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#NoteToSelf: A Letter To My 15-Year-Old Self (Shana Goetsch)


#NoteToSelf: A Letter To My 15-Year-Old Self (Shana Goetsch)

By Alexis Merriman

Growing up, I was a self-proclaimed artist. I would draw on everything I could get my grubby little hands on, whether it was a sketchbook, a piece of printer paper, or a napkin. I drew on everything, and I drew everything (except horses—I could never get those to look right). I always identified as an artist, but I didn’t start identifying as a feminist until I was a senior in high school. Because of this, I never knew how art could be feminist.


Shana Goetsch is dedicated to exploring this intersection between feminism and art. As the founding director of the Feminist Art Project – Baltimore, Goetsch promotes women in the arts and provides opportunities for women to get involved in the arts in Baltimore. As stated on their website, the Feminist Art Project “recognizes the aesthetic, intellectual, and political impact of all women on art, history, and culture” and seeks to inspire all genders to support women in the arts.


I was incredibly fortunate to be able to interview Shana. I learned so much about the day-to-day life of a young trauma survivor, and Shana’s strength through the toughest experiences—such as witnessing her own mother’s murder—inspires me to keep persisting past my own struggles. And though we cannot change the past, Shana shows us that we can at least make an impact on the future. Keep on reading to see Shana’s strength for yourself!

  1. Describe your 15-year old self in fifty words or less.

When I was 15, I was just starting to find myself again, the NEW me. In many ways I was starting completely over and learning both how to operate in the world and how the world operates (I had a major life trauma at 14, after witnessing the murder of my mother + more).

  1. Where were you at age 15? (Physical location)

Southeastern Wisconsin—I lived on a family farm.

  1. Where are you now? (Physical location)

Baltimore City, Maryland since 2010!

  1. Did you know who or what you wanted to be at 15?

I really didn’t. I was trying to get through the day, the week, the month. I knew I wanted to graduate from high school and go to college, but I had no idea what I wanted to study. I was so focused on the day-to-day act of living that I neglected to plan for the future. I didn’t quite have any ‘big picture’ sensibilities, because I was still actively experiencing and re-experiencing trauma. It’s a very normal response; I just didn’t know it at the time.

  1. 15-year olds tend to hate everything. What was going on in your world that you hated and wanted to change?

I did hate everything! I think I wanted to change myself more than anything else; I was very hard on myself. But I always had the desire to do better, and to try my hardest. I think what I really wanted was more time. Time to think and get myself together, because I felt really lost.


  1. At 15, we always think it’s the worst of times; were they really the worst or were they the best of times?

I’m not going to lie to you—my high school years were not the best four that I have ever had, but I might just be an odd case! I wanted to leap out of my own skin sometimes. But because I have been through the worst, nothing can really ‘touch’ me on that level again. This attitude has allowed for a sense of great freedom and self-autonomy in my adult life.

  1. What were the top 5 songs on your playlist at 15?

Woof, that is really going back, and it will be hard to choose just five!

“Desire”, U2

“Closer to Fine”, Indigo Girls

“Somebody”, Depeche Mode

“Stretched on Your Grave”, Sinead O’Connor

“Black Dog”, Led Zeppelin


  1. What literary, movie or TV character did you identify most with at 15?

I identified most with Anne of Green Gables. Anne Shirley was a real spitfire, and seemingly unafraid of anything. Before that, I had read all of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books, but I watched the mini-series constantly, all throughout high school.

  1. At 15, what was your idea of a dream job?

I wanted to be a dancer or an artist, or a writer…something creative, and something that told a story. I was interested in personal narratives and storytelling.

  1. What were you reading at 15?

The classics. I was attending a pretty rigorous college prep school, so I read all the classics. Oedipus the King, 1984, Crime and Punishment, Animal Farm, The Odyssey, Fahrenheit 451, Catch 22, Of Mice and Men, Darkness at Noon, the works of Shakespeare, and so forth. Trust me when I say they kept us reading/working, even during summer and winter breaks, so I didn’t have much time for reading anything beyond what was required, and what we were tested on when we went back to school. But If I had had the time, I would have been reading astrology books or anything about hauntings, magic, the metaphysical, science fiction, and/or the mysterious.

  1. As far as high school stereotypes go, which category did you closely fit into?

I’m not sure my school was set up like that back then; we all sort of got along with one another, as it was such a small school. I might venture to bet I was in the ‘freaks’ category, but I was also the captain of the Poms squad my senior year…so how does that make sense? This might be a case of Perception versus Reality!

  1. Who are you today and what makes you successful?

Today I am a practicing visual artist, an arts educator, and an advocate for women and children. I am happy, fulfilled, and have future goals! I work to be thoughtful and empathetic every day, and that makes me successful at all of the above. I also have tenacity — which I think is really hard to pull off consistently because you’re often considered “pushy” or “annoying” — but I find that a tenacity-kindness combo really works!

  1. What achievement of yours would your 15-year-old self be most proud of?

I think I would be amazed at my concerted efforts with trauma and domestic violence (working at domestic violence shelters, and furthering my own education on trauma/PTSD with classes to help better my work with women and children). Since they are also such personal subjects for me, I would be surprised at my desire to do the tough emotional work that my life and job(s) require. Me being who I am now, being authentic, would have made Her very proud. She alone knows how far I’ve come.


  1. Today, are you the person you thought you’d be at 15?

No way! I was so overwhelmed with everything at 15 that I don’t believe I saw an end in sight. I think I am more whole, aware and complex than She could have ever imagined or hoped for. So. Much. More.

  1. If you could say anything to your 15-year old self, what would it be?

Anything I write here is going to feel really trite…15 year old Shana was a really tough sell, in general. But I might tell her my current motto of: “You’ve gotta be in it to win it”, because it’s the stone cold truth.


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