How A Cardboard Box Changed My Life

How A Cardboard Box Changed My Life

I still think about it every day, and the question still remains from my cardboard box.
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As a focused Makeup Artist in Theatre, I have struggled in identifying myself within the department. I am surrounded by many talented people, but no one that has the talent and mindset as I do. I'm used to being unique, but being this type of unique can drive me to feel alone. Some try to interact with me, and I am nice and cordial, but a connection never seems to stick.

In my Creative Habit class, we are studying a book in which inspired the creation of the course, basically, a small autobiography of the success and creativeness Twyla Tharp habitually creates. We read about how she organizes her thoughts with a cardboard box; it becomes an archive of inspiration. We created our own inspiring cardboard box and were asked to make it a reflection of ourselves. Things could be put into the box, and we could add onto the outside of the box, so long as it was what our heart truly felt. Being given the full range of anything my creative mind could conjure up baffled me because I am used to structure, but I was able to use my confusion to create something meaningful to me.

I kept the box simple: it remained white on all four sides, and on one of the sides, I printed out pink, pursed lips and long eyelashes, then glued them on to the box. The lips lay flat onto the box, but the eyelashes fanned out to create a 3D effect. Inside of the box is where I put a little more detail into it. I put the very first makeup brush I bought, (the one where it had been used so much that the top came off if you gripped it too tightly) a makeup brush belt I had used during a competition, a sunflower, two index cards with two separate goals on them, and the most recent picture of my dad and I.

The next day, everyone is sitting with their boxes in their lap, waiting for our instructor to walk in and tell us what to do with them. We ended up spacing the chairs to where the room transformed into a gallery and placed the boxes in the rearranged chairs. Once set up, everyone was given small slips of paper to write a neutral observation or question and place it in the box. Several circled around the room more than once, taking the entire class time. After everyone was finished, we took the notes from our boxes and left. I was very intrigued to see so many slips of paper in my box, because no one really pays attention to me, or seems interested in what I have to say. I shoved them into the zipper of my backpack and rushed to my dorm, so I could read them in private.

I sat my bag down in my room and pulled out the slips, hesitant but also very nervous. The first thing I do is count how many there are, 10. I notice that half of them are written on a different kind of paper than what we were given, meaning they took their time to get extra paper, just so they could comment on my box. This intrigued me further, so I start to read. Here's how they were read, in order:

"Love how its 3D"

"I absolutely adore makeup, so I love your eyes and lips"

"You love classics and simplicity"

"What influences you to keep the box so simple, but also put such a bold statement on one side?"

"A simple exterior.... with fun and creativity"

"The simplicity speaks volumes"

"The eyebrows remind me of my own. Good confidence boost. Very satisfying."

"Truly beautiful woman behind this box"

"Haha, I can find out you are a beautiful girl. I like the red lip."

"Is beauty your way of expressing yourself?"

All of these observations, about me, opened my eyes in a way I didn't think imaginable. They are all anonymous, and I couldn't even begin to think which classmate wrote what. The biggest one that stuck to me, and that I still have a hard time answering, is, "Is beauty your way of expressing yourself?" When I think about it, yes, but then also, no. I chose to focus on makeup for the story it unfolds; it gives visualization and life to a piece that changes the audience's experience. It is a way of expressing myself and my art, but it isn't necessarily beauty.

Being asked these questions, and given these observations, I have come to the realization that before I let myself worry about what others are thinking about me and my art, and how I achieve it, I should worry about myself and my expression to the world, because I'm not sure I even know.

If you are one of my classmates, whether you wrote something in my box or not, I want to thank you. Thank you for allowing me to think about myself and grow as an individual, and as an artist. Specifically to the ones who wrote for my box, please remember that you have an anonymous place in my heart, and I will keep these notes for as long as possible and that I read them every day to reflect. To the future artist that fill my shoes, know that people think of you, but also think of yourself, you'll need it, trust me.

Cover Image Credit: Healing Yoga

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