February 2011 - I read the signs in the M.D. Anderson library for an art contest. Submissions were being accepted from all majors at the university. I immediately saw myself putting something together and being on the wall.
I knew I had to try.
I put in many hours to create the best collage I could. My theme was Houston and the concept of home, and the symbolism of the beauty within it that is oft overlooked.
I put in my collage into Walgreens.com, and was happy to see that it would be finished at approximately 7pm, SuperBowl Sunday. That would only take one hour. There were MANY MANY obstacles to come.
At around 9pm, I was concerned that I received no confirmation for my collage via email. I thought it could be a simple administrative error so I called the OST Walgreens for myself. They said that they received my order, but they were having issues, so they would call me back at my number. I was very forgiving for this because I placed the order in early, and figured at the latest, I'd get it in a few hours. No sweat off my back.
At about 11pm, I was still concerned, so I called back and asked for an update, and they told me that my order was accidentally deleted. I was flabbergasted, but tried to keep my cool, which was helped when she said that I could simply re-submit my collage online. I asked the obvious question, what if my collage didn't exist anymore? She said, it should still be there, along with my account. That made sense to me, and before I got off the phone, she mentioned there'd be a shift change so I would be speaking to a new manager but that he would be briefed and I would get a 50% discount for my troubles.
I wasn't bothered by this. I still had the morning to deal, and again, nothing was lost, although I fought to get the collage in the exact arrangement as I previously had. I was a bit hurt that they would not call me to let me know.
At this point I got to the last prompt of the online submission of my collage, and Walgreens could not locate a store for me to pick-up my collage. I took a few deep breaths and tried again, several times. After that, I called the Walgreens OST location. I was speaking to the new manager, who seemed unemotional and unsympathetic towards me. I explained my situation, and he simply said, the system is rebooting and my order wouldn't be able to go through until 2am. I was just speechless from the heartlessness. I asked if I could go in person to handle this, and he said, the entire system boots up, so it wouldn't help. After a long silence, he says, I am sorry, in a very insincere way.
I get off the phone with many words left to say but no audience. I immediately call customer service for Walgreens and pour my heart out, but it is only until the end when the sweet phone representative asks for my number to call me, do I break down. My voice is uneven, it's cracking, and I can't articulate the numbers with the strength that I did when I told my story. She says all of the right things, and I feel so much better that a stranger could uplift me.
I take a nap, and wake up at 4am to find the system up and running. I try again, and my submission goes through. I want them to work at this during the morning. I fall back asleep. It's noon.
I check my voicemail, and it's Walgreen's. I call them back, and a new manager wants to hear my side of the story, to which, after a night of sleep sounds completely different from the emotional one I told hours ago to the phone representative. She tells me with a ring of optimism in her voice that my order is ready and if I'm planning to pick it any time soon. I'm surprised by the urgency, and say I'll be coming in an hour or so.
I get dressed and I arrive at Walgreens. I am ready to pay and submit my art piece at the Architecture building. She informs me that only a $5 discount will be taken and at this point, I don't want to argue. I just want to focus on the outcome of submitting my collage, so I oblige. She makes a joke that I should probably see what's in it and if it's to my liking.
To everyone's chagrin, the box is empty. It turns out the print order never ran. Now, if I didn't love everyone on this planet to an extent, I would've flipped out, but flipping out doesn't help anything. I give a wry grin, knowing that I can't react the way that hordes of disgruntled customers have; I've got to keep it cool.
She is on a mad frenzy to talk to someone on the phone to lead her through, and I need to go to class soon, so I let the cashier know if I should just come back later. She gets off the phone and apologizes, and asks if I can wait 10-15 minutes. I pause, and say yes. I then sit down and someone mistakes me for an employee and I try to help her for a few seconds before realizing, I'm not qualified. :)
I start to make the best out of waiting, and I'm being thoroughly entertained when she comes and finds me at one of the aisles with my box collage. I smile, and walk with her when she says, I'm so sorry, and here you go. I say, okay, are we going to pay for this? And she says, no. It's on us. I ask, are you sure? She says, yes. And smiles. I say, thank you, and give her a hug.
I leave the Walgreens with my pride, because I let the employees keep theirs today. She made a comment earlier that she knew I was the one who bought it, and to this day, I for the life of me do not know how she could 'know'. :)
Phase 2 - I bought my frame at Texas Art Supply for approximately $30 and after asking several questions. I was happy with my choice and after learning how to put the collage in, I felt a bit more accomplished at how much I learned.
Phase 3 - After calling the Architecture school, it turns out they extended the deadline. Thank goodness. I had a couple of days to sort out when I could turn it in.
I wait until the last day, and there's no proper gaps to go home during the day, so I end up having to carry my collage in the harshest rain Houston has felt in a long time. My collage gets super wet and I pray that the cosmetic damage doesn't affect my chances. There's a huge scratch from the metal of my jeans from when I walked furiously to school and held the frame with one arm.
I get to class, and after Admin lab, Sanjay is a sweetheart and carries my frame for me. It's still raining, and we get inside the architecture building, and it feels as if it's the last leg of a marathon. I get inside, and the library is quiet, and I declare that I want to turn in my submission. The lady inside is beaming and has me sign some forms. The forms I had were wet, soggy, and probably very unprofessional looking. I apologize for the dampness of these papers and my submission.
She hands me some paper towels, and me and Sanjay try to clean up the water to the best of our ability off of the actual collage paper.
It wasn't ideal, but life often isn't, so I turned it in with pride and a sense of relief at what this journey symbolized weighed heavily on me. After a few days, I got an email saying decisions were the most difficult this year due to the sheer amount of submissions, and my piece unfortunately was not accepted.
I had my acceptance with this news, and then I quickly bounced back and wrote an email to the person who coordinated this contest and thanked her for the opportunity to put my newfound art skills to the test.
I thanked her for allowing me to VIE for something that was meaningful. I had never had this kind of outlet before and there was something within me that blossomed beautifully. My inner artist that yearned to be free. Plenty of successful people began as failures. But the distinction is they kept going and going, which is what I intend to do. I love the piece, and when I picked it up in the holding room, I felt like a proud parent of this photography collage.
Years ago, I would have never attempted this kind of feat, but this whole year of growth has changed a lot of notions, and with that is the addition of the title, Artist.