To My 15 Year Old Self on My 22nd Birthday

I've never been a big birthday person - I never liked the big parties, extravagant and themed, with everyone focusing on me and asking what I want to do differently this year. I've always gravitated towards choosing instead to spend my time with a few loved ones at my house, playing games, eating my mom's home cooked meal that she made especially for me (usually vegan tamales cooked over a fire in the yard). When I was younger and used to imagine myself as a 22 year old, I never thought I'd be a recent college grad of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, didn't think I'd be a vegan, couldn't have known I'd be dating a cute boy from the north suburbs of Chicago who liked listening to everything I was excited to tell him about. 

I took this self portrait when I was home over the winter, on a day in December that was unusually warm and windy, at the top of the only hill in my small hometown. I used to ride my bike here when I was a teenager and feeling small and insignificant, because if you climb to the top you can see almost all of my northwest Indiana town, all the way to the Sears tower (which is what it's called by the way, and all you Willis tower people can try and fight me on that). But being able to see everything like that would usually put my troubles into perspective; I'm so small in the grand scheme of things, but I do have a massive impact in my immediate surroundings and the people who choose to spend their time with me. 

If I was able to go back and talk to my angsty and lost 15 year old self, I'd be happy to tell her that I made it to my dream life, in my dream home surround by my loved ones, surprising myself every day with what I'm able to accomplish. I get to work and spend my days with incredible women who inspire me endlessly, create work that I'm proud of, and build my catalog of memories that I'll cherish for the rest of my life.

So, since I'm raising a glass of chilled moscato over here, cheers to being 22, being filled with more desire to give back than ever and with the world at my fingertips.

Katharine Hannah

Chicago, IL

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.