Why is the sky blue? Why is sand hot? Why do worms wiggle? Those were the kinds of questions I thought about growing up. I was a very curious child who wanted to know the answers to so many questions about life around me. I could always find the trivial answers to those kinds of question in schoolbooks, on the television programs, talking to those around me, and eventually learning through life experiences. As I became older, the questions became introspective and significant to me. What was my purpose? Who was I? What did I live for? These were the questions I wanted to find the answers to. Hoping to shed some light, I set out on a mental journey to examine my life. Let’s start with my childhood.
Growing up, I had many friends. They came and went the first seven years of my life, as most young childhood friendships do. When I transferred to public school in the third grade, I lost touch with everyone I spoke to at the parochial school. Yet, there was a friend who remained a constant in my life: my twin sister. Though we were separated in our classes and with friends, we were each other’s best friends at home, inseparable from the first day we were brought onto this earth. It's a wonderful thing to have someone in your life who cares for you as much as you care for them just because. Yet, it is difficult to understand yourself when you have someone whom you are constantly comparing yourself to. The problem was that friends and strangers had gotten into the habit of asking us to compare ourselves to each other when we spoke to them. Who was smarter? Who was the good twin? Who was the bad twin? Did we love each other? These questions forced the both of us to simultaneously label and measure out our worth. My sister was more accepting of this ‘challenge’ while I shied away. How could I put into words our relationship without sounding cruel, or more importantly, making our relationship appear less significant than it is? In retrospect, these exercises helped us both understand that we were two, unique individuals and though similar, were different in many ways.
My sister and I did many activities together during our early childhood. We were on a basketball team in the second grade. We enjoyed it but I learned I had no competitive spirit, even against my own teammates. We stayed for one season and then we were gone. In the fourth grade, swimming. The beach was our second home. Our father drove us directly to Riis Park after school when there was the warm weather because he wanted us to swim in the ocean as he did during his childhood in Sicily. Swimming on the swim team was great, my sister and I the fastest ones on our team, but our parents were worried we would get sick from leaving our hair wet after practice and were forced to stop after the last day of the season. We both regretted leaving.
That same year, I decided to join the school band. I played the trumpet. I took great pride in performing with my peers and loved practicing at home, treasuring my mouthpiece and blowing into it anytime I could to warm up my lips for performance. My sister and I joined the computer club after school. We would spend our afternoons playing RPG games with our classmates until eventually, the computer club converted into the newspaper. One of my closest friends and I came up with the idea of a school newspaper during the fifth grade. We pitched our idea to the principal and we could work alongside our library & computer teachers to publish the school’s inaugural newspaper.
It was in middle school that our lives seemed to change more and more. We slowly began doing things at different levels. However, one change we both were subject to was returning to the parochial school. We felt out of place then. We were there but there wasn’t us. Our experiences and outlook clashed with those of our classmates. Our escape would become writing. My sister would publish online daily, writing for upwards of four hours a day while I spent time with neighborhood friends. I started writing stories to share with my classmates and then transitioned to publishing online too. I liked writing. My sister liked writing more. It continued that way into the high school with my sister developing an internet following while I focused on writing fan fiction. And then things changed again.
Art. I had been a volunteer at a community-based arts program along with my sister. We would volunteer there every Friday to work with young kids with arts and crafts. During the summer of our freshman year of high school, we were volunteer counselors for the church day camp instructing arts and crafts. Teaching the kids arts and crafts were something I took great joy in and so I went back another summer to volunteer again. When the school year started up again, I joined the watercolor club. I loved art and sought to take any art class I could; some were for collegiate credit. Something about making art fascinated me and slowly became a major figure in my life. The intervals enacted again when my sister joined the watercolor club with me, as well as the photography club. Though we adored reading and writing literature, drawing and painting became my passion and photography became hers.
Before I entered college three years ago, I had a health scare that forced my family and me to face the potential reality that I could have been very sick. I told myself I could not deny myself the happiness of living and chose to embrace life in art instead. Whether that was with writing or making art, I took any opportunity I could to do what I loved most, treating every day as if it was my last. Now, as an adult, I have the privilege of teaching children how to write and create art of their own every day in a classroom of my own.
I am still learning about life and I am still searching for the answers to those questions. Yet, I know now that through art and writing, I am one step closer to knowing.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Arianna Cardinale has been surrounded by and exposed to some of the greatest artists of her time. She is a practicing artist currently working towards her Bachelors of Arts and Sciences in Child Study with a concentration in English. She plans to become an early childhood educator. She loves sharing her love of painting and writing with her students and hopes they will be inspired to make art of their own in the future. Some of the biggest influences on her work include nature, emotions, her family, and her students. Arianna’s work can be found in Instagram @thehotkpopfan