The (Mawr)velous Adventures of Esteniolla

"…we got so caught up in school being a tradition that we stopped using it as a learning tool…" –Tupac

…been awhile!:D Back and 1/5 of a century old!

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind–at times it literally was thanks to Sandy! There were multiple exciting moments (i.e. me finding out that I am going back to GHANA!!!!…stay tuned) that I could have written about; but, none were worthy in comparison to the wonderful Friday (11/2/12) I had.

Friday, I turned twenty years old. Although that is a rather daunting age (1/5 of a century!-.-), I couldn’t have asked for a better transition from the teens into adulthood (ugh). All day, I just felt really pleased with myself and loved by everyone around me.

As part of my 360: Women in Walled Communities I take a visual arts course at a cannery, a low-security risk institution for incarcerated women, every Friday. While prison isn’t an ideal place to spend a birthday, my visit on Friday was the greatest gift I have received in a while. We, as in my 360 and the cannery women, were asked to create self-portraits of ourselves in pairs using transparency paper, sharpies, pastels and ink. Like many of the women around me, especially my art partner from the cannery, I was nervous. Yes, I knew what I looked like, but how could I draw myself, better yet, how was my partner going to draw me?  I was nervous because, artistic skills aside, I did not know what truth about my face (me!) would be revealed once my partner traced the contours of my face and I filled it in. Would I see what other have described of me (serious and mean-looking), would I see what I wanted others to see (pleasant, bright-eyed and friendly) or a combination of both?

 What do you see when you take a look for yourself?

Esty's Self-Portrait at the Cannery

Although this self-portrait is quite comical and disproportionate, I am incredibly drawn to it. Is this what a 20 year old looks like? What am I seeing in my facial expressions? My features?  Is that my every day face or what I was hoping she would capture?


I thought this self-portrait was the best gift I could have given myself—me! It has called me to question, and not in an insecure way, what makes me so special. As I reflect back on the remainder of my birthday and all that happened (like my friends and Posse making me cry—ya happy Chandrea?—by surprising me with a card and a cookie cake), I realize how grateful I am to have a lot of people in my life who truly love and care about me. When I look at my self-portrait (literally I am looking at it now), I see everything I feared people would see and everything I hope people would see and I don’t care. I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful birthday full of loved ones, laughter, tears and hugs if those I surrounded myself with cared, too.  Happy Birthday to ME!<3