The Blue- Eyed Elasta-Girl From Alabama
This is the beginning of a very long story about my journey to where I am today - Words can only do the depth of a story so much justice. Maybe that’s why it is nearly impossible for me to pick up my pen and write this whole thing out. Whenever I find myself grounded enough to start to write, I always turn first to photographs. Triggering the laughter, the smells, the feelings of community and family and love that I hold onto through these pieces of paper that captured a moment in my life. Its not the photograph, really, that interests me though.. no, it’s the story behind the photograph that captures me.
What clues do photographs give to the inner-workings of that individual’s soul, of that person’s connection to others? To themselves? That’s why, during these periods of intense aloneness and introspection, photographs pull me to myself again and again.. reminding me of my truth, of my existence (no, it isn’t all just a dream) , and what makes my heart flutter :: connections I have with other people. So, what do these photos say about me and the relationships that have carried me through my life? They’ve been pretty great.
My roots are from a small town in Alabama, reaching deep into those local church and school communities that carried me through high school. Both of my parents are hard working, creative and fun individuals who met at a small Church of Christ Christian school in Tennessee while they did children’s musical theatre together. Both come from stable families who were both very connected in the Evengelical Christian Church of Christ. They created a tender, extremely intelligent, very loyal, deeply loving, extremely emotive, kind of OCD, animal-loving and people loving child who inherited their gifts of creativity, passion and spirit. My mom was an educator, and from a young age I was challenged mentally, and always given my parent’s best. Every Valentines day my mom would sew my sister and I new beautiful dresses, and my dad would take all us fancy girls out on a date with flowers and love-filled gifts.
The depths of emotions I came with was a lot on my parents, and has consequently been a hard thing for me to understand and manage throughout my life. Just now am I FULLY owning that I am a HIGHLY SENSITIVE EMPATHIC person, someone who has been deeply misunderstood throughout my life because of my inability to communicate and feel my OWN emotions well. My empathic spirit has given me beautiful gifts of creativity, vivid dreams, deep understanding and love for others, and a highly intuitive spirit throughout the course of my life. I have always had a special song in my heart, and at 32 I am finally learning how to sing it clearly.
Our family is close-knit, and my parents and grandparents AND aunt/uncle would show up at everything I participated in growing up. We all lived a few blocks from one another and I grew up going to church with my family and other families who might have well been blood related, too. We were encouraged to create and laugh and have fun. We ran around outside barefooted, climbed trees, jumped on trampolines with sprinklers underneath, rode horses, built houses, went on family road trips and sang songs the whole way.
While they raised Taryn and I, my dad worked a 9-5 as a manager and IT guru at Intergraph and my mom built a custom window treatment business that would later allow my parents to pay cash for our college tuition. They did all of this while my mom became contractor so they could build houses with the goal of living a debt-free life.. which they accomplished by the time I was a Junior in High School. I spent my childhood laying tile, climbing on the sand we used for brick mortar, helping my dad build trim, looking at blue prints and moving every year to a different house in our little city of Decatur, Alabama.
I rode my bike to most of my friend’s houses, and had a Hanson fan club (party of one) that would meet in my closet every day after school. I had an entrepreneurial spirit and started more failed indie craft businesses before high school than I can count. My sister and I went to a small christian elementary school and started public school in Middle school.
Emotive is a word you could use to describe me during this phase of life..I had my oddities (like doing sign language in my hand for everything people said and being deathly afraid to swallow my spit because #germs) but was also very strong willed and did not know how to express the waves I would feel inside of my heart. My health during this season of my life was normal other than the tonsillectomy, bouts of dehydration and wrist and ankle sprains. I remember friends telling me I was too clumsy or too loud or I ran into things too much. .this always hurt my feelings and made me feel burdensome to the people around me. My hurt feelings quickly went away when I got my first pair of NAME BRAND reebok high-top white sneakers with teal and purple lace in 4th grade. That same year things really turned around for my future in sports when I was the only girl who joined the soccer league at the boys and girls club, really developing skills that would later land me in a middle school traveling soccer league.
