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Art Deco Pattern

UNMASKING MY ARTISTIC JOURNEY

From a young age, I was always the imaginative kid in the neighborhood. I distinctly remember my fifth-grade attempt at hosting a backyard carnival – complete with tickets, games, and a makeshift "ride" involving a wheelbarrow. Admittedly, the ride didn't last long as my physical strength did not match my imagination of being capable like Supergirl, but it was a glimpse into my burgeoning creativity.

Despite my early imaginative tendencies, art wasn't initially on my radar. A discouraging incident in first grade, when a teacher chastised me for coloring outside the lines, left me with the belief that I simply couldn't "do" art. For years, it seemed like a useless pursuit, just something to pass the time.

Fast forward to my college years, and I was well on my way to a life in dentistry, having earned a chemistry degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I was knee-deep in math and science courses. After graduation, I began working as an orthodontic dental assistant and X-ray technician while studying to take the entrance exam for dental school. I thought my career path was set, but then, an encounter at work changed everything...

As a dental assistant, I had a bizarre incident while taking routine X-rays for a patient. As he sat in the chair, I noticed his mouth was moving, so I knew he was saying something to me, yet I heard nothing he said and therefore couldn't make out anything. Instantly, I went from feeling fine to frantically worried and confused. I smiled and pretended all was fine to not freak myself out even further. I left work brushing it off as a fluke, an odd, one-off incident, but it marked the beginning of a tumultuous journey I was about to embark on.

 

Months went by with no improvement in my symptoms, and it became increasingly difficult to comprehend others. At times it felt as if they were speaking a foreign language.  I recall watching comedy on TV, and the audience immediately laughed at something said. I remember feeling worried because I couldn't comprehend what was so funny. It became frustrating watching TV knowing that a simple tongue-in-cheek comedy that should've lifted my spirits was instead leaving me feeling lost and confused because I couldn't understand a simple joke. Outwardly, I tried to maintain composure, but inwardly, I was terrified. 

 

Countless doctor appointments and tests yielded no answers, leaving me in a state of despair. I would come home directly after work and just lay under my covers hoping to sleep off whatever it was. As my symptoms worsened, my depth perception became so poor that it made even driving very dangerous.  Eventually I quit my job and abandoned my dreams of dental school to focus on my health. It felt like my brain was trapped in a constant fog, making it impossible to connect with the world.

As I tried to keep calm and carry on, a pivotal moment arrived when my friend asked a simple yet profound question: "Why don't you do something you're passionate about?" I sat with this question for months, and eventually, it set my mind in motion. I discovered at that moment I had two passions: fashion and teaching.

I chose to pursue fashion design and enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. The experience was a revelation. For the first time in my academic journey, I found joy in learning. I walked into classes with an ear-to-ear smile because school was now an exhilarating adventure. The fog that had shrouded my mind started to lift. Occasionally, it would return, especially when my immune system was weak, but after a year or two, it became a thing of the past.

Through this transformative process, I uncovered something that had long gone undiagnosed – depression. I was grappling with severe depression without even realizing it.  My artistic journey took flight in fashion school, and from that point forward, I never looked back.  Today, I am not only a designer, an artist, and a businesswoman, but also an advocate for mental health awareness and understanding that our creative pursuits can be the light that guides us out of even the darkest of times.

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