How Did I Get Here? How I moved to New York to follow my dreams

The other day, I woke up with David Byrne’s voice echoing through my head–“How did I get here?” As the sunlight streamed through my window much like the trickling synthesizer behind the questions posed, I realized that my life has changed beyond recognition in the proverbial blink of an eye. I got out of the bed I never thought I’d sleep in, fed the cat I never thought I’d adopt, walked the door I never thought would mark the boundaries of a space I never believed I’d inhabit. And like some fantastic notion of a life I’d always wanted but never thought possible, I head off each day to a school I’m proud to attend, and live in a neighborhood that swells my heart to call home.


But for all its upbeat new wave sweetness, the song so resolutely planted in my mind is actually quite melancholy. I marvel at how quickly my life has transformed, but the song itself recalls more of the emotions that kept me in my previous place. Like the “water underground”, so deadly and destructive in its most overwhelming, awesome form, I know what held me back was fear. I was afraid that moving wasn’t practical, that I wasn’t good enough to get into school, that my family would resent me for wanting more than I had. I was afraid that if I took the necessary risks, I’d be left with nothing. Fear is paralyzing, and having a little–a mind-numbing job, a general education, a room in my family home–is better than having nothing at all.

I often looked at people my age, even younger, living in New York City and wondered what they were doing that I wasn’t. They sold coffee or clothing or answered phones or served food, they enrolled in prestigious programs or worked towards higher degrees, they dressed in stylish clothes and wore their hair however they pleased–why couldn’t I? I asked friends and acquaintances who lived in the city how they organized their moves, but their responses were overwhelmingly similar–“I didn’t.” It seemed as if everyone I knew acted on instinct, following their hearts and figuring out details later. But I was too afraid to follow suit, citing practicality as my excuse.


And then some time in July of last year, everything changed. There was an itch under my skin that simply wouldn’t go away. No class I took, no work I did could banish the awful, creeping feeling that I was wasting my time. I felt like I was drowning in familiarity. So I did the only thing I could think of to push myself to the surface: I applied to new schools. Some were in places I’d never seen with my own eyes, others in places I’d visited and thought of fondly, but all schools I could envision as the start of a new life chapter. It wasn’t an instant fix–in fact, the fear got much, much worse before it began to fade. I can’t even tell you that it disappeared entirely–there are nights I come home and wonder how on earth I’ll be able to sustain this new life I’ve built for myself. The difference is, now I know it’s not impossible.


Every day is an adventure, full of hope and love and dreams I didn’t even realize I had. I meet fascinating people and encounter puzzling sights. I’m presented with challenges that I’m happy to meet head-on and best of all, I get to be endlessly creative. I’m still adjusting to the freedom I’ve given myself, still learning how to stretch and grow and quiet the fear that keeps me from testing my boundaries. But every step is a step closer, and I’m excited to see where I go next.

If any of this sounds familiar, take the advice that I never accepted: go. Do. Become. Don’t mistake fear for practicality. Don’t listen to the trickle of doubt in the back of your mind–it can become a flood without warning and sweep you away. Don’t drown in your uncertainty. Things will come together when you stop holding yourself back.


An Anniversary of Being


Ten years ago, I sat at a table in a small cafe surrounded by three generations of my close-knit family. As I stared into the candle that flickered between us, I knew something was brewing–I was turning 16, and I knew it was going to be a big year. Things had been changing so quickly for me, in my home, in my life, and in my soul. Not all those changes were comfortable: the friends I’d had since childhood were starting to drift apart, my family was undergoing a sort of reconstruction, and my health was still in decline. But there was a lot to be excited about too, like my plans to apply to art school, my newly-cultivated interests and hobbies, and an expanding group of like-minded friends that accepted me for who I was instead of who I had been as a kid. My sense of style was evolving, becoming more reflective of my burgeoning personality. I was downloading music from the Sisters of Mercy, London After Midnight, and the Cure, all bands that were new to me at the time. I was in the throws of my first love, an affair that would open my eyes to previously unfathomable highs and equally astonishing lows all in a whirlwind year-and-a-half. Sixteen was going to be my biggest year yet and ultimately, the year that defined much of who I am as a person today.

FX Photo Studio_image-20

My life has always been a series of deaths and rebirths. As a child, I had only seen what seemed to be the horribly unfair breakdowns, but at sixteen I began to understand that those cataclysmic collapses were a necessary part of the improvement process. If nothing ever fell apart, we would have no reason to grow as individuals. I was beginning to explore my spirituality, laying aside a fairly traditional Roman Catholic upbringing in favor of new age religions that fell in line with my individual belief system. I added books by Alastair Crowley, Allan Kardec, and Margot Adler to my studies. The entire world was alive with magic.


