A Brief Examination of Beauty

We all want to feel beautiful. It’s almost cliché to write about- this need ingrained in our minds to be beautiful. But there’s a reason why it’s talked about so often: because its an omnipresent insecurity that even the most ravishing human beings posses.

Here’s the thing, beauty is unbelievably subjective; it truly lies in the eye of the beholder. I can bet that at least once a day, you walk past someone and think to yourself (in that impressed whisper thinking voice that we all have), “Wow! They are so attractive!” And how many times do you think that has happened to you? More importantly, do you think that this person goes home, looks in the mirror, and thinks “Wow! I am so attractive!”  No, of course not! Despite the confident façade, that person looks in the mirror the same way we all do. “Ugh that pimple is so annoying. My entire face is so bloated, and EW my thighs look huge.”

Why do we do that? Why are we so quick to hold others high while at the same time we violently tear ourselves down? Looking in the mirror shouldn’t be a one way ticket to a life sucks mindset partnered with “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” by Moby.

Now this isn’t to say that we don’t ever see ourselves as pretty- everyone has good days, confident days where you know you look bomb as heck. However, they aren’t in the majority. What we see in the mirror can change within hours, minutes even! Flaws disappear and reappear before our very eyes.

Our quick judgements reflect the beauty standards that permeate our society. They change at the drop of a hat- only a month ago it was sexy to have a thigh gap, but now it’s considered unnatural and unhealthy. With every new beauty trend comes a new insecurity, a new flaw to worry about.

We understand that everyone has some imperfections, and yet we continue to hold ourselves to impossible standards. We continue to strive for perfection- something that doesn’t exist in any part of society no matter how hard we search for it. It’s time to stop the witch hunt; the longer we keep it going, the longer it’s going to take for us to feel good about ourselves. And that’s what we all want- to feel beautiful.

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The Grey Zone

It was one day during Rent rehearsal where my world started to turn grey. He took a seat next to me out of the blue, smiling this doofy smile that I had never seen before.

“Hey Kelso. Scarlet Letter, eh?” Not the most interesting topic of conversation, but it didn’t matter- my heart surprisingly jumped into my throat anyways.

“Y-yeah! Just started it- and I don’t hate it? Is that weird?” I tried my best to keep my cool as I looked into his dark brown eyes, noticing the way they glinted in the dimly lit theatre. As we talked, I noticed the way he ran his hand through his silky black hair, noticed the way he gingerly twisted his sunglasses in his hand, noticed the way he stole quick glances at me when he thought I wasn’t looking. I felt my own smile stretch across my face to match his, felt my heart palpitating as if I had an IV shooting caffeine directly into my bloodstream, felt the world around me slow down until nothing else was moving except for us. . What was this feeling? It had a familiar twang- something I hadn’t felt in about 3 and a half years. Oh shit, I thought to myself. I have a crush.

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The Confidence Cape

It was a time of first world hardship. I was staying in an overcrowded dorm during a sweltering Boston summer with nothing but a fan to keep me cool- but in the midst of a true tragedy a symbol of hope revealed itself: the red blanket. It seems odd to me now that amidst the heat I would find a blanket so appealing, however, its comforting appearance put me at ease. No longer would I worry about dying of heat stroke with the fuzzy cloth enveloping me; but first, I had to obtain this prized item.

See, the blanket belonged to a remarkably simple boy with sandy hair and blue eyes: a true New Jerseyite. I wormed my way into his heart, similarly to the way his blanket had mine. I had many an adventure with him, and even grew to love him (as a friend of course); but when it came time for our adventures to come to a close, I made my move. Thinking quickly, I hid the blanket away to where he would never be able to find it. He searched up and down and all around until finally he gave up and hobbled home to New Jersey-blanketless. I was victorious!

That feeling of victory stays with me now, as I strut around school with the blanket around my shoulders. Yup, you heard me correctly: I wear it to school. Not too often, only when I need an extra boost of confidence. Some people can find their power from the fullness of their beard, some from the size of the heel on their shoe, and some from just the simple action of smiling- you know, the normal things. However, I understand that confidence can take many forms, even if other people might not feel the same way.

I admit that I’m quite a quirky human being: I’ve never had an “inside voice,” I wear colorful rainboots to draw attention away from my unshaven legs, and others have described my style as “Yo Gabba Gabba preppy.” So, why should the things that give me courage be anywhere close to normal?

