Keenan Dava.

Photographed include: Jill Kuhlman, Grace Holmen, McKenna Biedebach, Mary Clancy, and Rebecca Watkins.

comfort

image (4)

Comfort is a subject that is a very complicated one for me. I want to say that finding comfort is important in life, but I also question whether or not the things that I place my comfort in have the ability to actually comfort me. The older I get, the more I see the importance of finding my comfort from God alone, but there is a sort of nostalgia that I think is valuable in the rituals of life. Every culture and family has traditions in place in order to remind people of their values, of their history, and their relation to the world. I am a huge traditionalist in the sense that I love them. Keeping traditions in my life remind me of my childhood, my heritage, and they help me remember. There are comforts that traditions bring, which I think are valid and worth feeling. Now, there is a kind of tradition that I have not talked about yet, which is a tradition with self. There a “rituals” that I have performed for the majority of my life, and when I am feeling stressed, nostalgic, homesick, or just weary, I go back to them.

So, in order to understand what my personal traditions are, I wrote a long list of the things that bring me comfort. They include small and large things, some relatable to a wider audience, and some deeply specific to me.

Dipping cookies in hot chocolate, burning a candle, the sound of books being checked out, putting on warm clothes from the dryer, soft blankets, warming my feet by the fire, lonely walks in the rain, fairy lights, tea bags with notes on them, keeping chocolates in a mug, watching nostalgic movies on the daily, eating warm soup with bread, drinking a whole pot of tea by myself, cooking in the kitchen while listening to Andrea Bocelli, filling a paintbrush with paint, relaxing to music that holds memory for me, getting back tickles, swimming in a lake, smelling wet leaves, cleaning snow off of a frozen pond, camping in the mountains, late night conversations about the universe, the sparkle of snow, cobblestone roads, dried teas and flowers, reading a children’s book, bundling up in the winter, bubble baths, singing hymns, going to the ballet, dancing alone, talking to God all night, cozy attics full of toys, holding my parent’s hands, cleaning up my room while listening to Norah Jones, opening my window when it is snowing, late night painting, tent forts with stuffed animals, family devotions, sprinkling pixie dust on the Christmas tree on Christmas eve and then staring at the lit tree while thinking about God, and many many more.

Yeah, the list is overwhelming. Some are more relatable than others, and some hold more emotional meaning than others. Once I wrote these all down, I suddenly wanted to talk about the aspects of these things that I found valuable. However, for the sake of length, we’re just going to focus on a few relatable ones.

image

Watching a nostalgic movie, with stuffed animals, a soft blanket, some hot chocolate, and fairy lights.

This one combines several comforts in my life. I could get super deep and say that wrapping up in a blanket reminds me of the value of focusing on God and his refuge rather than on the world. I said it. I love putting my body and mind in places that make me feel protected and at peace. I watch Disney movies, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, and many many more movies. I love watching a movie that comforts me and remembering all the times in my life in which I watched the movie. Hot chocolate is a given, because chocolate. Stuffed animals are a piece of childhood, and fairy lights bring warm light.

image (3)

Late night painting.

A huge tradition that I have with myself is watching nostalgic movies while painting or drawing for literally hours. I get out my box of paints and put on a good movie or show. As seen here, I am watching Gilmore Girls, because I love it and it reminds me of watching it wth my mom and sister. As you can also tell by now, I love watching movies by myself. It’s my thing. When I make art while watching something, I can look at my piece years later and still remember the episode I was watching when I drew that tree or fairy. I like weaving stories into my art, like weaving memories into life. Its like I have a visual book in front of me.

image (2)

Warm baths, candles, and a good book.

I absolutely adore having warm baths. This and burning candles are the two things that I miss the most in living in a dorm *cries*. Having my body relax and feel warm, while soft light fills the room just relaxes my mind and muscles in a way that feels like therapy. Baths also remind me of all the baths I took as a kid, played in, splashed in, and began to contemplate life in. The book is usually optional for me, as I am usually too tired to read a book. But, if I am awake enough, it is one that is relaxing and important to me. (wow, repeated themes of comfort)

image (1)

 

Bundling up in winter.

