#TeenagedSelfie

#TeenagedSelfie 8: I lay down in the grass and wonder why you brought me here

I lay down in the grass and wonder why you brought me here

In September I spent four days with my extended family traveling to Massachusetts and North Central New York State for a multi-day family gathering. These places played a key role in my childhood and the history of my family, but they also bring up strong associations of a being a young person shuffled through the world of adults without much say in what we were doing or where we were going. I remember as a child I felt that life could be a period of infernal waiting for adults to make a decision of where we would be going or what we would be doing next. I was nervous that this trip would bring those feelings crashing back. The ever creative Marissa Falco suggested that a document them through a series of iPhone self-portraits, which I dubbed #TeenagedSelfies.

#TeenagedSelfie 2: colonial living room waiting

Colonial living room waiting

#teenagedselfie 5: bored in the car stuck in traffic in the Mass Pike

Bored in the car stuck in traffic in the Mass Pike

#TeenagedSelfie 10: I jumped into the lake. Then snuck a beer out of the cooler.

I jumped into the lake. Then snuck a beer out of the cooler.

The ability to snap and share digital pictures instantly was a long way off when I was a teenager, but I used this series to reach back into the feelings of isolation, boredom, angst and possibility which defined so much of my teenaged years and also drove much of my creativity during that time. It’s also about how the ability to document and share your daily moments can provide a needed sense of escape and connection with a wider world when you feel cut off from it, a feeling I felt acutely as a teenager growing up in a rural area. It was this feeling that drove me to make and share zines and DIY music. You can see the whole series on Flickr.

#TeenagedSelfie 12: let's talk on the phone

Let’s talk on the phone!

#TeenagedSelfie 11: mirror in the bathroom, I just can't see, the door is locked just you and me

Mirror in the bathroom, I just can’t see, the door is locked just you and me

#TeenagedSelfie 15: I'm free to roam in NYC! And thus the series concludes.

I’m free to roam in NYC!

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Maybe So: life, lessons and a horse named Ben

Me and Ben in 1999

I was a moody, stubborn, impatient teenager. I had big visions and felt determined to accomplish something worthwhile in the world. I felt frustrated because I felt like I had not and that it was already too late. I was full of self-doubt and anger and all those other potent emotions that swirl around within us so intensely at that age. One of the biggest grounding factors in my life was, like so many girls, horses. I had taken riding lessons since I was eight and starting competing in horse shows when I was eleven. When I was fourteen I realized one of the biggest dreams of my life up to that point: to own my own horse.

Ben and I on the day I got him

Maybe So, aka “Ben” was an all-American mix, a Morgan Quarter Horse cross with a lazy walk and a white star on his forehead. He was as headstrong I was and so much of our relationship became a battle of wills: I wanted him to trot fast, he wanted to trot slow, I wanted him to jump over that log in the woods, he was sure it was going to eat him for lunch, I wanted him to walk calmly into the horse trailer and he was convinced that was the last place he ever wanted to go.

Season's Greetings

Our season’s greetings picture, 2010

I put all my free time into taking care of him, training him and riding him. I even read him beat poetry. We were not champions, though we did win a lot of ribbons at shows as we got to know each other better. More importantly, he taught me the kind of things that it’s impossible to teach teenagers except through experience. He helped take all those raw emotions and channel them into something productive and focused.

Show jumping at an event in Massachusetts

He threw me off onto the hard ground more times than I can remember and I knew that unless I faced my fear and anger and got back up the fear would win.

I learned that I couldn’t hide from the emotions I was feeling: he could feel if I was nervous, angry, impatient or excited.

He taught me that hard work can win you ribbons and respect, but life will always be unfair, and that’s okay. There will always be someone with the more expensive horse, the better trainer, more natural talent, and true validation of your hard work will only come from within.

He taught me that it wasn’t always about my agenda. I could arrive at the barn convinced today was the day we would master a certain technique and he would show me that it was really about convincing him not to be afraid of the puddle in the riding ring.

Okay, I'll be cute

He taught me patience and to look at the big picture. One show, one jump, one routine might have gone less than perfect, but if I looked at what we were working on over time I could see improvement. I learned very quickly I couldn’t blame him for my own mistakes, misunderstandings or shortcomings.

Even when I stopped riding and moved on to punk rock and New York City I would always feed him carrots and pet his velvet soft nose whenever I cam home. He always snapped to attention when I called out “Hi, Ben!” across the pasture and eyed me warily, worried I was going to make him work.

Me, Ben, Lynnli

Me, Ben and Lynnli, another young woman who loved him, in 2010

I had a premonition last Friday while I was walking home. I suddenly felt that he was gone. I knew it was time and he was too weak to make it through another Maine winter. Tears dripped down my cheeks as I walked through the early fall twilight. So when I got the call this week I wasn’t surprised. I understood it was the right moment and I’m glad he decided it was his time to go.

Ben was 31 years old, the same age as me. He was a part of my life for 17 years. 17 years later I’m still moody and headstrong and determined, but he played a big role in helping me grow up and move past my raw emotions. I feel lucky we got so much time together. RIP, my best friend.

Ben and Sonny in their pasture in Maine