Please welcome my #BeReal guest Stephanie Ortéz
For as long as I can remember I always felt compelled to unleash my talents to the world. My Grandmother nurtured my artistic talents by being both my adviser & biggest fan. She would collect fashion magazines and teach me how to braid my hair. She and I were so close that I didn’t even mind sharing my room with her. She would help me hone my artistic instincts by listening to classical music every night. Though, sadly, she has long since passed away, I can still perceive her presence when searching my mind for artistic & personal inspiration.
The most important lesson she taught me was to express my true self, even when discouraged by critical opinion. “Always be yourself, Stefi” she would say to me. I always fell back on her advice when my hands were sweating and my heart beating like a thunder in anticipation, I was in 4th grade, wearing red, bright tights with a matching leotard, I dressed as a flower reciting a poem about a blossoming flower who was sad because it was the last day of school and she wouldn’t be able to see her students anymore.
If you have seen Blind Melon’s “No Rain” video, then you’ll have some idea how it felt being the chubby bumblebee girl in the video that only wanted to dance. When hearing the oooh’s and awww’s from other parents, my classmates were doubled over in laughter. In spite of their childish ridicule, my grandmother’s inspiring words reverberated throughout my soul. With her words of encouragement, I didn’t care about my friends laughing at me; the world was mine and I was a blossoming flower replete with artistic inspiration.
That memory stayed with me for a long time. You can say I tried everything I could to let everyone know I was a born natural artist. In a way, I wanted to find a purpose that could keep me alive. I hated the way I looked, I never felt pretty. I wanted to compensate my shortcomings both mentally, and physically; with art. While my friends talked about Mortal Kombat games, I would spend hours reading and staring at Salvador Dalí’s paintings. When I finally graduated from high school, I joined the music conservatory in Honduras with the hope of becoming the next Latin Yo-Yo MA. At my mother’s urging, I attended college in order to become a lawyer. But my natural instinct impelled me to enroll in drawing class. I can’t even begin to describe my anxiety as I felt incapable of drawing a simple still life or even a landscape! With that, I decided to skip drawing and concentrate solely on music. For reasons I can no longer enumerate, I picked Saxophone as my instrument of choice. Can you think of anything sexier of a woman playing saxophone? Neither can I.
Unfortunately, my bohemian lifestyle as a musician was cut short once I was uprooted and transplanted in the United States. My artistic aspirations were superseded by the necessity of having to learn English and adapt to an entirely new cultural setting. I relied on sign language in order to alert the family I used to live with that I was hungry or needed new books; I decided writing would be my new primary mode of artistic expression. I was only 17 in an alien environment without the slightest intimation of how could I take care of myself and my frightened little sister. I wanted to live art, breathe art, and create art. I was green with envy of any artist who seemed naturally with not only the time, but innate facility of artistic expression. I was easily frustrated with writing for want of proper instruction of how to string together a coherent sentence in English, while straining to ease my transition into a new & unfamiliar environment.
After a year of basically bouncing from job to job in a new location to a new location, I finally settled in suburban Washington, DC. I couldn’t paint a flawless portrait or compose an inscrutable symphony I realized could take good photographs. It was important to me to understand the beauty of black and white pictures. Equipped with only a generic digital camera, I strived to push the envelope of its functionality in order to capture the spirit of old school techniques.
I wanted everything without accepting the inherent responsibility or discipline that it takes to become an artist. It’s not that I lacked the ability to express myself; it was that I didn’t want to sacrifice my time for it. Soon, I dropped out of college and became a mom. My new audience consisted of my two babies who watched their mom dancing around the house in the mannerist style of Nureyev’s “Black Swan pas de deux” I even danced at church. I felt happy dancing in similarly cute outfits to those I wore when I was in school. My dance career was, unfortunately, cut short when the idyllic atmosphere of the church environment was suddenly cut short by a traumatic series of incidents.
I could tell you the many bad things that happened to me: sexually abused at 7, enduring years of domestic violence, alcoholism, drugs and abuse my father heaped on my mother, sisters and I. I could write about my self-harm behavior, my struggle with mental illness, etc. But you see, to be real, it is to pursue your calling regardless of all the darkness & discouragement that seems to envelop you. It took me a long time to realize all those artistic attempts were my message to the world, even if I’m broken inside, I want to create beautiful things and adventures.
I still take photographs and create graphics. My saxophone lies dusty in a corner waiting for its owner to have the guts to play again. But I’m still here loving my quirkiness because I know nothing is more secure and certain than my life when I know the truth. This to me is what makes me real.
Stephanie is a highly caffeinated mother of two wonderful boys. She is hopelessly addicted to non-fiction books and literature that moves her to tears. She is an admissions advisor for George Washington University online, where she assists home-schooled students internationally. Stephanie lives with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She is a passionate mental health advocate. Her writing has been featured on Stigma Fighters, Organic Coffee Haphazardly, The Elephant Journal, The Mighty, and The Feminine Collective.
Deviant Art: http://stefanit.deviantart.com/