At the same time, my appearance became as much of an art as the drawings I compulsively produced. I was asserting my independence through miniskirts and colored tights, platformed mary-janes and neon cat collars. My eyeliner was a feat of dexterity, winged out to my temples and often swirled down around my cheekbones. Hilarity aside, it was a major stride towards my personal aesthetic that I had never previously explored. Sure, I had perused fashion magazines in doctors’ waiting rooms and bookstore cafes, but I had never really taken a personal interest in them. At sixteen, I began not only looking, but buying magazines from New York, the UK, Japan, and Italy to feed my flirtation with fashion.

FX Photo Studio_image-19

It’s hard to believe a full decade has passed. The person I am today can be directly traced to that sixteen-year-old and all the radical changes that were brewing inside her. Today feels less like my birthday and more like an anniversary of who I became–a magical, independent spirit who looks forward more than back. And I feel like twenty-six is going to be just as big as sixteen.This year, I’m going to manifest my own destiny instead of waiting for it to happen to me. I’m going to take all my wild Sagittarian desires into my own hands to make them a reality–the world is waiting, and I refuse to disappoint. I’m rededicating myself to the destiny I want, rather than surrender to the reality that people expect. I’m casting off the skins of hopelessness that have weighed me down for years and adopting new can-do colours. Anything is possible if you really want it, and trust me, I want it. It might have taken me another ten years to realize that was true, but everything happens in its own time. Now is mine.

Metamorphosis, Writing

Trusting my Path, or what three years of blogging has really taught me

There are days where I wake up feeling inherently dissatisfied with myself. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact emotion–it’s a sadness, an anger, an anxiousness that’s so pervasive I feel like I’m drowning in it. It’s like waking up with a spiritual headache, a gaping wound in the soul. It’s impossible to say exactly why these days happen, what triggers them, and part of the anger is the frustration of knowing I should have a better handle on my emotions. –and that’s the very thought that reels it all back in: I am not a robot. Neither is anyone else living and feeling on this crazy little planet called Earth. We all have permission to feel and emote, regardless of how much sense those emotions really make sometimes.

cicadas Brood II

Before I even bought a domain, when I was still writing on LiveJournal and toying with the idea of starting a proper blog, I played with a few different themes–book reviews, food writing, recipes, makeup tutorials all spun through my head as I envisioned layouts, upkeep, coding, and producing content. When I finally bought this domain in 2010, my initial plan was to document the changes I wanted to see in myself, my personal transformation into the individual I wanted to be. I was going to face fears and take chances to become one of the bold and daring Internet Mavens I had followed on and off for years. There really wasn’t much of that, and the whole thing sort of de-railed and became a generic cosmetics blog full of lifeless product reviews and half-hearted looks. But in a way, I accomplished the original goal completely behind the scenes: I took chances and struck up conversations I wouldn’t have otherwise, I tried on roles I was too shy to originally assume, and I pursued jobs I might have been too insecure to apply for. It wasn’t that I was becoming someone else–I had been that person all along, and simply found the courage to realize it.

self portrait, April 2013

self portrait, April 2013

I have come a very long way in the last three years, but of course, I’m not fully satisfied with where I am just yet. I’m a driven individual and I don’t settle for “good enough,” but I’m learning to accept the steps along the way. I need to enjoy each level as I climb, to take in every detail necessary so I don’t have to head back down for something I missed. Trusting the path I’m on has been one of my biggest challenges. There are days I tell myself that I wasted my time in culinary school because I could have been finishing my degree in art, or I should never have gotten my cosmetology license because I should have been studying creative writing or journalism. What a waste of energy! It’s so tempting to think of what could  have been or what I should  have done, but the truth is that everything I’ve done and everything that’s happened to me has shaped who I am. I would not be standing at the point I am today without every decision I’ve made along the way. And it’s tempting to think that I’m no where, that I’ve accomplished nothing that makes this point notable–but compared to the point I stood at three years ago, it’s a remarkable change. 

photo by Made U Look

photo by Made U Look

Three years ago, I was adrift in a sea of comparisons. There were so many people I envied, so many people I wished I could be. But comparisons are unhealthy and destructive. You are your own person on your own path, and while other people may influence you to explore one direction or another, you cannot follow them or replace them. In the age of social media, it’s hard to ignore someone that annoys you, or makes you deviate from your path. Just remember that people act out for attention because they’re hurting–they desperately seek approval or put others down because they need to feel important. Their anger and sadness can be contagious, and it’s easier to disengage than to fall prey and remedy yourself. The next time you think about spewing venom at or about someone, think about why you feel the way you do. Consider what they’ve done to upset you and where that came from within them. Then let it go. It can be hard, but in the end, it’s better to let the negativity dissipate than to release it into the universe.


