Why I'm An Artist
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” - Mark Twain
Sharing my story is my “why” and I think it’s no mistake that “a-story” is my last name.
Ever since I can remember I’ve felt compelled to be a storyteller. Sure being asked by joke-sters to "tell me a-story, Leah" when they learned my last name may have been one of the reasons, but more than that I've just always felt like the circumstances of my young life led me to be. I'll get more into the specifics below, but the upside of the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical* trauma I experienced growing up is I came out on the other side with tons of knowledge, feelings, and experiences that influence the art I create. Unfortunately, though, my creativity stems from very dark places, ones people usually don't want to talk about.
In fact, I thought that the first time I'd open up about this topic would be when I create my first film or write my first book, but since those are still in the works I figured now is as good a time as any.
A big part of why I think I'm more comfortable to talk about this now is that as I've gotten older keeping this part of myself tucked away has made me feel disingenuous, since I feel like it's a huge part of why I'm an artist. I'd always been a creative child with an interest in fantasy and art, but I truly found my calling for it in middle school during what was one of the hardest times for me mentally and emotionally.
Around the age of 14 I was in a particularly dark place. My family was torn apart by my father's addiction to alcohol. I felt depressed, alienated, misunderstood, and suicidal. It just so happens that it was around this time when I truly discovered my talent and passion for art and writing.
In fact, making art saved my life.
When I was creating I finally had an outlet to express how my situation at home made me feel.
But I mostly kept my writings to myself, showing them to only people closest to me or keeping the topics in my writing vague. I still do that and I don't want to anymore. I just never wanted people to feel scared for me. I've wanted to open up about my story for so long, but over the years not only my personal pride, but the fear of my family's potential shame, held me back.
When you live with an alcoholic you constantly live in a state of fear and secrecy.
Even now that we are on the other side of it I am still incredibly nervous to talk about this thinking that it might hurt the feelings of family members involved or change the way people look at me, but I can't live in the shadows anymore. I want to share everything about me and one of the biggest aspects of why I am who I am is because of the up-bringing I experienced, so...here goes.
Daughter of an alcoholic
There are some things about who I am that I can’t change...and the most formative of those being that I grew up in a home with an alcoholic. From the time I was 8 years-old it was a constant part of my reality and it left it's horrible, permanent impact on my psyche.
I’ve always wanted to talk openly about it. For a long time I felt embarrassed to share details of this part of my life with people, but the more I've talked about it with people that I've met throughout my journey, the more I know just how many others have dealt with the same issues. That's why I find it so important to be open about it now, not just because it's cathartic for me, but I want to let anyone who is experiencing or has experienced what I've gone through that they’re not alone in how it makes them feel. I spent so much of my childhood up into my early 20s scared, alienated, and self-conscious about this topic.
I still often feel misunderstood and depressed.
But growing up in that sort of environment has a lasting effect on people and so it will always be a part of me.
It shapes me, my perspective, and my art. Sometimes I have a very hard time seeing the good in the negative things I’ve experienced...I wonder why I couldn’t have been born into a family with no substance abuse problems or mental health issues, but I just wasn’t and I wouldn’t be who I was today if I didn’t have that.
Without it I guess I wouldn’t be Leah Astore and even before I was old enough to understand what was going on around me I thought deep down that my life was going to mean something...so we’ll see what that “something” becomes, but I think I owe it to myself to at least make it a good story...it is my birthright after all.
*I never experienced sexual trauma, I just want to clarify. I didn't experience any sexual abuse from any family member or anyone else growing up, but sometimes I experienced physical abuse from family members: hitting, pushing...that has since stopped. I am not currently in any physical danger or any other kind of danger. Also, I'm 27 years-old and no longer a minor, like when these incidents occurred. My father is currently sober after a long battle with alcohol. I know it's not easy for him and while it's not easy for me to be okay with how I had to grow up I am proud of him for getting through it. He is a good person, both my parents are...they just have their flaws, we all do, I guess. All I can do is tell my honest story from my perspective. I hope people understand that.