Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Letter to myself at age 12

"Letter to myself at age 12," copyright with the artisit.


When I shared a work of my art at an exhibition, I was surprised how deeply people connected with it. This helped me have even more empathy and understanding for others. We all sometimes struggle with being human.

I’m a community-based visual artist in Baltimore, Maryland, where I’m also a patient of Dr. Mike Fingerhood at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Fingerhood invited me to share a piece of art for CLOSLER’s “Creative arts in medicine” column. Most of my work focuses on honoring and celebrating everyday people by lifting up their stories.


This is one of seven diptychs that form a series I created in 2013 entitled “Love After Love.” The series was inspired by the beautiful Derek Walcott poem of the same name. Each pairing includes a photo of myself at a certain age with a letter that I wrote to myself when I was 30 and reckoning with that life milestone.


This photo comes from my sixth grade yearbook. I remember desperately wishing that no one would ever see it. The misery in my expression is so plain. In my letter to 12-year-old me, I asked if I would believe that things will get better. I’m not sure I would have. Thankfully they did.


“Love After Love” was first shown in 2015 in an exhibition at Area 405, curated by friend and colleague Peter Bruun as part of his  New Day Campaign, an initiative that produced art-based public events and exhibitions to challenge stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and substance use to make the world a more healing place. Imagine my fear and reluctance to share this image publicly, greatly enlarged and hanging on a gallery wall.


At the opening reception, I watched strangers spend a lot of time with the series, looking at all of the panels very closely. A few were moved to tears. I was surprised to receive the feedback that people relate to this work so viscerally because they recognize themselves. It turns out everyone older than 12 was also once 12. This realization inspired me to have even more empathy and understanding for others. We all sometimes struggle with being human.


Note: “Love After Love” was acquired by the NoVo Foundation in 2019.









This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.