When I was young, whenever a teacher would ask me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would say, "I want to be a writer!" As far back as I can remember I have always lived in a fantasy world inside my head. I would make up long drawn out stories to help my little sisters fall asleep. Writing was my favorite subject in school and came as easily as breathing to me.

I also remember what was the pivotal moment that sent me down the painting path. I was 12 years old standing on our apartment balcony in Alaska. I loved gazing at the stars and that night was beautifully clear. Then, as I watched, ribbons of color danced across the sky. There were shimmering trails of pink, purple, blue, and green. It was like a painter had ran his brush across the night sky as his canvas. I use a lot of those same colors in my paintings today.

I doodled, drew, and wrote all the way through high school. It wasn't until later, after an exploratory art class in college, that I finally got the nerve to take up painting. I fell in love with it instantly. The colors moved me. It was like the paintbrush was reaching into my soul and pulling out works of art. That's why nothing I create is planned. I just let it flow. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any real art or writing classes during college before life struck and I was unable to continue with my education.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My art, along with family and faith, has kept me going through these difficult struggles. Painting has become a great therapeutic tool for me. My writing; however, has become a bit more of a struggle than it used to be. But, I believe my condition gives my writing a flair it may not otherwise contain. So the struggle is worth it. Now I hope my art, and my writing, can help inspire others who are struggling through various obstacles in life. A reminder to ...

Never give up.