From the very first time I started dreaming up what my studio would look like, I knew I wanted the space to be a reflection of my story. I want everyone I work with to be able to see pieces of their own story within mine, so I’ve been mindful to include pieces of my journey in the space.
The journey of physical healing after my spinal fusion surgery.
The journey of learning to accept my body exactly as it is.
The journey toward feeling safe in my everyday movements.
So, when it came time to decide on some details for my studio, I called my friend, Mary.
Spinal Fusion…. Art?
Mary is a wonderful, generous, all-around lovely, person, and she runs Evelyn Rose Studio—a place where she showcases and sells her beautiful, original art. I fell in love with her style when she started posting pictures of her work, and I knew as soon as I saw my studio space for the first time that I needed an original piece from Mary to hang on its walls.
I wanted the painting to have an obvious nod to my healing journey, so I made a special request of Mary: could she include something that honored my spinal fusion? I sent her my X-rays, and she went to work. Of course, Mary created a piece that’s absolutely beautiful, and I cried when I first saw it (no, really).
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t just tell a piece of my story—it tells a piece of Mary’s too. Like me, Mary underwent spinal fusion surgery (she had two!) when she was 14. And like me, that journey has shaped Mary’s life in so many ways.
For me, this is much more than just a painting. I like to think of the sunflower in the painting as me, standing tall and soaking up all the warmth and joy that life has to offer—just as a sunflower would soak up all the sunshine it can. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had really tough weeks and months (and years) trying to learn how to live fully in a body with limitations. But even so, I can’t help but be overcome with gratitude for all those rough seasons. Because truthfully, my fused spine has taught me how to be resilient. And movement has taught me how to stand tall even if my “stem” behaves differently or doesn’t look like anyone else’s.
Resilience: Finding Joy Along the Journey
Resilience is one of the greatest gifts that my spinal fusion has given me, and I know Mary would say the same. Mary has worked tirelessly over the last year to get Evelyn Rose off the ground, and I can’t wait for the world to see her work. Like any spinal fusion survivor (and let’s be real, anyone who’s lived through the last year and a half on Earth), she’s had an up-and-down journey of her own. Her art is the stunning proof of how she’s looked for joy in the midst of pain. Besides wanting her to paint me something because she’s my friend and we both have a scoliosis spinal fusion story, I also knew that I wanted the studio to have nods to the strong women in my life.
Mary is one of those women— and there are MANY.
Little by little, I’m adding details to the space that remind me of my grandmothers, my mom, my neighbors, past clients, mentors, and friends—all of whom have walked alongside me at some point in this journey of life and encouraged me to keep going. Being surrounded by little odes to them is a sweet reminder that I am supported and loved, even on the hardest days.
So, to you, maybe this just looks like a painting with flowers. To me, it represents so much more. It reminds me that—with the help of some incredible people in my life—I’ve made it this far, and I’m only just beginning. It reminds me that even the toughest of circumstances can give way to something beautiful in time. It reminds me that no body—no PERSON—is ever beyond redemption or incapable of healing and finding all of the joy that life has to offer.
It’s my greatest hope for my studio that every single human who enters the space can learn to believe that about themselves.