Saturday, May 19, 2018

Graduation - A Photo Essay

Photography - Faith O'Leary
Prose - Nikki Macahon

The Dress
I used to think professionals wore dresses to compromise. They wrote to survive, they didn’t enjoy it. Professionals write articles, manuals, essays, and all other things that bored them to death. Their work was taken from them and rewritten by someone else who didn’t respect them or their vision. Professionals were artists that sold out.
Now I know better.
This dress is a challenge, it’s daring me to try new things. It wants to be taken seriously. It’s a commitment. It will do things it doesn’t think it’ll enjoy, if at least to say that it gave it a shot. It welcomes critique. It knows how to meet in the middle and still love what it’s doing.
This dress is saying that while I’m more comfortable in jeans and a tee, if the occasion rises I will do what I need to do. I will put on that dress. I will walk across that stage. And you’re never going to be able to tell I’m out of my element.

The Shoes

The path I’ve walked is the reason why I’m here. I came to this spot because of the things I turned to in the darkest moments of my life. I needed to create because I had something to say, but no one to say it too. I wrote because I needed stories when I was alone. I read comics and played video games because I wanted to escape.
All the things I used to tolerate life eventually became the foundations of what life would become for me. God used my passions, my interests, my crutches, to teach me that there was more to the world then what I saw.
It’s because I created that people listened to me. It’s because I wrote that I found friends. It’s because I read comics and played video games that I found a place to belong.
So I remain what I’ve always been. My shoes are scruffy, dirty, and worn. My apartment is messy. If you need me, I’ll be sitting here, in the corner, with a book. Many things will change, these will not.

The Necklace
God made me a writer to better understand Him. Because of the way I care for the characters I create and the worlds that I construct for them, I have no doubt in my mind that my creator is loving crafting a story perfectly suited for me.
God put me in a family that was different from me so that I would learn how to be comfortable in my individuality. He let me be alone in my childhood so that I would learn to empathize with the people I would someday write for. He allowed me to give too much to my friends so that I would learn that real love needs to be a little selfish if it wants to survive. He put people in my life to disagree with so that I would know how to respect everyone.
He gave me a passion for writing so that I could apply everything He’s taught me.
God is the one who pushes me to write. He provides the means for me to do so. I am who I am so that I may tell those who are like me about His love.
It has not been an easy road. He never claimed it would be. But when I look back on what He’s done so far, I can’t say that my way has ever been better than His. Even now, He teaches me to surrender my plans to Him. Because no matter what happens, it’ll make a great story.
Make no mistake, I am not a self made woman. Left to my own devices, I would have quit a long time ago.

The Gown

Compared to what I want, it’s meager. It feels like nothing. Four years for a flimsy gown and an itchy cap. Graduation was never the goal, only the means to the real end game.
But the gown isn’t just the school work, it’s also what I took to get there. It’s the comic I drew in fourth grade with all of my friends. It’s the last sentence I wrote in my first finished novel-”Next stop, London.”  It’s the first rejection I received from an agent. It’s the first writing conference I went too where I told everyone I was a sophomore in college even though I was only 16. It was the acceptance box I got from the only college I applied too, the one that came with stickers and a sketchbook. It was the first story I got published. It was turning a guaranteed F on one of my finals to an A. It was the school conference where I stood up in front of a full panel of agents and pitched my book.
It’s what I overcame when I decided to commit to this. Writing. For God. For people. For me.

The Horizon
The day of my graduation, when Faith and I were going to take these photos, I wanted sunny weather. That was the plan. To have a metaphor about how the future would be bright, adventurous, open, something to explore and have fun.
But when it turned out cloudy instead, somehow I knew that this was better.
The future is fog. It’s gray. It won’t show you how your story will pan out, or even if it will be happy or sad.
When I was in high school I was sure that the first novel I wrote would be the one I would make my name with. In 2016 I was positive my most recently finished work would have an offer by the end of 2017. Five months ago I was confident I’d have a stable job and be able to afford rent. Three weeks ago I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to sell a story to anyone.
God keeps trying to teach me the same lesson over and over. Maybe one day I’ll learn.
You really never know what tomorrow will bring.


P. S. Faith O'Leary took these photos. She's a photography extraordinaire, she's obsessed with the Chicago Cubs, and she has the right opinion on Scott Pilgrim v. The World. That's a real life Good Person(TM) right there. Also, like, hot dang. Look at those photos. Wow! Art! 

Check her out-

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