The Power of Vulnerability

Weakness. Naivety. Exposure. Powerlessness. Frailty.

These are the synonyms used for the most powerful characteristic we can have.

Vulnerability, by definition, is the quality or state of having little resistance to some outside agent. It means becoming exposed to the elements, at risk, susceptible.

Despite the negative connotations this definition and synonyms have, vulnerability is the single most difficult trait we can obtain. Even while I was pondering the subject of this TED Talk, I had trouble coming up with arguable reasons as to why this trait is anything but weakness. How can I make it seem like being a wimp is cool? How do I explain this? I’m going to try.

When we think of vulnerability, we think of fear, embarrassment, and not being sure of what is to come. We as human adults are doing our best to avoid these things. We are too old to be scared, we are too mature to get embarrassed, and too detail oriented to jump into something when we don’t know the outcome. But numbing ourselves from experiencing these comes with a price; we no longer have the opportunity to experience the authentic kind of happiness the world has to offer.

I want everyone in this room to close their eyes.

Now, think back to when you were a little kid. When were you the happiest? How did it feel to experience that inconsequential joy? If this is not the memory you are thinking of, I want you to bring up a time when you were absolutely disgusting. When you were in the dirt, making mud pies, trying to catch frogs with unknown diseases in the pond, picking bugs off of plants to hold in your hands or your pockets. If you can’t think of anything then I guess I was just a gross kid. Okay. Open your eyes.

Why was it so easy, so necessary and unquestionable to do these things? This is off topic but have you noticed that kids are absolute sociopaths? They have the ability to do anything they want and feel no fear or remorse. It’s actually frightening. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that doing these things was so easy, because we were vulnerable. We didn’t think about the consequences, we hadn’t learned everything yet. Everything was new and exciting, and we just wanted to experience it. We didn’t get embarrassed unless someone told us we should be. We didn’t fear everything unless someone told us that we should.

We’ve become like this because of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is, by definition, a learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired; a response that is at first elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone. For example, Jim Halpert ringing a bell and offering Dwight Shrute a mint. Then one day he rings the bell and Dwight expects the mint but nothing happens.

Everything from our speech to emotional responses are simply patterns of stimulus and response. As children when we fell, our parents ran up to us and said “oh no, poor baby”, and who knows, it might not have even hurt, but we learned to mimic and reciprocate those same emotional responses because we associate falling with negative emotions. When we did something stupid, which I did plenty of when I was a kid, we didn’t know it was stupid unless someone pointed it out. We were born vulnerable, raw beings, but over time that has changed because of what we’ve learned from other people.

Now, here we are. 

I’m going to bring it back to fear and the unknown. We’re too old to get scared, too detail oriented to jump into things where the outcome is unknown. But really, we’re more scared than we ever have been. We’ve learned throughout our lives to be scared of all the “bad things”. We’ve learned that it’s dangerous to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is weakness. It’s frailty. It’s powerlessness.

But do we really have power if we don’t allow ourselves to feel everything we’re supposed to? Is it really strength if we’re too scared to try something new just because we don’t know what will happen?

About seven months ago, there was an incident and long story short I ended up in the hospital. That night in the ICU, I remember feeling just about everything. It was then that I realized, that I promised myself, that I would always feel everything. That I would simply live. I didn’t realize, however, that doing so would be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I had to strip myself completely of everything that I have ever learned about happiness. I had to turn myself inside out and allow myself to be really seen. I had to become raw. I had to become vulnerable.

I’m nowhere near close to being an expert, but I like to think I have a pretty decent idea of what that entails.

The first thing is shame. Forget about it. In order to really live and grow and learn we need to learn to shut out shame. Shame is the feeling that comes along with thoughts of inadequacy. It’s what we feel when we think we don’t deserve love. Shame restricts ourselves from freely expressing our emotions, or our thoughts, because just maybe we shouldn’t be feeling that way.

The second thing is conquering the unknown. We need to throw out the idea that we shouldn’t do things just because we’re not sure how it will turn out. No, I don’t mean we should all jump off buildings or touch fences with signs that say “high voltage” just to see. I’m talking about the things that you think about doing but skip out because you don’t want to get embarrassed or because it might not even matter. I’m talking about asking out that guy in the library, even though he might say no (this has totally never happened to me ever haha). Go bridge jumping with your roommates even though you’re pretty sure you’re scared of heights. Apply for that job in that dream city even though the thought of moving your entire life somewhere you’ve never been scares the crap out of you. Be the first one to say I love you. Unless it’s only the first date, that’s not courageous, that’s insane. Do the things that you might look back on one day and think I’m glad I did that. Vulnerability strips us from the ability to ignore these opportunities.

