My interview with Mariya Jahan (‘21) started with her excitedly showing me her intricate galaxy door she painted over quarantine, crescendoed with laughter as we talked about her hopes and dreams while she simultaneously received an acceptance letter from James Madison University, and ended reluctantly as she swore she needed to get her AP Calculus homework done (though she quickly circled back to discuss star signs and Hogwarts’ houses).
Enthusiastic, electric, and creative as they come, Mariya is a firm believer in using creativity and logistics in tandem. “Last year for an AP Lang essay, I wrote about how humans need innovation and creativity and need to use both sides [of their brain],” she said. “I think being creative and logical is really helpful… it lets you get around more [obstacles and lets you think in new ways].”
I can vividly remember Ms. Devarenne’s Honors English 10 class when Mariya entered the room with a spectacular Bob Ross-esqe painting for a poetry project. Our jaws dropped: prior to that, we were all unaware that painting was one more talent that Mariya possessed. Apparently, she was just as taken aback by her own success as we were. “I didn’t know I could paint until Ms. Devarenne’s class!” she laughed. “I watched a Bob Ross painting video [for inspiration for my painting], and [recreating] it took me such a long time, because I wanted to make it super intricate and pretty. But then, [I looked at the] final outcome and thought, hold up, this is really fun!” This opened up a new door of creativity for Mariya, who began to avidly practice her art while also using it as an outlet. “Whenever I want to run away and get away from [stresses], when I can finish a painting in one day it can make me feel accomplished… When it looks good and has a good outcome I feel satisfied with myself,” she said smiling. “Art is where I can excel.”
Another art form that Mariya excels in is makeup. She’s constantly creating new looks and adorning her eyes with the same intricate approach she takes with painting. Like painting, makeup allows her to find inner peace and helps her on her confidence journey. “In eighth grade I went through a makeup phase, but that was more a ‘dress to impress’ type of dealio… Now, I’m just doing it for myself… I started experimenting with the makeup looks, and had fun with it… I realized I didn’t have to satisfy anyone anymore, and I started living for myself.”
Though quarantine was a rough experience, it doubled as a true eye-opener for Mariya—when asked about her dreams and aspirations, her eyes lit up. In ten years, she sees herself thriving in the bustling New York City, surrounded by vivid cultures, and following her dream job to help Rohingya refugees. “I don’t know if starting an organization is a far reach, but I definitely want to be a big part in helping them, especially because my parents are interpreters for them,” she said passionately. When asked where she sees her art intermingling into her future, she smiled, describing how she’s always wanted to “paint the [refugees’] village” in order to make them feel “seen” and empathized with. “The funny thing is,” she added, “I used to want to be a doctor a year ago… it [took] a pandemic for me to realize what I want to be!”
Additionally, through quarantine, Mariya has used her art to escape the confines of now while lifting her eyes to the future. She excitedly showed me a beautiful painting over our facetime call, featuring the silhouette of a girl sitting on the banks of an ocean illuminated by a striking sunset. “[With this painting] I wanted to get away from my logical side and create my own painting that related to me beyond my usual waterfalls…” She indicated to the murky water, closest to the girl, which then transitioned into a colorful gradient on the horizon. “[Sometimes it feels like] I’m going through this muddy, ugly gross time,” she explained, then pointing to the brighter colors on the horizon. “I just keep thinking about the future… [and how] the lighter prettier waters are just a little farther away.”
When asked what advice she’d offer up to underclassmen, she scoffed at how “cheesy” she thought her answer may appear. “This is classic… but I wish I branched out to people earlier. Like Kyle McKee (‘21)… Why didn’t I become closer with this boy earlier? Or like Ella Bowen (‘21). Why didn’t I reach out to her before junior year?” She pointed back at the painting. “[These are the people who] brought out the prettier colors in me, and made me want to seek them out as I go forwards in life.”
Additionally, she encourages us all to keep exercising our artistic sides, to always take time for yourself to recharge, and to remember to “chill… and do your own thing.”
Photos and featured image courtesy of Mariya Jahan.