After noticing my propensity for art, my parents enrolled me in art lessons at the age of three. Ecstatic as I was, my childhood took an unprecedented turn when my parents filed for divorce at the age of five. A year later, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, spending months at a time in the hospital for the following three years.
Despite being in an excruciating amount of pain, I took my mind off of surgery and treatments by sketching on hospital menus and later, a sketchpad. Soon, art became a constant that I could rely on; it was a form of self-expression, escapism, and solace.
Once my health showed signs of improvement, I entered my artwork into competitions, eventually winning the Ronald McDonald House of Orange County (RMHOC) art competition in 2010. Later, RMHOC requested that I create artwork for future fundraising events. As a resident artist, I was thrilled to share my work with other cancer patients. It was so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces; it reminded me of the joy I experienced when I picked up art again during remission.
Attending OCSA starting in 7th grade was yet another huge turning point in my life. I became involved in OCSA’s annual Winter Market where I sold handmade keychains and jewelry for five consecutive years, donating proceeds to childhood cancer foundations. Although some of my happiest memories were made at OCSA, I fell into a downward spiral around freshman and sophomore year. During this time, I was facing many long-term side effects of chemotherapy that caused my physical and mental health to decline. I became overly critical with my artwork, leaving work unfinished if I wasn’t completely satisfied with it. I started to lose interest in the arts until I hit rock bottom.
Yet, in these moments, I found myself creating bits and pieces of art when my chronic pain became unbearable. Slowly, I rediscovered art, this time under a new lens. It didn’t have to be perfect, or fit others’ (or even my own) expectations‒it just had to be authentic. Though I was more comfortable with 2-dimensional work at the time, I gravitated towards other artistic mediums including metal arts & jewelry, digital photography, and architectural design.
While I still am critical of my own artwork, I allow room for mistakes‒something that freshman me would never dream of doing. And through letting go of these tendencies, creating artwork has become all the more enjoyable ever since.
My future plans…
After taking several community college courses during my junior and senior year, I have decided to pursue architectural engineering and design. Architecture combines my love for design with my enthusiasm to explore and quantify everything around me.
So far, I’ve been accepted to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (Architecture), UCI (Claire Trevor School of the Arts), and UC Berkeley (College of Environmental Design in the major of Architecture). Though I am still awaiting decisions from other schools, I aim to earn a degree from a NAAB-accredited university regardless, ideally while interning or participating in a work-study program. I'd love to work for a firm or as an independent contractor, ultimately striving to increase accessibility and promote cost and energy-efficient architectural practices.
My advice for my younger OCSA Classmates-
I’d say not to strive for perfection or hyper-fixate on your work; learning is meant to be an enjoyable, creative process. True, the details are important, but it’s remarkably more rewarding when you’re able to make mistakes (or happy accidents) and grow from there. My biggest downfall was spending insane amounts of time and overcompensating on homework to receive perfect scores. I did well for the most part, but it wasn't worth it for me in the long run, especially with the increasing workload in high school. The same goes for conservatory classes. If you’re able to manage your time well, you’ll be able to enjoy so many more activities that OCSA has to offer. OCSA has a wonderfully supportive community‒don’t be afraid to ask for help! To my fellow workaholics out there, it’s always good to take a healthy break every once in a while. Trust the process, and everything will come into place. Good luck, and make the most of your OCSA experience!