From Beginnings to Endings: My Last Post

A golden retriever puppy on a boat wears a white Michigan Wolverines hat and licks the top of a bottle of Corona.
Photo from

My time as a student at the University of Michigan is about to come to an end, and as such; this will be my last post ever with arts, ink. For my last post, I’d like to write about how it all began. I’d like to write about how I got from a nervous-excited senior in high school to an equally nervous-excited senior in college.

I can’t remember if I received my acceptance to the University of Michigan a few days after most of my friends, or just a few hours, but I remember all of my friends being overjoyed about their recent acceptances while I was afraid I hadn’t gotten in. I’d like to say I was afraid because I really wanted to go to school here, but that would be a lie. I didn’t know where I wanted to go to school; I just knew I wanted good options.

When I did finally receive my acceptance, I did what any other social media savvy kid in 2011 would do, I wrote a Facebook status.

Screen shot of a Facebook status reading "Finally got my email! Accepted to UMich" with 60 likes and 28 comments.

Would you take a look at that? I didn’t even use proper punctuation. It wasn’t even my most liked status ever. People were happy for me, and I was happy for myself, but it wasn’t like I’d said I was going to Michigan. All I’d done so far was get in.

Then came the tough decision. I applied to four schools and had luckily been accepted to all of them. I had the options that I so craved, but now I had to actually figure out which school I wanted to go to, and while some might say I’m not great at making decisions now, I was even worse four years ago. My parents had very strong feelings about eliminating two schools from the running, so they were quickly crossed off my list. That left me with two schools, and one of them was the University of Michigan.

Most of my friends had gone to visit and tour the schools they were looking at, but I didn’t do that. I had no idea why I liked or didn’t like either school left on my list. I had people telling me their opinions left and right, and none of them were very partial. I became stressed, and the week before my decision was due I began fainting from my anxiety about having to make a decision, which only added to my stress.

My brother tried to make life easier on me, so two days before my decision was due he took me to his alma mater, the other school on my list, and showed me around. I loved the campus. It was big and green and beautiful. There was a living-learning community that I had been accepted to that I liked very much, and it really seemed like the perfect place for me. However, many of my other family members had a different opinion. They had all gone to Michigan, and they believed, in order for me to make an educated decision, or in their opinion, the right decision, I should see both campuses. So, the next morning, the day before my decision was due, my mom took me to Ann Arbor to see Michigan. Her tour was a little briefer. We walked around campus, but my mom isn’t the best at directions, so we didn’t go far. I thought the town seemed nice, but it didn’t really feel as much like me, and I couldn’t really get an idea of what to expect since my mom’s experience would be very different from my own.

That day, I don’t remember why, my sister was having a party. My whole family was there, so after returning from Ann Arbor we went straight to my sister’s house. Everyone knew my decision was due, so one by one they each asked me what I’d decided. I got sick of the questioning, and I still didn’t have an answer, so I went outside and asked my mom what to do. I felt pressure to go to both schools, and I didn’t know what to do. My mom told me to try telling everyone I was going to one school to see how it felt, but I was afraid that idea would backfire terribly. So, I decided to go a different way.

I found a 1994-penny (not even a quarter, I was cheap) and flipped it, heads for Michigan, tails for the other school. I had hoped I’d know where I truly wanted to go as the coin turned in the air, but instead I found myself just as undecided, but happier that I’d finally have a decision. The coin landed on heads and I told my entire family all at once that I would be a Wolverine. They cheered loudly, hugged me tight, and broke into a round of “Hail to the Victors”. Somewhere between the first and second verse, I couldn’t take it anymore. I left the house crying and didn’t stop crying until the next morning.

Of course, I calmed down. I joined the Residential College. I attended orientation and wore my MCard around my neck the whole time. I began to like the fact that I was going to the University of Michigan. I wasn’t one of those people who fell in love with the school right away; it took me a little bit of time. But soon, I began to embrace the maize in blue. With each passing day, I became more and more proud of my school. Now that I’m leaving, I’m so glad that penny landed on heads. If I didn’t come to Michigan, I would be an entirely different person. Sure, that person could’ve been cool, too, but that person isn’t me. That person wouldn’t have made the same friends, taken the same classes, gone to the same football games. That person wouldn’t have made awkward Matrix-like motions to avoid walking on the M on a busy day. That person wouldn’t have gone to the same parties or the same restaurants or the same bookstores.