Any time I wonder if I’m heading in the right direction, or feel like I’ve gone down the wrong road in life, I take a moment to look around me. If I look hard enough, there are signs everywhere–a flower, an insect, a bird, a song on the radio, all confirming for me what I all ready know deep down inside: that I am exactly where I need to be right now.


Transformation, Rebirth, and Brood II

I believe in the power of Names. In their primary function of identifiers, they’re not only used to give commands but also offer insight into the thing being named. When I tell people the name of my blog (or my email address, or Twitter handle, or Instagram), they inevitably ask, “Why cicadas?” The answer is usually more than they bargained for because as much as I believe in names, I also believe in symbols–and the cicada is a powerful symbol.

FX Photo Studio_image-10

When I registered my domain, QueenCicada was simply the screen name I had been using at that point. My blog was originally titled “Metamorphosis,” tying in with my transformative theme and insect infatuation. When I decided to rebrand, I wasn’t sure anyone would understand the tie or that it would turn off potential readers–but the truth is, the cicada is a symbol of beauty and creativity too. Cicadas turn up in a fascinating myth mentioned by Plato in “Phaedrus.” According to the heartbreakingly beautiful story, cicadas were originally human beings devoted to the Muses, classic Greek personifications of the arts. They sang their love for so long and with such depth of emotion that they couldn’t stop to eat or drink, never even realizing they had died. The Muses rewarded them by transforming them into creatures that neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, able to sing and dance from the moment they are born until the moment they die. Humans enchanted by their music clearly recognize beauty in life, more susceptible to the call of the Muses than those than continue on with their lives, ignoring the insects’ song. But that’s not entirely where my cicada inspiration came from.

FX Photo Studio_image-11

When I’m in need of guidance, I often seek out a model or ideal. I’ve never been one to look to heroes or idols like celebrities as role models, so while some people aspire to the beauty of Marilyn Monroe or the charm of Audrey Hepburn, I’ve found my inspiration in more primal sources. As a child, I saw the cheetah as a guide to reconcile playfulness with grace, while I later looked to the turtle to develop a strong sense of home while learning to reach out and explore the world before me. I turned to certain animals at certain times based on what I knew of their nature and life cycle, trying to incorporate their ancient wisdom into my daily life. But the cicada came to me in a very different manner.

FX Photo Studio_image-12

Years ago, the tea shop I worked in got a ceramic tea pot in from China. It was a delicate basket-weave design, topped with a perfectly sculpted cicada on the lid. I was positively taken with it. Each day I worked, I thought about the insect on top, why it would be chosen to adorn something people would put on their table and drink tea from–in our Western society, insects are usually considered unclean and just generally icky. What little I knew about cicadas didn’t seem to clarify anything: I knew they were periodic, and shed their skins to transform their shape much like butterflies from their cocoons. What I learned was that they’ve been powerful symbols of immortality and life after death in the East. Their lifespans are remarkably long for an insect, and the shedding of their nymph skins is symbolic of a triumph over death, of life beginning again as one stage ends. It’s an incredibly powerful idea, and the more I thought about it, the more it moved me. My life, like so many others’, has been cyclical.When things seem to be incredibly difficult and impossible to move past, I’m often too frustrated and exhausted to recognize the valuable experiences that I ultimately take away.  It’s only looking back that I realize what an important period of growth I had completed and can experience the amazing rebirth as a result. I firmly believe the universe has a way of wiping the record clean when we absolutely need it: we can be reborn into new cycles.

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 4.07.24

This week has been incredibly emotional for me: my area is beginning to see the first wave of Brood II. Just days ago, I watched as dozens of cicada nymphs emerged from the ground, perching on trees, plants, decks, walls, tables, or street signs to shed their skins and take to the air. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this event coincides what I’m sure is going to be a summer of self-discovery for me, one of my greatest periods of rebirth yet. Each one of those tiny nymphs represents a hope or dream I have for my future: some will tear through their skins and emerge mature and complete, while others will be trampled before they have chance, experience snags, or form improperly. My heart breaks as I see mangled wings, missing legs, blinded eyes, but I know that nature isn’t always kind and trust that it’s part of the universal plan. As long as some of those live on to give new life, to inspire future hopes and dreams, they’ve succeeded. It’s a standard I also aspire to.


