The Magic Behind Making a Collage
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
So I spent this past New Year’s Eve by myself, making a collage and watching Jeff, Who Lives at Home on Hulu. It sounds sad when you read it, but truthfully I love being alone. I get to trip out on the little things when I’m alone. No one is there to rationalize to me or bring my head back down to Earth, which I do eventually end up needing. Evermore thanks to the family and friends who hold the line of the kite that is my brain when it is flying around in the air.
But tonight, I was alone. Leaving me all the time and space to trip out on…making a collage!! Sounds small, but I found a lot of magic behind the process. Which I can explain best with a story…..
The first college class I ever attended was an introductory art class.
An 8:00 am class at the top of URI campus, which, for those who don’t know, is situated on a big-ass hill. It was pouring rain and I was lost for awhile, following a map of campus that I found online, barely able to see through the raindrops dripping down my phone screen. Once I arrived, I discovered our first assignment was to make a collage that we felt emulated who we are.
I just walked uphill, in the pouring rain, at 8:00 am….to make a collage?
Alright, sure. Wet, tired, and annoyed, I began.
Perched on a rigid metal stool, flipping through magazine after magazine, I remember thinking the room was cold, in temperature and design. Tall white walls, hard metal work tables...not what I expected from an art room.
I also remember that at the center of my collage, I pasted down an image of a woman screaming...her eyes tightly closed, hands over ears, the veins in her neck popping out, jaw dropped to the floor.
As I walked out of class, I handed my collage to the professor, who had been smiling encouragingly at each student as they left. She glanced down at what I’d made, and back up at me. The ghost of a genuine smile lingered in the tiny creases of her face, but her expression had fallen by about a millimeter or two, which was how I knew she was startled.
At the center of a collage that was supposed to emulate who I am, was a woman whose expression, quite literally, screamed: “I can’t take it anymore.”
Until recently, I never thought about that silent scream as being more than a reflection of situational annoyance. In my mind, I had gotten lost in the rain on my first day of college, to complete a task that I likely also did on my first day of Kindergarten.
Maybe that was all it meant, or maybe the image meant more. Maybe I would have found out a lot more about myself sooner had I went to the next art class, but I didn’t. I dropped the class.
“I’m not walking to the top of campus at 8:00 am, three times a week, to make collages...”
That was September of 2012.
Flash forward to the last day of 2018. It’s New Year’s Eve. I’ve officially been a college graduate for a year, I have two degrees and a Tedx Talk under my belt, and I’m sitting on my apartment floor, back where I started……..making a collage.
This time, though, that shit was a very intentional choice.
I wanted to do something creative, but found myself scared of drawing. The idea of a blank piece of paper was intimidating, saying to me, “do whatever you want here!” Yeah cool, endless possibility is ideal in theory. But blankness is unsettling to me when I don’t know what I want. Which is how I was feeling about this upcoming year….a ton of abstract thoughts and ideas and dreams floating around in mah brain, but no words or concrete goals for them.
But I thought...if I could create a vision board that matched what I was seeing inside my head….that showed how I want my life to look and feel this year...I would have something real to look at.
And a collage, I figured, is the least creatively challenging thing I could do. No sketching, coloring, or conceptualizing. I’ll just sit my ass down, flip through pages with images and words already on them, and the only decision I’ll have to make is, what do I like enough to cut out?
So I get to it.
And this time, flipping through the magazines, I’m not annoyed. But I am doubtful af.
The stack of magazines I have: Allure, Glamour, Vanity Fair, Gym Climber...and a literal issue of Where to Retire. Get outta here. I would never reach for this stuff on my own. I don’t even like magazines. So how am I supposed to find pictures for MY vision board, deep in the contents of things that don’t interest me, or align with what I do and believe?
I tuned out those doubts and stuck with it. Slowly, my judgements of the magazines faded away...as images and words began to pop out of the pages, striking chords with me, reminding me of something that I wanted, or an idea that I had. Images I was able to ascribe my own meanings, my own contexts.
Before my eyes, I had fabricated a picture board full of secret meanings, ideas and thoughts I’d had rolling around in the deepest corners of my brain for months. Beliefs that I’ve never voiced because I didn’t know how...desires I was too afraid to utter in front of anyone, even myself. Visions from my mind’s eye, once so abstract...there, sitting on the floor in front of me.
From the bones of publications I would otherwise ignore, I had constructed my dream landscape for 2019. And it looked very true to me.
And that’s when I realized something…
There is magic that lies in the process of transmuting images, words, and voices into messages that resonate with you. And your dream.
Here’s the thing….the world is never going to show you only the things that you like, or exactly what you stand for. You have to do some translating with the information you get presented.
And our world? It’s a vast, thick sea of information. Images. Symbols. Words. Phrases. Contexts. And I know what you’re thinking, but I am not just referring to the Internet here. That technology is a symptom of something we just do as humans…..which is, tell stories.
And in a capitalist landscape, telling stories become selling ideas.
The world is full of voices trying to sell you something.
We stop believing in magic as we grow up because we are taught that it’s not real, and once we stop looking for something, it’s not there.
Not because it doesn’t exist, but because we aren’t expecting to see it.
It’s not there....in our consciousness.
And then, we are taught, we are sold, the idea that magic is some instantaneous operation, where things happen by the sheer force of uttering words and wishing, with all our might, for an outcome to appear before our eyes, within a moment.