I still remember the first time I felt true confidence; one day in third grade, I proudly marched through the trash-filled hallways of Ralph Talbot Elementary, chin outstretched, showing off a massive pimple sitting right in the middle. See, as a young girl whose only knowledge of teenagers was through those little American Girl Doll books that were titled something like “Your Body and You,” I thought getting a pimple was a mark of maturity. The massive red bump created a shield of courage around me as I paraded across the pee-colored floor, and past the disgusted stares and confused laughter of my schoolmates. I strode up to my friend group, sticking my chin in all of their faces. “Isn’t it wonderful?” I asked hopefully. They stared back at me. I asked again, “Isn’t it wonderful? I’m a teenager now!” Finally, one asked timidly, “Kels, do you need a bandaid to cover that… thing?”

“No, silly! Why would I want to cover this?” None of them answered. They just smiled weakly and stared intensely. And guess what?

I still didn’t get the hint. My entire perspective of the situation was warped. The fact that I felt like I was marked by Jesus himself turned what were actually grimaces into grins. I believed that acne was a mark of beauty for the entire year, and I didn’t understand how anyone could think differently- but soon I reached middle school. There, after my beauty marks turned into boils, and I started to search for a new mode of bravery, I saw how something could work for some people, but not for others.

It was the last week of sixth grade. I sat in Mr. Toussaint’s math class one morning, staring at the white walls that stood in for the windows, daydreaming about what would happen if the projector were to just fall on his head. Bleak, I know, but my mood tended to match the room. We sat at dilapidated tables of 4, where we all fought to stay awake. That day, one of our desk mates was absent- or so we thought. She made her entrance 15 minutes after the class had started, strutting through the threshold as if she had just been crowned Miss USA. Holding her head high, she avoided eye contact with everyone as if we were her inferiors- see, she already knew everyone was looking at her. Once Laura had gracefully placed her ass into the cold metal chair, she said, as if nothing were different, “So, what did I miss?” I stared back at her. She asked again, smirk plastered on her face- she knew she had me entranced- “What did I miss?” Obviously, I couldn’t just let this go.

“What’s that… on your eye? Did your hand slip?”

“Are you kidding? This is a cat-eye, Kelsey. It’s the new thing?” Laura scoffed. (Yes, because looking at little sixth grade me, you could really tell I was a kid in touch with the trendz.) Anyways, even after the enlightening explanation she gave me, I still didn’t understand what this black wing was on her face or why it gave her so much confidence- all I knew is that I wanted the same strength.

The next morning, I stole my mom’s eyeliner, and expertly recreated the look. I came into school with wings that can only to be compared to Hermes’ shoes. Beaming, I sauntered down the halls, perfectly at ease- but that was the problem. I was only at ease. There was nothing bubbling from within that made me feel like the ruler of the known universe. For the next few weeks, I tried so hard to perfect the wing, and to get the courage from it that I desperately wanted- scratch that, needed. Alas, it never came. I was utterly perplexed; if the cat-eye boosted her confidence, why didn’t it do the same to mine?

The conundrum that this tiny- or in my case GIGANTIC- cat-eye had presented threw me into a funk; I couldn’t wrap my mind around the simple fact that people are different. No two people look alike (I realize identical twins are a thing, but that ruins my point so just shush), and no two people feel the same emotions for the same circumstance. Even if two people are in love with the same person, those people experience love extremely differently- it is the same with confidence. To this day, winged eyeliner gives me nothing but pleasure. People who know me will find that hard to believe, seeing as I don’t step foot outside of the house if my eyes aren’t ready to fly me anywhere- but come on, have I taught you nothing?

Lets circle back to what you’ve all been waiting for (or, more likely, have all forgotten about): the red blanket! I never would have expected to find so much power from this extremely odd souvenir; however, whenever I wear it, I remember my grand success from the summer. See, this summer was when I began to socially flourish. I started to put myself out there, create some of those “good vibes” the teens are always talking about (I truly understand now the meaning of the phrase “bad decisions make good stories.”). This red blanket reminds me of a time of adventure, a time of music, a time of love; but most importantly, it reminds me that I can get away with- excuse me, accomplish anything if I work hard and put myself out there.

