My mom talks a lot about her touchstones in life: old friends, beloved places, certain objects that, when revisited, ground her, reminding her of who she has always been, gently correcting her course in life if it has strayed from what is true to her. She and I share one such touchstone, our dear alma mater, Miss Porter’s School, and yesterday I got to wander its verdant campus, and spend a little time back in the painting studio that was the beating heart of my high school experience.
The next month of my life is going to be a challenging one, but I will take with me the feeling of standing at this sink, washing my brushes out after the blissful escape of a double period of AP studio art. I remember now the satisfaction of tangible progress, even if the day’s efforts would only get painted over the next, even if I merely laid down the first pioneering lines across a blank canvas. I have to remind myself, these days, of my fearlessness and optimism at 17, as I fixed creative whims out of the atmosphere and onto these white, inviting spaces without questioning my ability to do so.
I slipped back into this space of unapologetic self love and expression as though it was a favorite coat come out of the attic in autumn; it felt exactly as I remembered, and the pockets were filled with old paper scraps, little notes to self from a younger, and in some ways wiser, woman.
I remember now, the more vividly for my visit, the girl with paint on her hands, who reveled in the company of 300 incredible compatriots, who felt supported and cheered on by her teachers every day, who chased the most distant corners of her wild imagination, stroke by careful brushstroke, and who would never let anything or anyone, least of all herself, stand in her way. I remember with gratitude the place that taught me to be me, unapologetically.