A Blank Slate
Last semester I volunteered at a non-profit organization in Philadelphia called The Village of Arts and Humanities. This is an organization that aims to help women who have been affected by the criminal justice system (sorry if I used the wrong form of affected, I have yet to figure it out in my 21 years of life). Anyways, I volunteered for them during an expunging clinic. They brought in volunteer Temple Law Students and helped to expunge people's records for free. I took photos of the event and helped with whatever was needed. One project they did that day was recycling people's records and forming it into a new blank piece of paper with a polaroid of the person attached, symbolically and literally giving these people a blank slate to start from. This inspired me to try making my own paper and putting my own twist on a project similar to this one.
I wanted to come up with an idea aimed towards helping people move past those things that are detremental to them. We all have times in our lives where we don't feel our best. We all have insecurities, vulnerabilities, and those things we strive to say goodbye to but can't seem to let go of. I'm someone who overthinks, so I have thoughts constantly racing through my head, and a lot of times it's what holds me back the most, and probably what holds a lot of other people back. It's not easy to move on from these things that bring us down, but it is possible if you work at it.
What I did was I wrote down two things that I want to move past.
I want to stop dwelling on the past. That's a major thing that affects me. It gives us all those good memories, but it also gives us the bad ones. The past becomes a part of us but it doesn't define our future.
The second thing I wrote down was about confidence, something that I struggle with on a daily basis, and a lot of times has held me back.
I ripped up the paper with these statements on it and put it in a blender. I added enough warm water to cover the paper and blended it up.
Now I am a broke college student, but I try and find a way to keep experimenting by using what I have. You can buy paper making kits, but to try this out I used a window screen and an old picture frame. I placed the frame on top of the screen , taped around it, and poured the mixture onto the screen. Then I stuck three flowers into the mixture so they became embedded in the paper. This is just optional, but I find flowers to be a symbol of beauty and growth. I then pressed the water out with a rag on top and a sponge. I put a towel on top of the sheet and peeled it off to let it dry. I have no patience so I used a blow dryer to help speed up the drying process.
The paper wasn't perfect (and I'm going to keep working with it) but that wasn't really the point of the process. The point was to destroy those things that hold you back and turn them into a blank slate, a fresh start for your future. Your future holds growth and beauty just how flowers do. They die and come back again with the seasons, always a little unique and changing, but beautiful just as we are.
It's not easy, and something I have yet to solve, but we always can strive to make a blank slate for ourselves, to make that new piece of paper. Each day is a blank slate in our lives and we get to decide what we put on it.
(I've been thinking about doing a project like this with a community in the future, and turning it into a book with different people's stories. Would love any feedback about what you think about this project and if it's something you'd like to try!)