Not much compares to capturing nature’s beauty with the backdrop of a sunset, having individual rays of sunlight peek through the clouds to further illuminate the setting’s overall ambiance.  I’m Catherine Napolitano, an 18-year-old from Lincoln, Nebraska, and photography is my escape.  Nebraska, albeit not the most awe-inspiring state, is a state with endless natural beauty.  Regardless of your location and permitting appropriate weather, you can always find the horizon.  Whenever I need to clear my mind or process my day through a creative outlet, I look to my camera.  One night at the beginning of summer I was laying around when I looked outside and noticed the dawning of a beautiful dusk.  With my camera and two lenses, I drove around the outskirts of the city for two hours, pulling my car off on the side of the road every so often to capture various picturesque moments.  I had nestled my car in an inlet on the side of a pleasantly vacant road to capture the picture you see above when I stopped to think.  Much of my self-reflection comes from behind a lens and as I sat there I realized just how important my personal getaway is to my emotional health.

If I’m ever feeling stressed out, taking photos of the surrounding landscape transforms my distressed condition to one of contentedness and balance.  Hoarding negative emotions within the recesses of your mind is detrimental and venting that stress, whether it be through talking with someone, journaling, photographing nature, or simply transporting yourself to a self-reflective state of mind, is crucial to the development of your emotional intelligence.  I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that having negative thoughts is a normal part of life, but training yourself to understand those thoughts and find positivity in them should be within the spectrum of normality as well.  That night in my car with my camera on my lap, I thought about how different everything will be after this summer and I admitted to myself that I’m nervous about what lies ahead.  This fall I start at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and it occurred to me that I’ll have to alter my current method of escape when I move out east, a task that might prove to be difficult.  However, looking out at the horizon I slowly turned those thoughts of hesitation into ones of giddy anticipation.  I told myself that color, the sun, trees, and the basic concept of nature are all relatively universal; being in Providence will only bring diversity to my camera and my mind.  The setting where I find tranquility and reflect will change when I move out east but my memories of Nebraska will travel with me in the form of my tangible and digital photos of sunsets, cornfields, meaningful buildings, roads, and other views of home.  

Through working as an inspirED Youth Fellow, I’ve learned not only how to appreciate my emotions, but how to understand them as well, and I genuinely believe that having a comfortable place or manner to do so is an all-important part of the process.  Capturing the beauty of the world from behind the lens of a camera is my mental liberation, what’s yours?

Bio: Catherine Napolitano is an 18 ­year­ old from Lincoln, Nebraska and an alum of Lincoln East High School. There, she was involved in National Honor Society, yearbook, Key Club, Student Advisory Group, HOSA, soccer, and volleyball. She was also member of the 2016 All Eastern Academic Team and a 2015 summer intern in the Radiation Therapy Center of CHI St. Elizabeth hospital. Catherine will attend Brown University, majoring in cognitive neuroscience as a student in Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education. As an inspirED Youth Fellow, Catherine is extremely passionate about emotional intelligence, empathy, and SEL. Some of her other interests include photography, skiing, writing, and public health.