But this is not magic.
It’s entertaining and alluring, because it appeals to our desire for instantaneous gratification….but it's not magic.
Magic is slow, magic must have time to build momentum and pour outwards, like a wave rising from the depths of the ocean.
Magic requires work, your intention and attention.
It needs you to tend to it, like a fire you’ve built deep in the woods on a camping trip, to keep you and your friends warm at night.
Magic requires that you weave desires and ideas that YOU hold true, into the tapestry of your reality, like a seamstress, picking up scraps of fabric from the world off your workroom floor.
Magic requires that you take what the world is giving you, and write your own story with it. Identify the intent behind whatever info is being presented to you, and translate it into something in which you believe, if you can.
And that is why it’s so important to understand that the world will not show you exactly what you want….you must hone the skill of seeing shreds of what you want and believe….within the world.
By noticing what resonates with you.
Pretend your life is a book of I-Spy or Where’s Waldo? and you are surrounded by images, but are supposed to be looking for something specific.
Live everyday like this.
Searching. Hunting. Looking.
What do you notice….what resonates with you….What are you seeing?
Once you’ve become friends with those recurring themes or symbols, believe, for just a second, that these are not coincidences. They’re synchronicities.
They have a purpose.
There are reasons behind why what stands out to you, stands out to you.
That is alchemy, my friends.
Pure, unabridged, mental alchemy.
When you can let the narrative surrounding an image you’re presented with, at any given time, to melt away...and allow a new meaning, your own meaning, to materialize around it, using your own imagination and value system.
That’s where magic lives on.
Why do all this?
Aside from the fact that it’ll probably make your life a little more fun….
We all came here to do something...that’s something I personally believe.
That’s the answer, for me, to the big “why?” questions.
Why am I here? Why do I like this? Why does this bother me? Why am I GOOD at this?
We all have likes and dislikes for a reason.
We have strengths and weaknesses because we are supposed to do something with them.
Your soul is here to remember what it came down here to do.
And once you start paying attention to what resonates with you, once you start putting the pieces back together, you will see why it is you are here.
So let me ask….
Do you know what resonates with you?
Can you pick it out, amongst the thick sea of images, symbols, phrases and contexts that we must swim through every day, after we wake up and go out into the world?
We are bombarded daily, by imagery and stories. But that is not news.
You already know this.
You know it when you scroll through Instagram.
You know it when you’re listening to Pandora, and the hypnotic stream of music is interrupted by a loud ad pushing car insurance at you.
You know it when you are in the middle of a daydream and your coworker interrupts to tell you a story about their weekend.
You know it. It’s everywhere.
The voice of someone trying to sell you something.
So. The next time you hear it…..practice.
What does it mean to you?
What can you take from it?
Within the information you’re being presented…..what vibes with you?
Because at the end of the day, the world is your landscape.
You just have to train your brain to see it.
Check out my collage again below with a few explanations of the pics I chose to see what I’m talking about IRL…..
My 2019 Vision Board
1: A Quiet Awesome
I learned a lot about my nature recently through the Human Design System, a type of energetic design mapping. My throat center is completely open, and that means I’M NOT DESIGNED TO INITIATE CONVERSATION. My truth is better communicated when I am responding to something directed AT me. This troubled me at first because I love explaining and teaching. But I realized there is a lot of power in silence. What you say holds more weight if you only say things occasionally. I put this here to remind myself there is an awesomeness in quiet, particularly for me and how I’m designed.
According to my astrological natal chart, my Ascendant is in Aquarius. This means the backbone of my life is formed by helping the collective in some way. I stand for brotherhood (and sisterhood, obviously) and humanitarian efforts. Aquarians are seen as weird but it’s because they’re visionaries, and are always upsetting the existing order with their insights. I’m never going to seem normal to others, and my lifepath will surprise or confuse people, but when that happens, I take it as a sign that I’m just living up to who I am.
3: DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU COME ALIVE
I believe that clothing has the potential to bring spirit alive within us, based on how we design it, use it and wear it. Studying fashion and philosophy at the same time in college really influenced this belief and shapes goals that I have so I put this here to remind myself of that.
4: Tank and the Bangas
Tank and the Bangas performance on NPR Tiny Desk Concert literally brought me to tears and inspired me to use my voice more. I put it here so I remember what it feels like to be moved to tears, and how rewarding it is to make people think in a way they never have before. I experienced that feeling while giving my Tedx Talk and the second I walked offstage, I vowed to myself I would make that experience a part of my life.
5: Converted Churches
I think concert venues are the churches of our lifetime. Most of our generation doesn’t go to church to worship, and we don’t take part in organized religions. We worship artists and music, people who make us feel things and sing about how we all feel dealing in this world that’s become so technological. Music and concerts are the places I go for mystical experience and to embrace spirit.
6: Twenty and Fabulous?
Sometimes, I have a lot of self-doubt about my interests. I feel different from a lot of people my age. I question if I shouldn’t take life so seriously, if I should be going out more, partying harder, worrying and thinking less. But then I remember I’ve been through many experiences that a lot of people my age and older haven’t, and I am where I am. I like what I like. Age doesn’t matter, we are just sold a lot of stories about what each decade of our lives are supposed to look like. So fuck it, I’ll stay at home and collage on into the New Year.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading.
Now get out there, and go look for some shit you like. (: