What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
What do we think we might see?
Some day we'll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
- Kermit the Frog, Rainbow Connection
For some reason, when I was thinking of lyrics to attach to this post, this song popped into my head. And because it's been a while, and because it's Kermit, and because there's never a bad time for muppets, I looked it up on YouTube before starting to write. Reading through the comments, I was struck by how many people go to this song for comfort. As a lullaby for a child, as a reminder of a lost parent, as inspiration during a tough day, or week, or season. What's funny, in a sense, is that I thought of this song because I've been spending some time thinking about my struggle to connect with others. But I found all these voices in the comments that echoed a familiar sentiment and made me feel less alone.
The problem with isolation is that it's hard to imagine your experience is relatable. It's easy to begin to believe that you really are the only one out there. I moved to the suburbs in 2018. True, even as a single mom, I worked hard to keep myself and my children in a good neighborhood, decent apartment and promising school district. Still, I couldn't help but feel a bit like my fairy godmother had just whisked me off to the ball when I finally unloaded the last box in the untouchable faraway land of Suburbia. And much like Cinderella, I was enchanted but a little bit terrified.
Trauma becomes a part of your identity as much as any other thing. It can take years, even a lifetime, to untangle its grip, and that's only if you work at it. Like a tenacious weed, it wraps itself around you until your identity is indiscernible without it. I hadn't realized how much my past defines me - less by conscious decision and more because I haven't fought the inclination to categorize myself differently. When I walk into a room, I still view myself as the odd one out. Small talk makes a clumsy mess of me. I find it stressful and unpleasant. I recognize my interests are a little off the beaten path, and that a passion for artistic photography is usually not a strong conversation piece at Back to School Night.
When Cinderella moved into the castle, did she feel like this too? On the one hand, pinching herself that her new reality involved an amazing handsome prince who loved her deeply and a life free of the hardship she'd always known. On the other hand, suddenly thrown into a society with which she shared almost no common experience and, by some, would always be viewed as an imposter in a nice dress. After a lifetime of scrubbing floors, I could imagine her new position could leave her feeling unrelatable both in once familiar circles and in new ones.
Despite the fact that socially, I still struggle to know my place and to find kindred spirits to connect with, I find a lot of comfort in two places - my wonderful family, and photography. Behind these walls, I am blessed with a happy marriage and two children who are my greatest joy. Behind my camera, I am empowered to be the version of myself that is confident enough to achieve her vision. Although I do occasionally photograph landscapes or inanimate objects, my photos predominately focus on people. It may seem ironic, given how much I struggle to connect outside of my profession, but photography is invaluable to me for its ability to find the spark of commonality within each of us. More than that, it's where I feel a sense of belonging. Where the me that is stifled by my own insecurity forces its way out and gives itself a voice. This is what art is to me. This is what art does for me.
I am not alone. Not as an artist. Not as an introvert. Not as a human who longs for connection with other humans. Not as the girl with ash-smudged cheeks who found herself in glass slippers in a castle. Someday, I'll find it. The rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.
If you're out there, I'll meet you at the end of the rainbow.
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