Her name was as interesting as her appearance. Paprika. Her hair showed evidence of a buzz cut being grown out. She had recently been told to “get rid of old habits” by a therapist that was recommended to her by a friend. Underneath her bright, highlighter yellow hair, her brain produced an image in response to the word “habit.” She envisioned a path in a forest. These kinds of visualizations in response to words were not at all unusual for Paprika. In fact, they were habits themselves. However, these particular habits were not ones she had to get rid of. There were other much more important habits that needed to be paved over. But, maybe they do not need paving, Paprika thought to herself while walking down the cobblestone path back to her home. Yes, certain habits need to be stopped, but not killed. What if a habit is paved over and dies, but is still needed? The world is a spontaneous and obscure place that sometimes calls for surprising solutions.  

Paprika continued walking through the network of streets leading to her small tropical home in Old San Juan. Paprika grew up in Queens, New York; however, she felt more suited in a colorful and tropical place. Her love of punk rock, photography, and poetry was evident the moment you saw her. What was not so evident about her was the way she internalized every situation, or the way she over thought every aspect of her life. In Paprika’s beautifully abstract mind, she could visualize her thinking process. Most people she figured would sail through life normally, a few jolts here and there, overcoming the common obstacles that were necessary and expected of everyday life. Paprika’s mind worked a little differently. She lived below the earth and below the sea. She thought life to its core, until it was raw and naked. She could see the unseeable just by thinking at her normal capacity.

Paprika returned to her sweet, tropical home and climbed up to her room. She made some vanilla chai tea, grabbed her computer, plugged in her hard drive, and put on her playlist, which consisted of Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, and the New York Dolls. She opened up Photoshop and began editing images she took during a shoot she was extremely proud of. She felt at peace for the first time all week. It was Saturday.

A bright light and a ringing sound caught her attention. On her phone screen she read, i guess i’ll just find someone else to help me with my video tomorrow thank you.

The passive-aggressive tone angered Paprika. She had told her dear friend she would help her with her assignment if she found the time. She had not found the time. Staying true to her habit of always saying “yes” and always taking care of others before herself, Paprika turned off her playlist, put down her laptop, walked down the hall, to her friend’s semi-open door, and sacrificed three hours of healing time to help a friend.

She had a vivid dream that night, a dream that changed her way of thinking and her actions. This dream was so vivid it was easily confused with reality.

That night, Paprika hitched a ride in the back of a sky blue pickup truck into the forest. In her dream, the forest was extremely familiar. She knew in reality she had never gone to such a forest. However, in her dream she knew exactly where she was. There was a distinct path, pressed deep into the ground from her feet walking over it time and time again. For some reason, she just knew it was her feet that created the path in the ground.

She hopped out of the back of the truck with determination. She had come to this forest with a purpose, a task that she needed to fulfill. Over her shoulders she carried a canvas backpack. In the side pocket of her backpack was a machete with a slip over it for safety. Paprika stood at the mouth of the path that was so often taken. She looked at it, ahead of it, and around it.

“I must let go of the habits I’ve become so attached to. I cannot keep taking the path I always take. This path I stand on represents the habit of putting others so far ahead of myself I end up suffering. I need to create a new path, and I need to create it now.”

Paprika reached for her machete and took the sleeve off. She gathered her wits and stepped away from her path of usual habits. At first she began to walk towards an area forty-five degrees to the right of the normal path. Then she realized she needed something more extreme. What Paprika needed to do was to create a path heading in a totally new direction, to symbolize her new habits. She created a new path at a ninety-degree angle to the old one, and began slashing away at the earth. The trees, the roots, the grass, the weeds, all were cut out of her way, giving birth to a whole new path, whole new habits, and to a whole new way of life.

When she woke, she felt a mild sense of confusion and an abundance of determination to take the road less traveled.

Lily Holcombe is a sophomore majoring in Photography and Video at SVA. She takes great inspiration from Patti Smith, who can sing, play a guitar and clarinet, draw, and write beautifully.