The third and last thing is to throw everything you’ve learned from other people about being happy out the window. Seeing other people react to the their circumstances isn’t how you should react. Everything you’ve seen up until this point, has been the emotional response of those around you. This has led some of us to think “Is that what happiness is supposed to look like?” “Is it weird that not doing certain things still makes me happy?” “Am I doing this all wrong?” The answer to all of these questions, is no. We’ve been conditioned to think that certain things are going to make our lives better, that we’re supposed to have certain things or qualities, but that just isn’t true. Everyone is so different, and no specific combination of circumstances, career choices, or experiences is tailored to fit more than one person. So throw that all away. Get rid of it.

Get rid of the things that make you put that shield over your emotions. In order to be vulnerable, you must surround yourself with people who won’t take advantage of that.

I’m going to rewind back to seven months ago. In that hospital bed, in the dark, connected to different machines with wires stuck all over my body, all I wanted to do was be happy. It has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. Realizing that people I love so deeply are not good for me was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Stripping myself of everything I thought I was supposed to feel was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Making myself seen, actually, completely seen in the most raw sense has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m nowhere near finished.

Vulnerability takes guts. It means throwing away pride. It means shaking the idea that reacting and feeling different than others is strange or not okay. Vulnerability is becoming the most raw versions of ourselves. It’s being seen, actually, truly, seen.

Thank you.

 

 

Precipice

The overwhelming sensation I get from looking up never fails to surprise me. I’ve felt it so many times before, but when I tilt my head back and see a never ending structure heading straight for the sun, I feel it all over again. When I was a child, tall things fascinated me. I remember how my dreams were full of buildings, mountains, any and all structures that seemed to continue upward forever. I don’t know how to describe the feeling accurately, but I think it feels like that rush you get when an airplane is almost too close to the ground and you can see every detail from the bottom. Seeing these things from far away, or while they are up in the sky doesn’t feel the same way. They are ordinary and just the right size, just how I picture they should be. But when they are close, when I can touch and see everything it is made out of, it brings me that feeling. I feel like I exist. Instead of seeing people and things that pass me by with no distraction, I see something that makes me fear how big this world actually is. It makes me think of how small I actually am, and there is so much space that I have yet to see. When I see these things, I remember that I am nothing. I am not nothing in the sense that I do not matter, but I am nothing in the sense that whatever put me on this earth is so much more-in every meaning and application of the word-than I could ever possibly imagine. There is something powerful in realizing that you are nothing, and that is why I look up.

I Am Not Depressed.

Brush your hair, please. You look like a mess. When was the last time you ate? You say you’re tired but you’ve been in bed for three consecutive days. The sun is shining, the fresh air will make you feel better. Just smile. Get yourself together. Why is it so hard?

This is my internal monologue when a depressive episode hits. I’m aware that laying in bed all day and not brushing my hair isn’t good for me, I know this, but depression has more control sometimes. I can see myself in the mirror. I know I look terrible. I can see the dark circles under my eyes from being so exhausted, and I know the only thing I’ve “eaten” in three days is water from a dusty cup on my night stand. It has become so routine, inconvenient, and just downright annoying that when it hits I’ll get mad at myself and say “I get it, you’re depressed. Can’t we just skip this part?”

But, I am not depressed.

Saying that I am something that I cannot control would be lying. I feel like saying that I am depressed would imply that I am in a constant state of being miserable and not knowing why. I’m not like that, though. Most of the time, I’m a very happy person. I like to laugh, tell jokes, make other people smile, and anything else that sounds cheesy. I just happen to lack the ability to inhibit enough serotonin to keep me like that 365 days out of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, depression is very serious. An episode that lasts for a week can take 3 weeks to recover. It takes so much out of a person. You could be laying in bed for a week straight and still be exhausted. It can make you feel like you don’t deserve the good things that you do have, because even when those things are good, you’re too numb to enjoy them. Depression makes you feel lazy. You know you need to go outside and get the mail, run that errand, do your homework, or feed yourself, but your body has no desire to move. You are frozen and everything feels like it’s flying past you, but you can’t catch up. So what’s the point of trying? Every single person you see could tell you how great you are, but the depression won’t let you believe it. And you know what the worst part about this is? It’s nobody’s fault. It isn’t the guy who didn’t text you back, your mom, your dead-beat dad, the pile of homework you never finished, and it’s not you either. You can’t point any fingers and it drives you crazy because you can’t cut it out.

I think the worst part, for me, is that I feel the need to apologize for it. I can tell that my friends are worried about me. I can tell it stresses my roommate out when I cry in my bed for three days. So I apologize. I can tell that when I am quiet and distant my friends think I don’t like them, and I feel terrible. I feel the need to apologize because I know how it effects other people, and not just me.

But, still. I am not depressed. I am simply a person that struggles with depression. When I was first diagnosed, it was weird. I knew I’d been feeling like absolute crap for the past 5 years, but depression? Doesn’t that seem a little excessive? Can’t I just go fly a kite or pet a dog and be fine? It offends me to this day that my brain has the guts to think it can control my emotions like that.

