Its not a slow decent, but a free fall

To get to a level three conversation requires trust, respect, and a little faith. When Pradip explained the three levels of conversation I assumed that it was a slow decline, that when you are speaking with the person you could tell which level you were on as the conversation progressed. But as Mimi and I went deeper into our past and what we hoped for for the future those levels blended together and became just a conversation. It was a true conversation, the joining of minds. Our decent wasn’t a slow decline but an instant fall into the unknown as if I was walking on a restless beach and suddenly fell into a sinking hole. If I were to categorize our conversation into levels I would say that our level one was talking about the passage and what love meant to us. That then transformed into (level two)how we reinvented ourselves when we lost those that were close to us. I talked about the troubles I have been having with my former best friend while Mimi talking about being away from her sister and separating from her father. Mimi helped realize my own worth and understand that I didn’t need to depend on my former friend anymore. That was when we hit level three. Once we got there we talked about everything. I was interested in what she wanted to do outside of college and she me. We had known each other for a month and a half and yet neither of us had asked this. I thought I knew Mimi before, but having a real conversation has made me realize how similar we are and how we both aspire to make the world a better place through our work. I think in the future I will try to have more conversations like this because they exert a feeling like no other, the feeling of being understood.

Level Three

Here I am, laying in my bedroom in my parent’s house and realizing that I completely forgot to post last Wednesday. I’m so sorry about that, because this is a subject that I’ve been really giving a lot of thought to since we discussed it in class. Level Three conversations. You know, I really think these blog posts are very much a Level Three conversation. There’s something about writing on here that just pulls intimacy out of you, and its kind of scary when you realize hey, people are really and truly reading these things. I’ve gotten nervous a few times that my parents might read these one day, which is super silly because I’m close to my parents and these are thoughts and feelings and moments that were important to me and that they honestly already know about. I’ve gotten nervous a few times realizing that you guys are reading these. I don’t know about all of you, but its pretty easy for me to forget that I am putting these words and pictures out in the open for anyone to see. Its a very vulnerable position to put oneself in. I think something I’ve found really amazing through all of these conversations is that we all come from such different backgrounds but yet have often experienced similar ways of processing the world, if that makes any sense at all. Being back at home, I’m realizing that the last time I was in this bed I had no idea any of you existed (except for Caroline, highfive Caroline). How is it that that can happen? I’ve picked up right where I left off in my family life, as if it was simply on pause, and yet my world has changed so much since I was last here. I’m having Level Three conversations with people who were strangers when I left. Even crazier to think- that is going to be a trend everywhere I go, for the rest of my life. There are people out there that do not exist to me yet and I am going to have super crazy insane wild Level Three conversations with them one day. I think that this is such a huge part of living. Having Level Three conversations with people, connecting to them in such a significant and meaningful way that it just makes your entire being feel good. Is that how you guys feel after these conversations too? Like your whole body just feels better? It is so special and yet so human and I’m so glad that you are all people that make these conversations come so naturally. Thank you.


(This is my dog Sota, who died in 2012. Bailey and I talked about our bonds with our dogs in our Level Three Conversation and it was really, really cool)

Im on a new level

I’m not really sure what to say about the third level in a conversation but I do know that deep conversations are the best conversations. Deep conversations not only create more topics to discuss but create a connection between the people in the conversation. Third level stimulates new ideas and new ways of looking at life. It really gives you a feel about the person you’re talking to on a level that feels as though you’ve known them forever. Personally I like third level. I like being able to have a deep conversation with a person to truly understand how they feel. In a way, it helps you appreciate life a little more.

Level 3 Conversation

Level 3 conversation is not a new term for me, it has been my goal for a long time whenever I start a conversation with other people. Back home, I usually found ways to dig deep into a conversations with my friends and even with a stranger. However, since I arrived here, I found it very difficult to develop a deep, meaningful conversation with people around me. The reason can be because of the language barrier (which is a huge problem!), cultural differences, the time I spent talking with them (since everybody is very busy with schoolwork), or any other possible reasons in terms of personalities, interests, etc.

Thus, I was very excited and intrigued when on the last day of our class, Pradip told us to go to Stirling’s and tried to have a level 3 conversation about something lost that has changed ourselves significantly. To me, the topic was very thought-provoking. My partner was Henry. I was a little bit nervous at first because we weren’t very close with each other. However, as we sat down together, I was surprised to realize that we were both very comfortable, open and honest with other when sharing our stories, which I considered vital to have a meaningful conversation. He told me about how he almost lost one of his closest friend and how that helped him to realize how important friendship was. I learnt a lot from that story. At some point, I became to understand much more about him and his past, about some of the struggles he had gone through and about his background, which helped me feel more connected and closer to him.

