Ella loves to dance ballet, draw, paint, play dogs and send her little toy horses on trips across the country. She lives in hidden places and only comes out when she’s feeling vulnerable, lost, and needs someone to hug her and tell her she’s good. Ella is perpetually 9 years old, just starting out and caught in between wanting to grow and being too scared to come out.
Occasionally though, she musters up the courage to come out and let her feelings flow through me. Because you see, Ella is me. She’s the me that I shut down, the me I sent into a corner with toys and feelings and vulnerabilities. She’s the 9 year old who wants to make and be a part of something beautiful. People and wonder inspire her. She wants to gallop through the forest with the wind in her hair and stop and sketch a picture of a butterfly before landing a tour jeté on stage in a crowded auditorium.
I got older and gave up and let go of most of those dreams, but she hasn’t. Now I’m finding her again, I’m rekindling old dreams, wiping off the dust and chains and putting them up front where I can see them. With the rediscovery and hope that comes with reacquainting myself comes pain, vulnerability, and sometimes the feeling of hopelessness. Sometimes going back and working on art leaves me feeling overwhelmed and depressed – Ella feels vulnerable and scared, what if it doesn’t work? what if she’s no good? what if she lets it go and loses it again? Why is it so lonely? Ella misses people, she misses the energy that comes from a room of peers with different styles yet the same goal. I think of local classes but suddenly feel intimidated. What if I walk into the room and I’m the only one under 40, or 60? Why are all the art places I’m finding either for middle and high school students, or are primarily made up of much older adults?
I think of colleges, because Ella’s need for people at it’s root, is mine. I grow confused. Why do I need people so much? Why can’t I be happy in solitude, reading books and doing my own thing? Why do I need to complicate it by needing people somewhere close to my age? Why does that inspire me? Why does that give me energy? Why does solitude drain me? Ella starts crying and losing hope, and I feel it too. It overwhelms me to the point where I can’t really do anything. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to comfort Ella, I’m fresh out of ideas and feel like joining her under the blankets crying together, hoping that maybe after our tears are dry we can figure something out. We feel lost, full of potential, but clueless as to how to turn the energy into something beautiful.
Nothing was going to change if I stayed depressed though. So I talked about it. I told Alex how I was feeling and what was wrong, and somehow, just talking about it helped me feel better and quieted Ella’s fears. It’s still frustrating, but it’s good to have someone else there, coming up with ideas, and willing to do things differently because Alex knows that (for some reason) I need people.
Ella comes out when I feel vulnerable and self-conscious, because she feels that way. Sometimes all it takes too quench that is a hug and some soft reassuring words. You’re great at art. You keep getting better. We’re finding classes. We can go places. You can work on a project and connect with people virtually. Somehow those words bring hope. Ella goes back to her finger paints and I find my pens and set to work. Hopefully I’ll have something to show for it soon, and probably more playing around with deviantart until I can find or do something local (or save for a real college class. who knows.).