Middle School at Cedar Ridge would have been a huge shock if it had not been for my Aunt Cindy who was my 6th grade teacher and my best friend Anna. Anna and I met when we were 2, and were inseparable throughout the next 16 years, you will see her scattered throughout all of my photographs. It was such a gift to have such a solid “Best Friend Forever And Always, DUH” throughout my elementary, middle and high school years.
During seventh grade things started to get interesting. This year would provide me with braces for my teeth and a “crank” to expand my cleft palette so all of my teeth could fit in my mouth. Two times a day my parents would hold me down and turn a key that was placed in a device at the roof of my mouth that expanded my connective tissue one crank at a time. While playing soccer, I overextended my knee and found myself having my first knee surgery this year as well. I had no idea what would lie ahead for my fragile (but way strong) body.
I found community through participating in team sports (basketball and soccer), community theatre, a very active church youth group, through different leadership positions in school clubs, and community organizations in middle school and high school.
While I wasn’t “abnormal” growing up, my health certainly was not “normal”. Throughout my childhood, I sprained every joint. There were a lot of ER visits because of my “clumsiness”, dehydration and mega sick spells. My first knee surgery was in seventh grade, and by the time I had graduated high school, I had already had 4 knee surgeries. I was tested for things like RA and Marfan’s Syndrome, all coming back negative. In 9th grade my doctor concluded that sports were no longer option for my knees, so I turned to the arts..awakening again the love for theatre and creativity, building and imagining my parents had instilled in me at such an early age. I have found that, even still, I thrive best when I am rooted in a strong community standing inside a strong family unit expressing myself and interacting with the world through art as my medium of communication.
Looking back, high school was one of the best seasons of my life and I am so grateful for the close-knit school and church community I found myself blossoming inside. I floated through different social groups, still love being our 2005 class vice president, and spend every Sunday my junior year riding our four-wheeler through the mud with my friends. I was caught cheating on a test with a group of people in 9th grade, and cried for two days because I was so ashamed I had to go to in school suspension. I was an honor roll student, played basketball and soccer until my Junior year when my knees just couldn’t take it anymore sooo I decided it was a great idea to be on the Varsity golf team my boyfriend so I could letter at a varsity sport. I sucked.
My parents were the builders of our prom sets, the ones who helped us design and execute our homecoming floats, and our house always had a revolving door. We spent our weekend nights at Wal-Mart and each other’s houses having good, clean fun.. I definitely adhered to all of the rules. When my older friends left for college I would find myself having to leave class suddenly and go to the bathroom and weep alone in the stall. One day my english & Science teachers, Mrs. Maples and Mrs. Lawrence, found me in there crying and came and sat with me and held me and told me I would make friends again. I’ll never forget the way those two teachers invested in me, loved me and saw so much potential in me.
My first love was Jared and we fell in love in 8th grade and lasted until 10th grade when my camp counselor and parents told me I had to break up with him because he listened to rap music. I still regret that decision. I fell in love head over heels my sophmore year with Chris, and after my heart was broken, kept my heart mostly to myself as I navigated my teenage years.. but I will say I wore it on my sleeve for my friends. I had the best brothers and sisters in my life, and those guys really taught me what love and relationship looked like throughout my youth. You could always find me walking through the halls of high school with my nose stuck in a book and an art board under my arm with a backpack weighted down by books from my Advanced Placement classes (not in science and math however).
Maywood Christian Camp was the heartbeat behind our years growing up..a camp that my grandfather helped to build, and my mom ran barefoot as a teenager. When I close my eyes and breathe deeply I can still smell those hot august nights and hear the pulse of the night as the bugs sing. My truth is still grounded in the heart of Jesus’s life, the unshakable belief I have in a higher power that connects us all, and the deep bonds between souls I experienced since such a young age.
I graduated from Austin High School in 2005 with honors and while most of my friends were going to Harding and Alabama and Auburn, I had the hope to go to Mississippi State and study studio art. This wasn’t an option for my parents, so I’d choose to go to Lipscomb University in Nasvhille Tennessee at the end of July when school started in August. I wanted to do something on my own, no matter how scary. I moved to Nashville, Tennessee without knowing a single person, and went to a little private Christian Liberal Arts University where I’d study Elementary Education. Things really start to get juicy my Sophomore year.