Vision, Arts, & Faith meet The Stuarts
Not too long ago, I finished Michelle Obama's book Becoming and was inspired by her ability to look at the situations, environments and people that contributed to her own unique story. Now diving into her guided journal, I'm taking a walk down memory lane and reflecting on moments in my past that have contributed to my own story. Recent prompts have pinpointed notable people in my life, like my parents, whose presence has shaped me more than I ever thought. I, like Michelle, was raised by two amazing parents that provided everything they could for me while pushing me to be the best I can be. They were and continue to be an essential part of my story.
I'm not sure what the universe was thinking but they got it right when they chose Anthony and Pamela as my guides and caretakers. My mom's creativity and quirkiness flows through my own personality and passion for the arts, while my dad's emphasis on the importance of hard work and love for other cultures influences my sense of achievement and connection with others. Together these ingredients cooked up the perfectly imperfect and one of a kind blogger, dancer and expat Briana.
In our family, my mom has always been the creative one. She's the one that adds spice, color and energy to any event with her decorative gifts and baskets, well-organized fruit and vegetable trays or quirky yet fun family friendly games. She's chalk full of so many ideas that she often doesn't know what to do with them.
From as young as I could remember we would sing songs, do arts and crafts or merely tell silly stories for the fun of it. Nothing I created was wasted or undervalued. I mean it was her idea to put me in dance classes in the first place. Apparently my Kindergarten teacher, Ms. O'Neill, would see me dancing around the classroom to the music in my head and just knew I'd be a dancer.
My mom then took this seed and watered it, by signing me up for my first dance class. I wore a shiny purple leotard with freshly done hair, specifically the bounciest bang hanging over my left eye, and danced to and fro around the studio. I honestly don't remember anything the teacher did because I was too busy staring at myself in the mirror, but by the end of class I was hooked. Movement became my creative outlet.
When dance captured my heart, my mom was there to encourage my passion and cheer me through dance classes and camps and encourage every possibility within my passion. If I could conceive it, then it could happen. So when I told her I wanted to move my dance career to Belgium, her only response was. "Okay honey, if that's what you want. Just remember to focus on how to make it happen." See that's the thing about how my mom works. In her world of endless creativity and possibility she never taught me to be "realistic" but merely to figure it out, because there's always a way.
It's not about the what, but the how.
This philosophy and use of creativity became the foundation for all the things I reached for from dance intensives to a full-ride to the University of Michigan. She is and always has been my creative coach, coaxing me to think outside the box and dream, even though these dreams have taken me far away from home.
My father has always been a hardworking man who focused on providing for his family. I recall him working tirelessly through health issues and a failing car industry to make sure my brother and I had what we needed or even wanted. Daily, he'd wake up early, put in long hours, and go the extra mile to make sure he excelled in his career not only for himself but also his family. This same tenacity seeped into his expectations of my brother and I to succeed and be the best at whatever path we chose. He once joked that I could take my dancing and be a stripper if I wanted to, as long as I was the best stripper out there, lol. Point being that it didn't matter what I put my mind to, as long as I found a way to be the best at it.
Basically, my dad's way of focusing on the how and not the what.
He even exposed me to different cultures starting at a very young age. From taking weekly Italian lessons in our kitchen to making special trips to get authentic Lebanese food while conversing with the hostess in Arabic, he always showed the value of learning about other peoples' cultures and traditions. I can't even count how many times he would speak only a few words of a language to someone and how their eyes would just light up with excitement and surprise. He made people feel valued and respected by becoming more culturally conscious and showing a willingness to learn and connect.
Together, my mother and father fused their creativity and ambition to make the go-getter international artist that I am today. And in the midst of the out of this world creativity, non-stop encouragement, heightened ambition, and cultural immersion there was of course: laughter - and lots of it. All the jokes, stories, silly faces, you name it were probably the highlights of my childhood. In the midst of the grind to succeed there was always play. I've learned to laugh through the creative process, laugh through all of my endeavors, and make fun of myself when I start to take myself way too seriously.
That's probably why I still maintain a strong, energetic and youthful spirit today. The way I approach my world is still through the amazement and excitement of the little dancer in the shiny purple leotard staring at herself in the dance studio mirror. The only difference is my reflection has turned more internal as I've gotten older revealing a larger creative spirit , a greater fascination for the world and its cultures, and a "reach for the moon, if you miss you'll land among the stars type" attitude swirling around a whirlwind of laughter and child-like joy.
As Michelle Obama says "your story is what you have and what you will always have." If it weren't for my parents and the light they saw and nurtured within me, my story would be completely different. But, I wouldn't have had it any other way. I've been crafted by the creative care of my mother and the perseverance of my father and with all the amazing experiences I've had in this life. Thank you mom and dad for your words, energy, love and those things that make us simply, The Stuarts.
Thanks for reading,
And Remember to Always have Faith, Keep a vision, and make art in everything that you do.