The Paths We Take

Even as an adult, I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. The entire idea of pinning down a path for myself seems daunting. I’ve tried on a lot of hats–pastry chef, hair stylist, translator, illustrator, but none of them fit well for very long. We’re trained to think that everything has its place, but figuring out where our own isn’t always so cut-and-dry. In the past, each time I began to diverge from my chosen path, I viewed it as a failure: I wasn’t good enough, I was too flighty, I was impulsive. But taking a step back, I realize this was never the case. Each job I took, each course of study I completed taught me a set of valuable skills. I learned how to perform tasks that I could apply to numerous fields even outside that specific career. Each moment taught me more about myself, about what I enjoyed and what I did not, and what I identified with. I wonder if I might have decided to become a vegan had I not worked in restaurant kitchens, or if I would have explored the option of cosmetology had I not explored my theories on art in philosophy classes. Even when I fell out of love with jobs and schools, I learned valuable lessons about moving on.

Custom cake and gumpaste flowers I made around 2008

I love working as a makeup artist. I love learning my products, experimenting with techniques, teaching people how to emphasize their best features. It’s a rewarding career: there’s no feeling quite like turning the mirror on a client and watching their eyes as they realize the beautiful person in the mirror is actually them. It’s an honor to work with people on some of the most important occasions of their lives, knowing that you were a part of their memories and contributed to making their photographs beautiful reminders. But if I imagine myself 10 or 15 years in the future, I don’t necessarily see myself as a makeup artist down the line.


Looking back, I always thought I would end up in the literary field. I love to write and constantly have fiction projects going, but I also love to read and edit other people’s work. My focus in art school was illustration, often taking inspiration from literature or my own projects for my work. And while my attention has shifted somewhat recently into fine arts, I feel myself being pulled back to illustration again. I’m interested to see what themes I end up exploring once the summer break comes and my work can become my own again. I appreciate the instruction and direction that my classes give me, but I’m always anxious to see how they’ve influenced me when I begin to produce pieces that are truly my own again.

FX Photo Studio_image-6

With school winding down in just a few weeks, I’m starting to plan my life for the next few months. In my memories, summer holidays were blissfully unstructured, breezy and carefree, but as I get older I feel like structure is no longer an option. It’s mandatory. Structure keeps my productivity up, and productivity it what keeps me sane. I’ve got some exciting new ventures on the horizon and I can’t wait to share them with you as they start to solidify. I’d like to think that by the end of the summer, I’ll be closer to answering that question everyone poses to themselves at some point: “what will I be?” I may never be able to respond with absolute certainty, but each aspect of myself that I explore brings me one step closer.


The Time Has Come

Over the last month or so, I’ve thought long and hard about what to do with this space. As a beauty professional, people often ask for my website as an example of my work. I generally try to keep my life compartmentalized: there’s my personal life, my professional life, and my online life and while there can be some cross-over I think I’ve done a decent job thus far.

This blog began as a space for me to explore my aesthetic influences and experimentations in whatever form they took. But as I’ve grown as a professional, I’ve begun to feel awkward posting here. The URL for this space is on my business card, my resume, the credits on my portfolio images. I don’t really want a potential client looking me up to find the All-Luna-All-the-Time Show when they likely expect a professional digital portfolio.

So I think I’ve solved my problem. From here on out, any post made on this site will be strictly professional: hair and makeup tutorials, reviews, images of work I’ve done on consenting models or clients. I will attempt to archive my older posts–I will not be deleting them, but would love to find a way to take them off my feed on the main page, accessible only by direct link or searching this site. I have created a new blog for my personal posts: entries regarding fashion, music, art, FotDs, literature, or any of the oddball posts I make on occasion. I can feel freer to discuss topics I’ve always been hesitant to talk about here. I don’t see myself becoming the chronic over-sharer that so many bloggers are these days, but I can let my hair down a bit more.

Right now, I’m trying to piece together the new blog and figure out how to archive old posts here. Hopefully, everything will be in place within the week. I miss writing and hope this will improve the quality of this site as well as my work.

Thank you for your patience.