For years I have collected artwork from all over the world. Finding local artists with styles I love in each country I visit is one of my favorite parts of travel. As a result, my home is covered in paintings from the farthest corners of the world. Every day they remind me of my experiences traveling, the people I met, the lessons I learned while I was there. Together they build a strangely beautiful timeline of my life seasons.
Collecting beautiful artwork is much easier than creating it, yet I’ve had a secret desire to learn to paint for years. When I was a little girl, I loved to paint, to color, to draw. I spent much of my time expressing myself through these mediums for they suited my reflective and quiet nature.
That changed when I was in sixth grade.
I had signed up for art class. I was excited. I wanted to learn more, to become a better painter, to find new ways and techniques to express how I was feeling through art. I chose a seat in class in the back corner. I didn’t want to be in a place where others could watch what I was doing. I wanted to be a fly on the wall soaking up the lessons and quietly applying them to my own canvass. I was shy, quiet, and awkward; a reflective introvert in a world of extroverts. Under no circumstances did I want any attention on me. The back corner suited me perfectly.
Each day, the teacher would highlight a technique then turn on the radio while we worked, encouraging each of us to get lost in the artistic moment. I loved it. I got to learn, quietly apply the lesson, sinking into the quiet and the music as I painted my soul onto the blank canvass.
That year, the band Starship released a new song. A song titled Sara. I loved the song. I loved that they spelled Sara the same way I spelled my name. I loved that the melody was quietly passionate, like me. It quickly became a favorite, I loved everything about it.
Until it came on the radio during art class.
Suddenly what could have been a perfect moment merging two things I loved turned into my worst nightmare.
Looking back, I doubt my classmates meant any harm. But for a quiet kid who just wanted to go unnoticed, having their attention turned to me while I was painting something personal changed me. Suddenly everyone was singing along to the chorus, directing their song in my direction. Someone asked why I wasn’t singing along when the song was about me. They came a bit closer, singing at me and invading my personal space. My face turned red with embarrassment.
YouTube tells me the song is under five minutes long. It felt like an eternity. In that moment, something I loved, an expression of who I was, became woven together with pain and embarrassment. It became unsafe.
I never picked up a paintbrush again.
Until this weekend.
This weekend to celebrate my birthday, Kris’ family suggested we go to a local gallery and sip wine while we learn to paint. I hesitated.
Yet underneath the surface fear, so faint I could barely hear it, that little girl who once loved to paint whispered, “Please. Can we?”
So we did. My painting was far from perfect. But no one laughed or judged. And while there was music and singing, none of it was directed at me. There was no Starship on the playlist this time.
Instead, there was joy. There was laughter. There was the building of memories. There was peace. There was freedom. There was a remembrance of an activity once loved and plans made for future painting sessions.
Most importantly, there was redemption for the younger me in every brushstroke. She is finally getting her voice, her validation, and her freedom back.
That makes this painting extra beautiful.