Aili Zissu is a 2023 Roost Boost Award Winner My younger sister’s cancer diagnosis in 2021 brought an enormous, terrible disruption of the lives of my entire family. It brought endless trauma and sadness and pain and suffering, and for me, it brought a complete loss of identity. My coming of age experience was already truncated by the pandemic, and on top of it cancer is a horribly lonely, alienating thing to happen to a family, so I disappeared. I became an empty shell because it was the only way to make it through. I had no personality, no significant thoughts or opinions.
When I finally returned to school, I worked hard to find myself again, but I felt completely lost, until one day in my beloved art class, we began our acrylic paint unit. I had always loved to draw, but until that day I was an average art student. As the unit progressed, I slowly realized I had a bit of a knack for painting, and I fell in love with it.
Now, painting allows me to express everything I’ve been suppressing. I’ve found true confidence in myself. I feel as if I’m finally becoming a person, and I’m really excited about it. I started painting less than a year ago, but I already feel I’ve discovered a place to belong. Art is the way I see the world and myself in it, and the way I am able to express my thoughts and my feelings. Art is everything to me, it is everything that I am.