I was so grateful that our last day of class ended that way. Since after class ended without the conversations, each of us might not have time to meet one another anymore, and our friendship at some points will not be the as close. The conversation, however, helped us to understand each other more, fostering our relationship and pushing it into a new level where it is hard to split up.


Spending time in Lost Cove – one of the most beautiful memories I have with my FYP class

Next Step…Level Three

I’ve always been one to enjoy to talk. Really I love to talk. The thing I love most about conversations is that they can start on the surface level, but if you allow optimism to take over its no telling where the conversation can lead. Thats where level three conversations come into place. Having talks that involve spontaneity are the best. Its almost as if the conversation is limitless. In order to reach this level, you must make the person you are engaged in the conversation with feel comfortable. You must first open up to the person you are conversing with so they know it is genuine. Once they see that and the door opens up, enter. My dad always tells me that you can say whatever you like to a person it is just how you say it. The key to good conversation is to show interest but it must be genuine. Once that level is reached…. do not look back.

Level Three

I’ve always longed to be the person that leaves an impact during every conversation. I’ve always wanted to be the person that leaves you feeling different, taken aback by the conversation that has just taken place. I can name multiple people off the top of my head that leave you with this feeling, but I could never pin point what made them different. I longed to be this way. For the first time, I was taught the key to this: deeper conversations. In an age where everyone dives for their phones rather than diving into real life dialogue, this can be a challenge. It is so much easier to take the escape route and turn to social media or texting to occupy your time, but all this does is make you live outside of the moment and look uninterested and detached. I admit I am not a stranger to ignoring the people around me to fiddle on my electronic device, but this is a detrimental habit. With every second we spend on a device, we waste valuable time that could be used experiencing the people around us.

One of my resolutions when entering college was to attempt to get everything out of Sewanee that I possibly could. I want to strive during my years at Sewanee to gain things from each conversation, to learn everything there is to learn from the people around me. I want to acquire knowledge, wisdom, and better understanding of the world through every little exchange. In the end, everyone you meet has so much to offer. You just have to be willing to listen.


The King of Level Three, himself

Getting to Level 3

I can’t believe FYP is over. Even though it is over, I keep looking back to our last class. I think that was one of my favorite classes. We went to Sterling’s and over drinks we tried to get to level three with our partner. My partner was Maria. I thought it was really easy to get to level three with her. We are already friends, so it was easy to dive into those deep conversations. Since that class, I have been thinking a lot think about getting to level three when you have conversations with people. Since that class, I have had several deep, level three conversations. Before we had the class about having deep conversations with people, I don’t think I really thought about the depths of conversations. Sure, sometimes I would come back from a conversation and think “Wow, that was a great conversation”, but for the most part I didn’t really analyze my conversations. Now I pay much more to the level of conversation I am having with the new people I meet.


next level stuff

Losing someone changes a person, in a way that you would never know until you lose them. I lost my dad mentally when I was about 14 years old. It all started when we left New Orleans after the hurricane, where my family got separated. The only person we never found was him. He never reached out to contact us, or to find us to see if we actually made it out alive. The only reason we made contact five years after Katrina, was because he saw my Gromo (grandmother) at a grocery store. Five years and we never crossed his mind. However, being 12 years old at the time, you don’t see this man that you’d kill for, as a monster who would abandon you. A person who took you to the City Park every Saturday to get taffy and climb the Spanish Moss trees. A person whose job to love you, and naively you continue to give them chances. Every year he plans to visit you but can never “make it out”. So, after packing and unpacking for imaginary trips to Neverland, you truly can begin to hate someone. A hate so deep that that person who took you the ER when you stepped in an anthill, becomes dead to you.

So I understand where Paulo is coming from. Losing someone of that importance in your life, means you never come back the same way you started. It means that you have to start off all over again, without them to influence your growth. Having a “Level 3” conversation with Caroline helped me realize that. Originally I thought that starting over without someone, in my case, would be better. However, Caroline brought up the good point that, at least with that person there “you know who you are”. Losing my dad has definitely shaped the relationships I’ve formed with older men, some in good ways others in bad ways. Either way talking about it with someone, whether they understand it or not, just relieves my heart. For once, I can openly speak about something that directly affects the person I am.

