In October 2000, I was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. One of the earliest symptoms (that I didn’t recognize at the time) was that my inspiration was no longer with me. My body was telling me something was wrong, but I made excuses, pinning my “creative block” on a much too busy life being lived. After a year of successful treatments and a body in full remission, I knew I would be well when one day in the hospital I felt the need to draw again! Using my hospital room telephone, I ordered art supplies from the neighborhood art supply store that very hour.
I remember vividly during art time the day my second grade teacher posted a watercolor picture I had painted on the class bulletin board for all to see. Some of the kids were indifferent but secretly my spirit soared seeing this painting of a friend with braids smiling back at me from soggy, yellow construction paper! At an early age, in the 5th grade, my creative potential was again recognized and I was paired with an art mentor to participate in a Arts in Education pilot program the Anchorage School District was launching. That early one-on-one positive reinforcement gave me the confidence I carry with me today as a successful communications and design professional. Truth be told, every student in my elementary school had a special potential, but I was fortunate enough to have been selected for this honor. I have lived with the belief that I have a responsibility to give back to my community by way of mentoring at every opportunity, hopefully inspiring and providing confidence to our youth.
I have kept that sketchbook and pencils from my stay in the hospital as a reminder that art is more than an activity—for me, my creativity is an important part of who I am. The arts have afforded me a wonderful and viable career, enabled me to contribute to my community, fed my family, paid the rent, and I now have proof that art feeds my soul as well.