Tara’s story

This story is from a participant in our ICON project in 2019. 

What does it mean that I can do, if I’ve done this?

I’ve been coming to Crisis for about a year. In the beginning it would just be once a week or something, because I found it really hard to be in a classroom situation. I would feel trapped. Here it didn’t feel difficult, I felt welcome but not pressured. When you go into a classroom everyone says “hello” and I’ve never had that anywhere else. Every day is a new day and everyone’s greeted the same. It seems like it’s a place that’s for everyone.

It was a group project rather than them telling us what to do, which is how I thought it would be. Everyone would be there to help out when they could. It wasn’t patronising, it was everyone having their input. We couldn’t have done it all by ourselves, it’s there because we did it together. I used to hate things in groups and classrooms, it was my worst nightmare, but I realised after doing this I actually like going to group things. I had no idea! I think the reason I would turn up is because I thought they’re relying on me, then by the end of it I realised I’m kind of doing it for myself as well.

I used to find it hard to talk if it was in groups, I’d just go silent. But when we had a few sessions where we were just doing discussions, say if I felt I didn’t want to say anything for the whole first half and then I’d say something, it was like – I wasn’t made to feel weird about it. I’ve had that before, everyone’s looking at me, whispering or whatever. Here they just understand that people sometimes need to take their time. If one of us had an idea about something, everyone would listen to it, it was discussed. And it’s nice when people listen to what I say and want to know my opinions. I’ve just never had that before. I feel like I’m actually ‘seen’. Here, I actually feel like a real person. I’m not just there to do things for others or whatever, this is something that’s actually for me.

I didn’t really have much confidence, before this I’d always been in the background. I never used to want to be in photos. As a kid I always wanted to hide, because I thought ‘I’m ugly’, you know one of those people that just refuses to be in any photos? The first picture I was in, they wanted me to be Bobby Moore, so I was literally at the front. I was the main character, and I thought, yeah, why not? I think, when I look back on this, what am I going to look back on? I’m going to look back on either refusing to do the project, or I’m going to look back on ‘oh yeah, we made this cool thing’. Now I look at the bigger picture.

I didn’t feel under the spotlight in any of the photos. I thought I would have felt like all eyes were on me, but it didn’t feel like that, because you’re playing a part. We were making a picture for the project, not because we want to show one person off or whatever. I would always hide in the past and not take part in things because it could go wrong or I might be judged. But in ICON you’re not being put on the spot, because everyone’s doing it as well. I didn’t feel any pressure at all or any sense of I’m being judged, which is weird, because I always used to feel like I was being judged.

I saw the whole thing through to the end, and that was good knowing I could do that. I normally get put off, like if they said this was a five month project, before that would put me off because I’d think, I don’t know if I can do it for that amount of time. But they’d say ‘next week we’re going to have the photo shoot’ and I’d say ‘OK I’ll turn up to that one’ – and before I knew it, I’d already done the whole second half that I was planning to do. So now I know I can do these things, just to turn up and do it rather than thinking about it. So it’s helped my confidence.

I used to talk myself out of things. I wouldn’t try things because I’d be like ‘oh but I know it’s going to go wrong, I know this is going to happen’. I’m not saying that I feel like a totally different person, but it’s progress. Everything might not be better in a day, it’s going to take a while. But nothing bad has happened, even though I was worrying about it, and that’s proved to me I can just keep going. Because you just don’t know what’s around the corner.

I used to think I didn’t really have expressions, but then in these photographs we had to do a different expression in every picture. Someone said to me, ‘oh you manage to be so different in every picture’ – like, when Rory [Lead Artist] asked us to do an expression, he had to ask some people to do it differently, but I found I could just do the expression. When I saw the photos I thought, ‘I didn’t know I looked like that’.

When you’re stuck in the same rut you don’t really have a wide range of feelings or expressions and stuff, you’re just like…everything’s all one way. But then coming here, you just see more of yourself. You see different sides to yourself. Just being able to be calm and happy, and just getting on with people. I used to think people were going to bully me wherever I go, but that has just not happened at all, it’s such a different experience now.

I used to like creative things at home. But when you’re at home you just go off the task. Coming here it’s so much easier, because you’re coming here for that purpose. Everyone else is creating something too, and you just feel understood and encouraged. Because there’s exhibitions here and there just seems to be art around, you feel more inspired as well, and you just think like – other people are creating things, and when I see that it makes me want to create more things as well. It’s like a never-ending thing, what you can make.

I have more belief in myself, that’s the main thing. It was just a positive experience, the whole thing was positive, I don’t think there was anything bad about it. I don’t have any regrets at all. I thought I was that person who was too scared and anxious and had nothing to say. I feel like the only reason I thought I was that person is because other people have told me that. Now, I’m really curious – what does this mean I can do, if I’ve done this? I’m sure there’s more sides to me that I didn’t even know about. I need to explore that because I haven’t been happy before. I need to see what else is out there.