So, thank you Michigan. As bittersweet as these last few days before graduation are, I’m glad to have been able to call you my home for the last four years. It might have been a rocky start, but we made it in the end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And don’t worry, wherever I go, I’ll always go blue. Hail!

University of Michigan students waive yellow pom noms into the air at a Michigan vs. Michigan State football game.

What to Do in an Interview When You Actually Like Classic Books

A person slides his or her finger across multiple old, embellished books.

You know that question interviewers ask about the last few books you’ve read, or your favorite book of all time and why? You’re supposed to say something cool and interesting, something you didn’t read for class or because your feminist book club suggested it. But how do you answer when you actually like Shakespeare and Milton, or spend your afternoons snuggled up with Lewis Carroll? What do you say when the last book you read actually was George Orwell’s 1984 or Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations? Essentially, what do you do in an interview when you’re like me?

They say in an interview you shouldn’t lie, but they also say to answer any question in the way that will make you shine in the best light. So when someone asks me the last book I read, it takes me a moment to figure out what would be the best answer. Should I actually say the last book I read was Louis Sachar’s Holes, but that I just got to the letter in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and can’t wait for Elizabeth to get over Mr. Wickham? Or, should I go with something a little more contemporary that I didn’t read as recently because I’m some weirdo who thinks The Tempest is a good bedtime story.

So, after months of consideration and many interviews, I believe I have found the solution to this age-old question. Be honest about what you like to read, as long as you remember one thing. Be proud, too. Be unapologetically passionate about the books you’ve stuffed into your bookshelves and spent countless hours you should’ve spent sleeping underneath your covers with a book in hand.

When you get that question, that dreaded yet exciting question that allows you to talk about literature, tell the interviewer the truth, and tell him or her exactly why you read (and reread) the book and why you liked it or didn’t. Tell them your favorite book is The Great Gatsby, but only if your favorite book is The Great Gatsby. Don’t leave it at that, though. Instead, be sure to include that you like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work because you have fond memories of it. Tell your interviewer that you read it for the first time in high school with your favorite teacher. Tell them people joke that your town is split just like West Egg and East Egg and part of you finds it funny, while the other part feels uncomfortable at the thought of such division. Tell your interviewer that Old Owl Eyes is the best character in the book because he notices Jay’s books weren’t cut, and that he’s so underrated as a character because of just how important and amazing a detail that is that you can never stop thinking about it.

So, when you’re sitting in an interview for your dream job and you’re asked what the last book you read was, or what your favorite book is and why, don’t lie. Don’t say you stayed up all night memorizing Shakespeare’s sonnets or counting all of the times Holden Caulfield says “phony” if that isn’t what you actually did. But, if it is how you like to spend your time, if you are the nerd checking out Jane Eyre from the library, own it. Don’t be a phony. Be proud of your tastes. Who knows, your interviewer might be a closeted One-Hundred Years of Solitude fan just like you.

Seeing ABT’s Sleeping Beauty

Two ballet dancers dance in black and white. The man holds the girl's hand while she jumps and lands to go directly into a relevé with her leg pointed up.

My sister has always been a big fan of the ballet. When I was younger, she’d pull her hair up to the top of her head, twist it into the tightest bun she could, and shove as many bobby pins as were necessary to make it stay. Then she’d walk around with her toes pointed out, her chest up in the air, and her arms in a tight en bas as if she were holding her dream of becoming a dancer in a giant fishbowl before her.

I used to feel uncomfortable watching this little play. I didn’t want to go to the ballet. I didn’t want to sit through hours of silent dance and old music only to end the night trailing behind my sister and her stifled pirouettes. I never wanted to be a ballerina, so none of it made sense to me, and I found the whole thing a bore.

All that has changed now. I’ve come to realize what it is about the ballet that had my sister up all night practicing standing on her tiptoes all those years ago (and probably now, too). You see, a few years ago I had the good fortune of becoming friends with a real life ballerina and she put into words the feelings my sister had every time she watched Center Stage on repeat in our family room. She told me that what she loved about ballet as a dancer was the challenge—that you can always learn more and be better. But that didn’t seem like enough to me. Didn’t most art forms do that? What was so special about ballet? Then she told me what she loved about ballet as an art, and that I understood. She said it was the way it made what should be impossible movements look effortless and beautiful, and I realized how true that was. I began to come around to the idea of ballet as an actual form of art worth looking at, and boy was I late to the party.

