2012: a year in review

This is a bit late, I know. But I almost wasn't going to write this, utterly convinced that nothing of value had happened this year compared to year before. 2011 was important in the most meaningful ways. Between graduation, Tajikistan, college, and other life happenings, how could it not? But every year brings along unexpected happenings and changes.

I came into the year content with myself and happy, ready to push myself to my limits in the coming semester. And I did, taking on the 366 project, more responsibilities, and Advanced Photography as an extra class.

I was scared for that class, yes. Terrified, in fact. For the first time in my life, my art was being evaluated by someone else and I was expected to speak and communicate through my images in ways I never have before. It was daunting, but Rob helped assuage my fears and test my boundaries  Within the first month of that class, I had been inside a camera obscura, made my own pinhole camera, experimented with film for the first time. The magic of the darkroom was intoxicating, from the chemicals, no doubt.


Alligator adventures followed, along with a surprisingly vulnerable thank you, RA applications, and strange encounters with upperclassmen girls that I could not make any sense of.


My film work started to really develop and I was learning to experiment with techniques and to create a narrative from my images.


February was defined by (unfounded) resentment towards a friend that wasn't just a friend anymore and an intriguing offer shrouded in secrecy.


And of course, PossePlus, the weekend when when we gained perspective on each other in the midst of pain, bravery, and overwhelming honesty. In an extremely powerful, moving couple hours, we realized that we are all broken. Broken, beautiful creatures going through our own hells, struggling and fighting and overcoming. I realized my own strength that weekend too. Choices were made and I allowed myself to finally feel, emotions reawakening.


Spring bought about unwelcome butterflies, Avicii, and a week volunteering in South Carolina that reaffirmed that service is going to be my life. Oh, and skinny dipping.


There were face painting adventures.


And a perfect Silent Disco.


I came to terms with my ethnicity for the first time in my life through my diversity project—another PossePlus-triggered revelation—and created a body of work that was more deliberate and personally meaningful that anything that I had created before. It was terrifying to think that something so deeply personal to me—and to the people that mattered most in my life—was about to be exposed. I was still learning to function underneath the microscope and open up my heart. Learning to trust was hard.


Between caring for a broken heart and the sudden disappearance of two dear friends, is it any wonder I could not bring myself to let him in completely? I could only see the constant countdown to the end. But RA and AID acceptances and starlight talks in the rugby field and on List roof bought me validation and connections that I needed more desperately than I knew.

But it went as quickly as it came and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to freshman year, Catherine, and the floor that I had loved so much.



And my sexy photo class, of course.


There was no time to mourn and wallow in skeleton room sorrow though, because after a Parsippany shitshow, I was on a plane, headed to Taiwan for the summer. Again, I found myself fleeing the country in need of escape and healing. And again, I found what I was looking for and so much more. I left the past behind, immersed myself in living and being present, let Chinese take over. I was surrounded with family for the first time in years and got to experience family in the way that I had always longed to. My days were spent rediscovering these familiar city streets teeming with life, taking aimless Metro rides, photographing strangers, indulging in bubble tea, exploring my mother's hometown, wandering the night markets, being reckless with fireworks. It was a blissful existence completely free of obligations and time ceased to feel real. Absolute freedom.


I traveled a bit in China, saw the Great Wall and some of the most amazing waterscapes I've ever seen in my life. But I had fallen in love with Taiwan so completely that China failed to make an impression. 


July bought AID and A3-3 into my life. We lived among the Paiwanese aboriginal people high in the mountains—God, we were so lucky to have been at a place so beautiful, with such freedom allowed, with such kindness, with each other. Rainbow House, sunsets, drunken escapades, movie night fails, nine in a car 7-11 runs, honey water, birthday surprises/fails, Jesus shoutouts, constant teasing, three in the morning hikes, rooftop talks, Contact, and a lot of sass. It was a dysfunctional family, but it worked and we were inseparable until the bittersweet end. Taiwan didn't bring the sort of change that Tajikistan did, but I found freedom and I learned to live fully because every single moment you have matters.  


But life went on. I had to leave that part of my life behind and move on. I came home, back to reality. I became an RA and made new friends. 


I tried my hardest to connect with new people and let people in more, endings be damned. I was sick of living for the end. But a part of me couldn't forget the inevitable, so I filled my life with volunteering projects, leadership roles, an extra class. It's the sort of hectic and frenzied lifestyle that I have come to thrive on. I depend on overloading myself with responsibilities and obligations to gain some sort of control over circumstances and to distract myself to the point of utter exhaustion. But things start to catch up—forgetting was never really an option. What a vain effort. My vast web wasn't enough to stop the inane drama, the longings for the beautiful freshman boy that paid no attention, the stifling sameness of it all. 

But that's what friends are for. Old and new. There was dancing and thrifting, all nighters and early mornings, voting and blood drives, a really cool tea party and catting at the end of a freshman's bed, talking to her for ages. People let me in more than I ever expected they would and I wished I could do the same. 


I saw The Temper Trap in concert. 

Picked up piano and skating again, started up archery. 

And then the end of the semester bought brutal sleepless nights and getting over a silly infatuation, feeling strangely liberated. I finally settled on being an anthropology major and decided to go to Paris for my junior year. I missed meaningful photography and decided to do an independent study. At the end, I found myself falling fast and fighting against time and circumstances once again, clinging to nothing-memories and puns. 

So it goes.

Overall, a really surprising year of choices, of loving and losing, of new friends and new experiences. I finished a 366, which I had never thought I would be able to finish. There were days that I resented it, but I'm grateful that I had it as an excuse to be shooting all year. It's pretty shitty in some places and it's not all uploaded yet, but I can say I finished it and above all, it's mine. I'm proud of it for that reason.

2013, bring it on. There's adventure this year, I can feel it.