I began to feel like I was less of a person after I was diagnosed. I felt like I had this label on my forehead that said “handle with care” or “fragile” or “hey I’m depressed and might start crying for no tangible reason at all”. I felt like I was broken, and that not only me, but everyone who knew me would no longer see me as the person I was. For a while, I would think about how it might’ve been easier to keep pretending like the depression wasn’t there. How if I didn’t go to the doctor, I could pretend I was a complete and stable human being. After a while, I got used to it. It was like solving a mystery, every time I suffered an episode or had to cope with my anxiety, I knew what was happening and why. I finally had an answer, and it took me a while but I eventually realized that being diagnosed was the best thing to ever happen to me.

I don’t tell people right away that I struggle with this. It usually isn’t the best first date ice-breaker. I can always tell when I am comfortable enough with someone to trust them with this information about myself. Over the years it has gotten easier to talk about. I don’t talk about it for attention, nor am I writing about it to get you to feel bad for me. If you feel bad for me at this point in your reading, stop it. Seriously, chill out. I talk about it because it is something I know people need to hear.

I am not depressed.

I am not a broken person. I am not fragile, and I do not need to be seen in a different light. I have depression, and like so many people in this world who have it, I go on. Thanks to generic zoloft and some groovy coping mechanisms, I am a better version of myself than I could ever dream of being. When I was 16 and hating myself because I thought I wasn’t good enough, I never would have thought that I would grow up to be this. I am my own person who might have some bad days and that is okay. I know it’s okay because I have depression, and I cannot control it and no matter how hard I try those bad days still come.

It took me a long time to realize that I was a real person. Not in the twilight zone kinda way, but in a I-am-actually-worthy-of-feeling-like-a-validated-member-of-society kinda way, you know? It didn’t happen over night. I didn’t have some eat-pray-love experience that changed my perspective on life. It was definitely not as glamorous as Julia Roberts makes it look. It was ugly. It was crying in the library bathroom because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’ll never make it past my first year of college. It was falling asleep next to the toilet bowl because the different medications I had to test made me sick and kept me up all night. It was calling someone I loved when I was going through hell and him telling me I used my depression as an excuse. It was realizing that I didn’t have to hang on to people that hurt me just because I loved them. It was losing friends. It was losing myself for a little while. But I got myself back.

It was only until recently that I found myself again. Ugh, I hate that. “Find myself.” I sound like I just got back from backpacking in Europe with a guy named Chad. But, for a while there, I was gone. I felt empty and unreal and lost. I became angry and cynical, and could only find the negativity and cruelty in the world. I found the good eventually. Not only did I find the good in the world that was given to me, but I found the good that was in the person I was. I didn’t have to start over, I didn’t have to remake myself or begin again, I just had to realize that I was so much more than I thought I was.

I am not depressed. I have depression. I am a living, breathing person who struggles sometimes. I am a friend, a daughter, a writer, a photographer, a painter, a (bad) dancer, a student, a co-worker, a comedian, a dog enthusiast, and I am all of these things because these are the things I love. These are the things that I have become over so many years, and what is most important is that I have become a real person, and I can recognize that I do love myself because I chose to become these things. We are not what we cannot control, we are what we love and what we do, teach, learn, grow into and what we are on this earth to become.

I feel the things that are good in this scary world that was given to me, and I am not depressed. I am a real person and I am here.

 

 

 

 

October

i fell in love with someone i barely knew.
and i know how strange it is
and i’ve tried to tell myself that i did not love them
but for some insane and terrifying reason
too much of me cared for too much of them to believe it

he was calm and cool and everything he said was warm.
i met him once and suddenly i was comfortable.
i didn’t care that my glasses were dirty, or that my hair wasn’t brushed.
he saw me.
he saw who i actually was
we sat on the couch and ate breakfast at 3 am.
i looked at him when he laughed at the low budget horror movie on the screen.
i looked at him when he sang along to an overplayed pop song on the radio.

i had been with him for less than 48 hours and i loved him.
not the kind of love where i would die without him,
or the kind that made me want to get on one knee and ask him to marry me,
but i fell in love with how he felt.
i fell in love with the way he laughed at crappy netflix movies,
and the way he liked his coffee black.

he didn’t try so hard to love life, but you could tell he loved it. oh god he loved it.
he didn’t have to say it.
for such a long time i couldn’t figure out how
to love a life or a world that was so cruel,
but meeting him made me wonder how i’ve been living the way i have for so long.

i told him things about myself that no one else knew.
i told him how sometimes i stare at my ceiling and wonder what it would be like if i never woke up.
i told him about how my father left, and how empty and unwanted i’ve felt since.
i told him how i hated feeling that way because the only thing i’ve ever wanted
was to be my own person, and the fact that the decisions of some other person
affected me so much tortured my mind.