This past weekend, the University of Michigan paired with Michigan Opera Theatre and gave hundreds of students, including myself, the opportunity to go to Detroit to see the American Ballet Theatre perform Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. When I got the invite from said ballerina friend, I was excited to go to the ballet for what felt like the first time. But when we got there it was a whole other story.

Of course, there wasn’t a bad performer on stage. Every dancer moved across the floor with grace and beauty. The jumps were high and sprightly. The expressions were grandly enticing. The spins were fast and steady. The relevés were tall and mighty. The outfits were incredible and envy creating. And the music was big and bold with a lavish conductor working every second of it.

Then there was one big surprise that really overjoyed everyone in my group. Misty Copeland would be at our performance, and our performance only. For those of you who don’t know who Misty Copeland is, Copeland is the first black woman to dance as principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, widely considered one of the best ballet companies in the world. That’s a big deal. A very big deal. Getting to see her dance is an incredible opportunity because damn, she’s amazing, and, lucky me, I got to see her! I could watch her move across the floor any day.

Gaining a true appreciation for ballet has been one of the best things about going to college, but this was really the icing on the cake. Sitting in the Detroit Opera House and watching that almost three hour performance pass as if it were only a few minutes was a special treat. I could see why all of the little girls there had their best dresses on and their hair in buns, eager for the chance to look and feel like one of those dancers in even the most minimal of ways. And yes, I will admit that when I walked out of that theater there was a small part of me that felt like turning out my toes, holding my chest to the air, and sporting a great big en bas just like my big sister.

Tape as Art

Tape. You’ve used it before. You’ve tested out all of the different kinds and found your favorite. You’ve duct taped the dent in your car or wrapped your throbbing toes with medical tape. You’ve attempted making a wallet back when duct tape wallets were cool and posted the Harry Potter book cover poster you got at the book release on your wall with shiny Scotch tape. Now that you’re older, you may have even tried Kim K’s breast taping secret trick or found one of your own. But did you know there’s more to tape than just sticking things together? Tape can be used for much more. It can be used as a medium to build and create beautiful works of art.

Now that tape is being made in a variety of colors and sizes, artists are finding new ways to get creative with the sticky substance. Some are taking colored tape and putting it in designs, shapes, or lines on walls, floors, windows, and gates as if tape is a new way of making graffiti or decorating a home. They’re taking traditional works of art and recreating them in tape form. They’re looking at a blank wall not as a soon-to-be-painted partition, but as a blank canvas ready for their tape art. Painting takes time; you have to wait for paint to dry. But, tape lets you get creative right away and keep changing a wall until the work of art in your mind becomes the work of art in your home.

Others tape artists are saying goodbye to tulle and satin and building dresses and suits out of this magical medium. They’re creating cool accessories to brighten up or add a personal taste to their outfits. They’re getting creative with what can be considered “prom formal” and finding a way to make that special night even more personal.

Can’t find the perfect design to use as your next tattoo? Tape artists have got you covered there, too. Tape is now the perfect way to create your own unique body art without the commitment of a life-long pattern. It’s also great for creating personalized jewelry that can change with each outfit so you never have to worry about wearing the same ensemble twice.

Even more tape artists are taking to their crafting tables to create anything from sculptures and lampshades, to hammocks and rugs, to candles and bookmarks. These people are starting small and slowly taking on new sticky adventures in tape art that continue to wow the world.

Don’t believe me? Just do a quick Google search of “tape as art” and you’ll find hundreds of creative people sharing their masterpieces. Need inspiration? Watch a few YouTube How-To videos or sign into that Pinterest account you forgot about for fun ideas that’ll remind you how creative the world can be with even the simplest of hardware store items. Or, if you’re not feeling it, just do what Kim does and tape up the girls for a fun night on the town. I’m not judging.

The Art of the Political Cartoon

It’s an election year, and that means everyone is going mad with political fever. All of your more vocal friends and family members are probably sharing thoughts and opinions on every social media platform and in real life. As we all know, this can be warranted, or not. These people may be blowing up your newsfeed with political gifs, videos, memes, articles, or anything else that could possibly relate to national or international politics, and you really have no way to avoid it. Sure, their opinions are important, but isn’t the same edited gif of Bernie Sanders scaring Donald Trump at a rally getting a little old? (Probably not; it’s always hilarious.)

An gif of Donald Trump speaking at a presidential rally that someone has edited to include Bernie Sanders sneaking up on Donald Trump and then Donald Trump getting scared and angry at Bernie Sanders.

