[The current posts are written by students in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts. Partnering with U-M Geriatric Centers, Mild Memory Loss, Silver Club Programs, students have been paired with community members to create together.]
What struck me most about my community member from day one was her strength. Her poised, confident and humorous manner is something I strive for everyday, yet she does it with ease. Every time we met I would learn a little bit more about her adventurous life and was amazed by her strong independence, particularly since she grew up in a time when female independence was much less common. She is clearly proud of her life but it is a calm, complacent pride- happiness. During most of the visits, we just ended up chatting the entire time, discussing life, politics and travel. I felt guilty that we were not painting or collaging like other pairs but I felt like by sharing stories and realizing the similarities of experiences, we were creating something special all our own.
The most memorable of stories was when we were discussing my community member’s trip through Europe. While in Germany she visited a former concentration camp. I had studied abroad last year and also visited a concentration camp. Retelling both our experiences of walking through the camps was chilling and depressing but also incredible because they were so similar. We both described the weight we felt looming over us as we walked through and just the unshakable feeling of death. Despite our many differences, it was a shared understanding and experience that brought us closer.
One personal struggle that I find, as a woman today is the ability to express strength and confidence while maintaining a sense of emotional presence. It is easy to get caught up in the female dichotomy of the strong heartless or the weak emotional woman. In my community member I pleasantly found that she had hit the sweet spot, confidence and strength appeared natural to her but did not close her off to emotion. She seemed to welcome emotions yet handle them with poise. It’s an attribute that I admire immensely and I hope to one day emulate.
~Emily, Art & Design Student