This is pretty much the same outfit that I wear every day. Also, I love the cold. Covering myself in layers of warmth make me feel like I am bringing my bed with me to classes. Those people who complain about the cold simply don’t wear enough clothes, or they grew up in a warm region. I love knowing its a winter wonderland outside, getting out of my warm bed, putting on warm clothes, and then going outside. Not everyone relates to this, but I have been doing it my whole life, and it reminds me of the winters of my childhood when I would spend hours playing in the snow with my sister, and then go home to have a warm cup of hot chocolate.

Again, I am painfully aware that none of these things bring me lasting comfort, but that doesn’t make them less valuable. If anything, they bring me back home, to childhood, and they remind me of the need for comfort in God alone. You can spend your whole life trying to find comfort in anything and everything that will work, but none of it lasts. Once God is your ultimate comfort, the pressure of all the other comforts goes away. You can actually enjoy that mug of tea without feeling like your sanity is dependent on it. Tea could represent anything. Don’t remove rituals from your life, because they are important. They remind you of your history, your values, and can be used to commune with other and with God. The tradition of that is so deeply human.

Sunrise, Sunset

Processed with VSCOcam with lv03 preset

Sunrise, Sunset.

The pain comes in waves of nostalgia,

Smells that take me back to the culture

The culture from which my small body learned

To walk; to talk; to eat native food; to sing

Songs of a tongue softly spoken.

Do not dare read my papers and tell me

That I am American.

Whatever my blood or heritage may tell you,

My soul lives in those eastern hills.

Old babushkas still dealing with the freedom,

The right to be a citizen of a free country.

The cold winters that turn the streets into

Sparkling palaces, glass roads carrying me home.

Autumns that cause the space between the sky and the earth

To go on fire.

 

Sunrise, Sunset.

Warm soups, high castles, and history.

Growing up in a museum, a collection of centuries

Of culture, war, pain, and homesickness.

How can I hope to make you understand,

Why I do what I do,

Why I must go back to the distant land,

The home I love?

Cobblestone roads, memories of ice skating on ponds,

Colors of flowers and ribbons cover the blue skies

And yellow fields.

Let me be as homesick as I am,

As proud as I am of my home,

Of the people who fight endlessly for the freedom to exist.

The identity runs deeper than papers.

Do not take away my heritage.

 

Sunrise, Sunset.

Do not tell me that I am not completely

American or Ukrainian,

Because I am completely from

Where my heart aches for every day.

I cannot go through a day without a wave

Of longing, waters in soft streams running over me

Warm reminders that I have the dearest memories possible.

God, make me young again,

In the care of my parents, dependent on them,

And unaware that the fight for freedom my people have endured

Was only just beginning.

Day by day,

We wait in watch for the peace,

The return to home.

Sunrise, Sunset.

Charge of the Light Brigade, an adaptation

This poem is an adaptation of The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson, now with words that honor the anniversary of The Heavenly Hundred. They died in the Maidan revolution in Ukraine, on February 21, 2014, when snipers killed over 100 people. (Photo from “Winter on Fire”)._80913659_injured_reuters

I.

Half a league, half a league,

half a league onward,

all in the valley of death

walked the heavenly hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!

Charge for the guns!” he said.

Into the valley of death

walked the heavenly hundred.

II.

“Forward, the Light brigade!”

Was there a man dismayed?

Not though the people knew

the country had blundered.

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to walk and die;

Into the valley of death

walked the heavenly hundred.

III.

Guns to the right of them,

Guns to the left of them,

Guns above them

pierced and murdered;

Stormed at with shot and shell,

Boldly they walked and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of hell

Walked the heavenly hundred.

IV.

Flash’d all their hearts bare

Flash’d as they fell from air,

Seeing the gunners there,

Charging a country, while

All the world wonder’d:

Plunged in the battery smoke

Right thro’ the street they broke;

Ukrainian and Ukrainian

Reel’d from the bullets stroke

Shatter’d and sunder’d,

Then they walked back, but not

the heavenly hundred.

V.

When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wondered.

Honor the charge they made,

Honor the Light Brigade,

Heavenly Hundred.