It’s time to take a look at the meme’s ugly step cousin, the political art of yesteryear, the cartoons you see in your parents’ real newspaper when you’re home for the weekend that don’t feature a fat orange cat that hates Mondays. It’s time to re-appreciate the political cartoon.

A political cartoon of the Statue of Liberty's flame in rainbow.

Political cartoons take the extremes and exaggerations and turn them into messages for people to look at and interpret. Like all art, political cartoons are subjective, and the viewer will always bring his or her own biases to the cartoon. Unlike all art, however, the political cartoon asks for heightened biases in its very nature. People have strong opinions on politics that, more often than not, do not change. Political cartoonists do everything they can to use their art to encourage discussion from both supporters and opponents, knowing full well that not everyone who sees their art will agree with or understand what they are saying.

A political cartoon of the French flag hugging the Belgium flag with the date 13 November beneath the French flag the date 22 March underneath the Belgium flag.

I’ve chosen the three political cartoons I’ve included in this post to highlight the differences and similarities found in many cartoons of this nature. Each of these cartoons takes a current event and interprets it in an artful manner so the event is easy to identify and understand. Sometimes cartoons have lots of words, but most limit text as much as possible, letting the images speak for themselves. Words can add to the image, but even without words, these cartoons speak to an audience in a clear and concise manner.

A political cartoon of Native Americans on Plymouth rock building a wall in front of pilgrims arriving on a boat with the caption, "They say they're building a wall because too many of us enter illegally and won't learn their language or assimilate into their culture..."

You don’t have to agree with them, but political cartoons are an extremely efficient way to make a strong statement using nothing but the powerful tools of art and wit. A political cartoonist has limited space to say what he or she wants to say; yet somehow, they say it.

So, this election year pay attention to what the artists of the world are saying. Just like those friends and family members who seem to just go on and on, political cartoonists have thoughts and opinions that are important and worth listening to. They just say them in a different way.

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day

A photographer in a green cut down forest takes a photo and the screen cuts to the black and white photo of a desolated and cut down forest.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! The day when people frolic and drink Guinness in happy green attire. The day when it’s somehow okay for people to pinch you for not wearing green (consent!) and it’s acceptable to wear every single one of your giant four leaf clover good luck charms. Oh, and it’s the day to celebrate St. Patrick if you’re Irish and/or Catholic.

In honor of this joyous occasion, I thought it would be particularly apropos to talk about going green. Don’t worry, this isn’t about to get political. I’m talking about green art, or environmentally friendly art! You might ask yourself, what is green or environmental art? Well, it all boils down to one thing. Environmental art has to somehow better the relationship and connection people have with our planet. It’s not that hard to do either!

Some people choose to make environmental art that teaches a lesson about how to treat the natural world. Think of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax or Disney and Pixar’s Wall-E. Like it or not, these two have strong lessons about saving the planet inside beautifully written and illustrated/animated books and movies. The Lorax, Wall-E, and other educational modes of art have helped many people understand the environment in new, fun, and beautiful ways. And, Wall-E has even helped to persuade a few people to use their old boots as flower pots instead of throwing them away! Hint: That’s upcycling. We’ll get to that.

Other people create art that directly helps the environment in some way. This may sound difficult, but it can be done with a lot of success, too. One artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, is a great example of someone whose art benefits the environment. He created those underwater sculptures you may have seen to help coral reef habitats thrive, an especially important task during this time when natural coral reefs are disappearing around the world. His work has even inspired other artists to look at how their art can benefit the environment, creating more environmental artists all the time.

One of the easiest ways for an artist to go green is to reuse materials so they don’t end up in landfills. When an artist repurposes old materials for new pieces, that’s called upcycling. Remember that boot planter inspired by Wall-E? Well, that’s not all you can do with your old and unwanted materials. Need ideas? An old tennis racket becomes a great embroidery board. Bottle caps turn into decorative and waterproof tabletops. Old scrap metal transforms into fantastic sculptures. Toilet paper rolls are painted and turned into bracelets. There are endlessly possibilities for these old items, and each one can help protect the environment in a small, yet substantial, way.

But that’s not all green art is. Some artists paint pictures or take photographs showing the environment in artistically beautiful ways to help people understand the importance of it. Others create dances or sing songs. More use specifically environmentally friendly materials like paints and glues. There are actually hundreds of ways people have been making green art. And the best part? It’s never too late to start making your own.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Stay safe and stay green!

Six cartoon shamrocks dance around and play music.