The first time I went to San Francisco, I was probably about 17 years old. My parents and I decided to finally venture out to California for a family vacation. I was impatiently waiting to see the Fog City, after hearing so many great things about it. When we arrived, there was certainly no shortage of beautiful vistas and breathtaking panoramas. What did take us a bit by surprise though, was the unpredictable weather. Each day presented a challenge of rolling all four seasons into one. The mornings were freezing and the days were hot. We quickly learned to put on multiple layers of clothing if we wanted to spend whole days wandering around the city. The same story repeated when I went there years later with my husband. Looking back now, I feel like I have been wearing layers all my life, only a different type of layers. What I call the onion effect.
Growing up in a Russian family often means that there is a big emphasis on your appearance. My mom always prided herself on being the most fashionably dressed at any social event. For me, it was one of those things parents do that unintentionally leads to reverse psychology effects. As a child, I prided myself on not overemphasizing what seemed like shallow, superficial outer layers. I took “caring about what’s on the inside ” to the extreme. While it may not have served me particularly well in making many friends in school, it allowed me to develop a rich inner world that I expressed through art.
Relatively early on I began to feel that this inner world needed protection. I could not just let anyone in. I was much more interested in deep, meaningful friendships, rather than shallow acquaintances. Unfortunately, the world seemed to be full of the latter. I began to grow a hard outer layer, what I later referred to as my “shell”, that I used to protect the delicate balance inside from the daily elements.
Any person can probably equate themselves to an onion. We all have many layers we wear on the surface, but it takes time and effort to find out what is truly inside. The key is not to put on so many layers that we would forget about the inner true person ourselves.
As the years have passed, I began to slowly peel off some of my outer layers. It is still a work in progress. It has been a process of rediscovering my true self. And one of the key aspects was bringing the artist in me back to life.