#1 in the Creative HeArts series
When life gives you a blank canvas, make art.
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Back home, whenever I needed to think, I would climb out on the fire escape and listen to the sounds of the city. The mix of car alarms, angry horns, and screeching tires was like a lullaby, its chaotic energy soothing me better than chocolate, a hot bath, or a full-body massage ever could. New York City is the soundtrack of my life.
Austin is like a silent film.
Our new suburban neighborhood is unnervingly quiet. No car alarms, no angry horns, no screeching tires. No human sounds at all. Only the occasional dog barking and the irritating chirp of some kind of bug. I'm picturing giant grasshoppers.
No fire escape, either. Instead, I had to push an unopened box under my second story window so I could climb out onto the roof above the living room.
The sky is an unfamiliar shade of midnight, the kind of dark blue you see in pictures and paintings but almost never in Manhattan. My city always has a kind of glow. Easter-egg colored, like a protective bubble of light. This darkness is too vast, too unending.
But at least out here I can breathe.
Inside, with the house too full of boxes and too empty of people, with Mom at the kitchen table, finishing the paperwork to enroll me at Austin NextGen Academy in the morning, telling me how much I am going to love this new place, I was suffocating. My heart rate sped up and I started to see spots at the edges of my vision.
Rather than pass out on the kitchen floor, I fled to my room and out into the night.
Everything is wrong here. Not just the quiet and the dark. My whole world is missing. No Dad, no Dylan, no Tash or Brice. None of the friends I've gone to school with for the last three years.
Starting over senior year is bad enough, but to do it halfway across the country and with no friends and only half my family? That's torture.
And the worst part is that it's all my own fault.
I may not have made the decision to uproot and start over—had, in fact, fought tooth and nail to stay in New York—but my actions led to The Plan, and for that I can never forgive myself. Mom and Dad may have put the nails in the coffin, but I handed them the hammer.
Before the panic spots return, I flip open the cover on my tablet and open up my favorite drawing app. When in doubt, create. Stylus in hand, I start sketching out the first cell of the next issue of Graphic Grrl.
This week, Graphic Grrl finds herself in the middle of an empty, desolate ghost town, surrounded by crumbling gray buildings, grasshoppers sporting six-shooters, and fields full of cows. She is about to face down a herd of aggressive tumbleweeds.
Okay, so I haven't actually seen a tumbleweed yet, but we've only been here a couple of days. They must be hiding somewhere.
When life gets too tough to handle, I retreat into Graphic Grrl. She's my alter ego, a better me in a world I can control. The best therapy technology can buy.
I lose myself in the art. Sketching in the initial shapes and actions. Refining and filling in with detail. I make sure everything in the first cell is perfect before saving it and moving on to the next one. When I'm done, I'll export them to my laptop so I can clean them up, finalize the line work, and add the color.