and when i saw him feel, i finally realized
that i was so much more than i thought i was.
and it is not because i was validated by
a boy i’d known for a day that i finally realized this,
but it was seeing how he felt about the world that was given to him.

and now i can let these things go.
suddenly for the first time in my life, i felt like i belonged to no one else but me.
i was so much more than someones daughter that they did not love.
i was more than an obligation to a distant friend that felt they had to text once a week.
i was so much more than the girl who fell in love with a boy she barely knew.

so, no.

i did not fall in love with this person because they paid me the attention i wasn’t used to.
i did not fall in love with this person because they laughed at my jokes or held my hand.
i did not fall in love with this person because of the color of their eyes, or the way they looked in mine.

i fell in love with this person because they were’t just a person.

i fell in love with this person because they felt so much all at once
for a world and life i wanted so desperately to leave.

i fell in love with this person because
they showed me that the world is just too big to find only the bad and cruel.
too much of me cared for too much of the only thing that made sense in such a long time.

it was not a romantic love.
he was a feeling.

and i know that i will never see him again,
i will never hold his hand or watch a bad horror movie,
or laugh at his laugh again.
and i know that he did not love me,
and my presence was not as significant as his.
and this is okay, because i did not love him in a way that he could replicate.

i know these things.
and still i can’t help but think of him when the sun warms my shoulders.
i can’t help but think of him when i feel
the genuine love from a stranger in passing who wanted to tell me hello.
i think of him when the world is good.

and there are people that i meet that i will care for and love,
but i can’t help but think of the fact that no one else
can make me feel and see the same things he did.

the people that we love
are the ones who show us that staying on this planet
is worth the torture of staring at the ceiling in middle of the night.

so, yes.
i fell in love with someone my mind barely knew.

and i just don’t think i will ever know a love just like that one.

 

 

Ordinary

Look into the mirror.
This is a miracle.
These are your eyes,
Your lips,
The freckles that resemble the skies you’ve searched for years.
I hear people say
“I am nothing special.
I am what came from the ground
And I will return to it again.”
They are wrong.
They came from the freckles on their face.
The endless comets and stars.
The very same ones they wish upon.
Someone so much bigger than ourselves
Carefully placed parts of themselves and parts of so many worlds
Into every pore.
Into every fiber and being that we see.
You are the cosmos.
Inside of your fragile veins
There is a current of galaxies and worlds
Constantly breaking apart to fill the empty spaces.
I heard somewhere that matter
Is not created nor destroyed.
I now see that it is placed somewhere else, as freckles,
Bones, and hearts.
You were an explosion.
And the reason you constantly stare
Into the night
Could quite possibly be just that.
The missing pieces that you once held onto,
Far away in the endlessness of the universe,
Are still in the sky.
That bigger someone who broke apart to fill your empty spaces
Holds onto that indestructible matter,
And one day those pieces will return back to you.
And the galaxies flowing through your arms,
Your eyes,
Your mind,
They can’t help but be pulled toward the space it once called home.
So, no. You are not the ground where you lay at night,
Or the tides that are pulled by the moon.
You are the cosmos.
The black holes.
The white-hot stars that could consume and destroy
Everything in it’s path
And you are everything in-between.

Conceptual Challenge

 

NickN

The words I picked were skylight, climb, and loud. I also added the two words water and blue.

I was really excited for this projects and had so many ideas. For this project I asked my roommate’s boyfriend, Nick, to model for me. I filled up my bath tub, added blue food coloring to make the color more vibrant without having to make too many edits, and added paint to his face and hands. I used a LED light straight above the tub and made sure I used the gold reflector to make it warm, this is my skylight. I asked Nick to act as if he were trying to get out from under the water like he was drowning, hence his hands looking like he was climbing. He also screamed to add the loud feature. I had so Much fun with this project and I’m so happy with the way it turned out. I added another image to the picture, of the water, and masked out around Nick, so that instead of looking like he was in a bathtub,it seemed like a larger body of water.

My settings were 1/80 sec. f/4.5 28mm ISO 400 with flash on my Canon Rebel T6i

Fine Art Print

TempleDuarteFineArtPrintFine Art Presentation Video

I really enjoyed getting to see my work be printed. I really loved this photo. I took this at Bannack in the Hotel with Ariana dressed as the Native American. I used the light coming in from the window and the lighting that we used from our equipment to get the shadows. We asked Ariana to dance around an we were all having fun and I got this shot. I didn’t edit too much because I really like the mystery in the photo. I used the dodge tool to brighten up the red, and the fox scarf that she was wearing. I also used the burn tool to make the shadows more dramatic, and added a vignette filter to enhance her as he focal point. I really love this photo and I am very proud of it. I’m glad I get to share it with the class.Below is the image before my edits.

TempleDuarteFineArtBefore