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The Artist : Age 5, Where It All Started.



The year was 1997.  The only memory of this day was hearing my name being called, prompting me to walk across stage with a standing ovation. I had no clue why. I sat in the audience with my family, watching other kids being called on stage, proceeding to center stage to receive their award, have their picture taken and then walk off stage. By the time it was my turn, the camera seemed to vanish. 


I walked up to center stage to receive my award, turned to find the camera, but it was gone. I stood there smiling.... waiting, while the audience continued to clap. I was so confused. Confused for why I received an award, why I had a standing ovation, and why the hell was the camera man M.I.A? 


So I walked to the left side of the stage, thinking maybe that’s where I have to go to get my picture taken. I stood there awkwardly smiling at the audience, looking for the camera …nope, still not there. Walked to the right side of the stage, turned and smiled again- nope still no one with a camera. Back to center stage. The audience was probably just as confused as I was. I had no clue why I was on stage but I do remember having to be ushered off of it as the audience’s clapping began to fade out. 


When my Nana tells me her recollection of this story, she always claims this is the first time she ever saw my father cry. At this point in time, my father had stage 4 Multiple Myeloma, a battle he began fighting before my birth. He was only expected 6-months to live, and never thought he would see the day I turned 5. Here he was watching his 5-year old daughter walking around the stage confused as hell with a standing ovation. Turns out I won 1st place in a drawing contest. Mom forgot her camera, and I made sure she got a picture of me with my award when we got home. 



Somehow I remember as clear as day, this Kindergarten memory and the thought process behind this drawing.  Our art teacher assigned a drawing project relating to anti-vandalism. The directions were to draw something that we would be sad if someone ruined, broke, knocked down, etc. Her example was a mailbox. I remember her drawing a mailbox being broken, with the words “I would be sad if someone vandalized my mailbox.” It was now our turn to start our drawings.


My tree! My tree was my absolute favorite ‘item’ and I would be absolutely devastated if someone knocked it down. So I started drawing my favorite tree, absolutely losing myself in the passion behind this drawing. I had to add myself next to the tree so I drew myself wearing my favorite outfit ever- my Pocahontas dress. I wore it any chance I could. Time started to run out and I remember thinking, “oh no I still have to add that damn mailbox that Mrs. Stephens was talking about!” I wasn’t happy about adding the mailbox to my drawing, so I didn’t even bother to color it in. I only cared about my tree. 


There was no need for me to add that mailbox, that was only the example the teacher used to get our brains started.  As an adult, I now recognize that my inability to comprehend and follow directions started at an early age. My ability to keep an attention span has always been a challenge.  I struggled my entirety throughout school, needing extra support in reading, writing, and mathematics. I was in all of the support classes, in BSI and had tutors to help me navigate schooling. I remember other kids snickering “oh they’re leaving for their ‘stupid’ class,’ anytime the B.S.I teacher picked us up for extra help. 


School was incredibly difficult for me as a child. Art class was my safe-space. I never had a desire to be a teacher, it was one of those ‘oh this is the safe choice,’ decisions that I didn’t know would take me a decade to realize wasn't in alignment with my soul. School was also incredibly difficult for me as an adult. I continuously sacrificed my happiness while boasting a fake smile. 


The heaviness from this career really started to take its toll when my father’s health conditions escalated in 2020. When I was a kid he always told me, “If you find a job that you love, you will never work a day in your life.” This phrase repeated over and over in my mind until I couldn’t take it anymore. His health declining and my mental health declining pushed me to take an incredible leap. 


It's now been a year since I left teaching and started this business. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience, at the same time a tumultuous uphill battle. There’s days when I question my sanity, and days I feel at peace. I am beyond grateful that I still have my father to this day, accompanying me on my journeys. We are creating memories that I know I will forever remember.  


Another quote found its way into my life a few years ago, leaving an imprint on my soul and further pushing me to take this leap. 


“Every man has two lives,

and the second starts when

he realizes he has just one.”

Confucius



Mom didn't bring her camera that day, none of us knew why were we invited to an award-ceremony for Anti-Vandalism. She did save that terrible drawing however, framing it and keeping it for me to reflect on all of these years later.


Just as clueless as 5-year old Nikki was that moment on stage, I am still just as clueless now. I still love my trees as much as I did back then. I still have no idea what I am doing, I am always just winging it. Trying to enjoy every moment I can and embracing the time I have, because that is what the goal of the human experience should be about.


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