So, I wear it when I need an extra boost! Of course, I’ve heard some snickers and gotten some looks– after all, it is something I hug to sleep at night- but there’s not a single fiber of my being that gives a shit. I’ve learned from experience, as you’ve seen, that confidence takes many shapes. Your power source is your power source; whether it be your friend group, your laugh, your cowboy hat, your bedazzled jeans, your fuzzy bathrobe, your acne, your eyeliner, or your blanket, keep letting whatever it is give you the courage to be who you want to be. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll see you on the street huddled underneath your own confidence cape!

 

Surrealism

This is the painting I modeled my story after. There is an odd reflection so the man is not actually in the picture, its just a black background. On the book is writing

This is the painting I modeled my story after. There is an odd reflection so the man is not actually in the picture, its just a black background. On the book is writing

The division between reality and fantasy is a thick red line that stretches for an eternity. One lone house sits on the weakest point of the division, the point of no return. Warmth radiates from it, luring the curious inside, and its menacing structure wards off outside evils; or at least it was supposed to. It sits unfinished; it will never be finished. The pull of surrealism is too strong for even the architects to protest. The unfit guardian attempts to protect the weak from gazing upon the incomprehensible, but a reckless few have snuck past and made the jump. Intrigued by the fantasy on the other side, they fall into the black abyss, unable to perceive the wonders beyond the real world. The abyss seems to be unending, but the brave few always hit the hard truth and get crushed by the blackness of fantasy.

Memory vs Experience

Which is better, the memory or the experience? Memories are just reminiscence of the experiences; but they can evoke wonderful emotions, such as happiness, nostalgia or excitement. With memories, one can relive their past, and sense change within themselves. They can see old times; funny, happy, exciting or sad, depressing, and anger-filled. The emotions they felt in the past are not recreated by the memories, but are morphed into different forms. Both sadness and happiness turn into nostalgia; anger turns to frustration, humiliation, or even forgiveness; excitement turns to euphoria. Experience turns to memory.

But memories can distract from the moment one is living in. Experiences create the memories; they are worth undergoing, whether they cause hurt or pleasure. They are the proof that one has a life worth living, that they have a livelihood that must be maintained. The meaning of life is to live in the moment, to see new things and make a good day. To experience is to satisfy the need for life. And one day when one is old and grey, they can look back on old memories, and see that they had a pretty good life, that they got to enjoy life.

Which is better, the memory or the experience? Both have good and bad qualities, but both are important to human nature.

Feeling Blue: Art History Essay

Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh were the most prominent artists of the 19th and 20th century, even if their genius was not appreciated in their time. Claude Monet, a French impressionist, was very influential both in his time and today. In his day, he broke the mold of traditional art, and started to paint landscapes in a chaotic and free fashion. His brilliance is still celebrated centuries later. Van Gogh, a Dutch impressionist, was an outcast of the art world. His paintings were considered trash in his day, and he barely ever sold a piece. Today, his art is on display in some of the most famous museums in the world, such as the Musee d’Orsay. Ask anyone on the street if they’ve heard his name before, and nearly all of them would say yes. Even though these artists were remarkably talented, their lives were not easy. Monet’s wife had a serious illness that caused her much pain and suffering, resulting in financial problems and the onset of Monet’s anxiety issues; and Van Gogh had clinical depression, as well as epilepsy and bipolar disorder. Their suffering and pain is what influenced their passion, and can be seen through their works. They vocalize their crippling misery by using many different shades of blue. This is what is called a blue period, and throughout their lives, at one time or another, they faced their own. Even though they encountered the same monochrome spell, the reasoning behind the two men’s blue interval is different, and they used different styles to convey these overwhelming feelings they experienced.