That conversation is something that will rest with me until the end of time. My FYP experience has been full of “Level 3” conversations, photography, and most importantly people.


No Idea

The process is as important as the product. It’s the nitty gritty. The messy studio. The red-inked rough drafts.

I find it hard to take pride in my own work yet so easy to fall in love with other’s.

That’s because I see the process, the ugly birth of art, and I knew what it was before. The pile of scraps that became the quilt. The muddy rocks that became jewelry. I was there when we pulled the urine-soaked mouse nest of of the camera– the same camera that captured such amazing images.

Images that were so hard to get to.
The first time in the dark room, when Pradip “showed” us how to develop negatives, I had an empty stomach and lungs full of chemicals. Dizzy, off-balance, and completely blind, I didn’t just come close to falling over I actually wanted to. At least on the ground I would have my bearings. Wouldn’t feel like I was floating away. (Side note: I always thought the abyss was heavy, but in the darkroom it is light.)

When we learned how to print I was hungry again, feeling less than human. Confused. Pradip demonstrated. A slew of chemicals, a shot glass, a hair dryer, and the world’s worst picture frame: items that are both ingredients for printmaking and commonplace in my grandma’s house.

From what I gathered that day, we put the magic chemicals on the paper, lightly toast it, then give it a go in the tiny sensory deprivation tanks/picture saunas. At any moment you could ruin the ridiculously expensive paper.

The room was crowded. People seemed to be getting it. I wasn’t. There was no way I could print and it be good. Too many variables.

I had to go to the bathroom and breathe.

My general state of existence is “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Oftentimes, I feel like a have a little inkling of an idea, a slight grasp on the situation. But the platinum palladium process threw me through a loop. The floating feeling was coming back.

That first time in the dark room, David let me hold his arm for support. Maria, Mimi, Jillian, Caroline, Isabel, Maggie, and Meghan helped me though my first print. None of us knew what we were doing, and I’m pretty sure we still don’t, not completely. But together we made it through.

The real art lies in the steps leading to the finished product, the relationship between the subject and the person sitting stoically behind the lens. The moments in-between loading the film and the drying the print. The team effort. All those annoying babyproton questions. (“Hey Hunter, I got blue stuff in my eye is that bad?”

The same applies to life, really. After everything is said and done, it’s not about what gets hung up in a museum, but how it got there.

(Insert David’s photo of me that I printed here)

That’s why I choose this print for the assignment. It’s David’s photograph, but it also the first print I ever made. I became closer to the people I call friends because of it. To me, this image embodies the collaborative and cooperative spirit of art and life.

This is it

I was talking last night with some friends about how quickly the days go by here. Its already October, but I swear if I was still in Athens it would only be the beginning of September right now. I’ve started calling my dorm “home”.  Don’t get me wrong, I have to pause every time I do so and think “That was weird”, but I’m starting to get used to it. Looking back at the beginning of FYP, it seems so far away. The first time we all gathered in the common room of Dirty Cleve, I have to admit I was very intimidated. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know who these people were around me or if we’d get along. I was a little scared. But you all have been so kind and funny and just absolutely amazing, and I really couldn’t have asked for a better class. Memories of being caught in the rain out at the farm together, driving around Sewanee listening to good music after trips down the mountain, and the quiet companionship of the dark room will always be close to my heart.

I think we’re lucky that we’re a photography class. We’re able to catch glimpses of memories like these in our photos, and that’s something very, very special. Do you guys even know how many photos of the buffalo I have?  A lot. So many. And its great! But even more than that, with the project we’ve been doing, we’re capturing who we are in these little moments. That second right before the photo is taken, and you’re looking at each other and nobody is moving. Nobody is breathing. And then click! The photo is taken and you relax, take a breath, and move on. We’re going to look back on these photos one day and realize that something has changed. We’re going to notice how young we are, we’re going to think, “Wow, I hadn’t even met that person who is now so important to me yet,” or, “Jeez, I hadn’t gone through that now very defining moment of my life yet”. Isn’t that wild? And one day, our children will see these photos. They’ll see these photos that so much hard work went into, and maybe they’ll see a part of us that they hadn’t seen before. An important part. I don’t know. No matter what happens to us in the future, I’m glad to have been captured in these little moments. They’ve been good ones. I’m so glad to have been able to create them with all of you.