There is a darkness out there, it feels like a weight on your chest, a cloud above your head, it erases all logic and sensibility. All that exists is sadness in this darkness. Towards the end of my high-school career I experienced this. I was walking through a pool of jelly- it didn’t feel like I was moving and I was pretty much blind to everything around me.
I was working very hard on my college portfolios and would lock myself up in the mostly abandoned art studio for hours at a time, missing class. I would play music and paint on giant pieces of paper which I would hang from the wall. I loved working on such a large scale, at least compared to the notebooks I was used to sketching in, the store-bought canvases I usually painted on. I got lost in small details and large brushstrokes alike. It was the only time my brain would be empty, this studio flooded with light was a sanctuary from the darkness of the real world.
In my high school, we were required to do a senior project during our last two months. We had no classes, so there was a lot of flexibility in what a person could do- the goal was to explore an interest or mark something off of your bucket list. My senior project was to write and start illustrating a graphic novel, a dream of mine. In an odd turn of events, I ended up teaching some art classes as one of the teachers left the country for a family emergency as a part of my project requirements. I wanted to show my classes the creative process, so it was prime time for me to create a giant installation project and let them in on the production.
That being said, I was a seventeen year old who had taken only one professional art class in my life, a figure drawing class. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no money, no experience, no artistic mentorship. Like every good millennial, I tried the internet for answers and advice. I looked up “installation art”.
That’s when I was introduced to Rubber Duck. I laughed so much I cried, built up emotions started pouring out of me. I dug around the internet for more information about this ridiculous, giant duck. I found out there were multiple of them, also one in Canada, that they explored the world. There was something indescribable about this behemoth of a toy floating in ports with boats and the skyline in the distance that broke that darkness around me and inside of me. How could something so relatively insignificant, absurd really, make me feel happy when nothing else could? The simplicity of it stunned me.
Rubber ducks have a mixed reputation. They are horrible for the environment, really a total waste of materials and not recyclable . Rubber ducks are an iconic toy, but have also sent people on year-long quests in vain to remove them for our oceans. They are also a staple of any family with young children, a bath time favorite. To me, they will always be a symbol of hope, simple happiness, and my own personal strength.
I can’t say that I am one hundred percent better since meeting the Rubber Duck. I struggle with these feelings every day on some level, I also started collecting rubber ducks. I knew I was never going to have one that was over three stories tall, but I carry one with me wherever I go. Sometimes, the most comforting things are not meaningful or fraught with metaphor- they just make you happy. A silly happy that feels so pure and right. I am very lucky to have something so mundane in my life that will make me smile without fail. I am grateful for my friends who share all rubber duck related content with me. Slowly but surely the rubber duck has become my mascot and personal brand. Maybe it’s weird to have the image of a children’s toy be how people see you but to me, it means so much more.
It’s the feeling I try give other people, every day.