Monet knew that he wanted to become an artist at a young age. He graduated art school and moved on to Paris, where he fell in love with the Louvre, and also with a young model, Camille. He used her as a model for his paintings first in 1865, and soon after in 1867 their first child, Jean, was born. They were married in 1870, and moved to England. They moved around a lot, and lived a very content life, until 1876, when Camille came down with a terrible case of tuberculosis. Even though she was sick, their second child, Michel, was born in 1878, weakening Camille’s declining health even more. She continued to get sicker and sicker until late 1878, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. There was only a matter of time before she had to let go. After suffering for another year, she finally was laid to rest in 1879, leaving Monet alone with the children, and also with a crippling financial debt. Monet’s servants started to quit, and no one was available to keep the children occupied. In this time, he needed his art more than ever. Thus began his blue period. His first painting was of his dead wife in a light blue veil. The blue brought across a peaceful and nostalgic feeling for Monet, and reminded him of his wife  in both life and death. The blue he felt was the blue he put on the canvas, forcing others to live his pain. He then began an affair in the spring of 1880, with a woman named Alice Hoschedé. She breathed life into his dying spirit and his colors began to brighten up. He started using more yellows, pinks and reds in his paintings, creating picturesque landscapes on his canvas. Soon after his life started to get better, Monet’s vision began to falter. He developed cataracts, inhibiting his world view, and allowing him to only see the bright colors such as red and orange. He was scheduled for surgery to remove them, and he was promised it would go without a hitch, but his vision was forever ruined after the surgery. “It’s filthy,” says Monet. “It’s disgusting. I see nothing but blue.” For the last years of his life, Monet could only see blues and violets unless he used special glasses to help him see certain pigments and hues of bright colors. This was another cause of his blue period, which lasted him for the entire second half of his life. This sounds like a long time to be so sad and see so little, but Van Gogh experienced this his whole life.  

Although his brother would try to help him, Van Gogh was a lost cause. No matter how many therapists and doctors were sent to him, his mind could not be fixed, and the void within could not be filled. The sadness overcame him, and the only way to escape was through art. As a result of the crippling emptiness he felt, he used very dark and heavy blues in his paintings, unlike Monet who was versatile in the shades he utilized. When Van Gogh began painting in the Netherlands, his subjects were always poor, lost, desolate souls- peasants, miners, beggars and squanderers. His brush strokes were long and aggressive, and he mixed ebony blues and earthy browns together. The subjects were always hiding in a shadow created with the dark colors, creating a devastating aura around them. These paintings wouldn’t sell, and drove Van Gogh to bankruptcy. He was put in a position very similar to Monet’s. In 1886, he had to leave his cottage in Belgium and move away to Paris. While in Paris, his spirits were high, and he looked to be getting better. He moved on to painting beautiful landscapes and bright buildings- a style Monet introduced to the world- yet the blue within his work still persisted. Although he was happier, he still wasn’t fully recovered; he felt the bright yellows and reds that he used, but he still bore that blue inside of him. He never really loved the ambiance of a big city, so in 1888 he moved once again to Arles. While in Arles, his condition worsened. He experienced uncontrollable fits of rage, as well as random seizures. As a result, the townspeople thought he was blasphemous and evil, and were so horrified by him and his work that they exiled him and treated him as an outcast. His work suffered and his blues became ever gloomier. This continued until 1889, when he was admitted to the Saint Paul asylum. There is where he painted the now world famous piece, Starry Night; but only after becoming so depressed that he started to eat yellow paint in order to feel joy. Over the year he was at the asylum, his brush strokes became shorter and more violent- the abrupt strokes moving his style ever closer to that of Monet’s. It was almost as if he was in a hurry to finish. He used blues that were mysterious, and so deep and unilluminated they almost looked black. When he got out of the asylum and moved to Auvers with a nurse in 1890, his paintings were still very dark and very blue. However, in this last year of his life, he painted more paintings than he ever had. He had not yet lost the will to create, but his soul was so desolate that he needed to fill the pit faster and more often with work. Here at Auvers in a wheatfield, he painted his last painting, and shot himself; dying two days later. These blues, no matter how light, persisted throughout his entire life, right up until his dying day. Although his last painting was luminous and full of yellow, the imagery of the crows predicted a death- his own.

Van Gogh and Monet had very similar life stories, and their paintings were alike in style and subject; but their reasonings for their blue periods were disparate. Although they both went through depression in their own way, Monet also had cataracts, which only allowed him to see shades of blue and violet. Van Gogh’s use of blue was only because of his many mental health issues- bipolar disorder, clinical depression and epilepsy- and lasted through his entire life. Monet’s emotional blue period only lasted him five years, but because of his cataracts, it seemed to go on for the last eight years of his life as well. The painters both used blues in their works to communicate their emotions, and centuries later, people still are able to feel that emptiness, that depression, that misery; and they relish in the power of the pieces.