Liza Harbison: It Matters

I grew up on the arts. I drew, sang, danced ballet (as much as one can at five years old), made a miniature world out of clay, played piano, and even attended theater camp. In my tween years, however, popularity was the most important art form of all. Everything my parents liked—and I grew up on—was uncool. I had to rebel. And by that, I mean I had to shun theater and devote my life to 98 Degrees. These were the years of trying in vain to fit in by only liking what my peers liked. (Obviously if I was destined to be one of the cool mainstream kids, I would have chosen NSYNC or Backstreet Boys, but part of me still wanted to go against the grain.)

At fifteen, I started questioning my conformist ways, and the arts helped me decide who I wanted to be independently of others. It was the students who were passionate about the arts who seemed to have a knack for this self-discovery stuff. They were not caught up in the social hierarchy and had no interest in anyone telling them they should be.

Soon, I discovered photography and understood why those artsy kids felt so comfortable with themselves: art changes how you see the world. I still compose photos in my field of vision all the time. Through my lens, I can take the most beautiful parts of the world and hold onto them. I can photograph something horrible or unjust and bring attention to it. Photography also created a confidence in this newly defined sense of self. I knew that I had this passion and that was all that mattered. What else might I have an undiscovered affinity for? There was no longer time to waste on what other people were telling me to want.

I started volunteering at a local theater, became the crazy liberal girl on campus, and generally continued to develop an unusual set of interests throughout my high school years. Of course it was important that I unearthed a passion for photography and graphic design because otherwise I would still be jumping from internship to internship trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But it was what the arts did for me personally, not professionally, that mattered most.

Click here to learn more.

A Young Liza with Her Face Painted

Liza Harbison
YPT Communications and Graphic Design Assistant

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