Karsen Gardner

A Lovely Likeable Rebel

The front door opens. As a teenage girl is leaving, she sees me coming up the walk and yells back into the house, "Karsen the lady is here."  I am greeted at the door by Karsen and the two family dogs: Logan an English cocker; and Nelson a Boxer puppy.

She is striking. You wouldn't know she is a natural blonde with curly hair. Her hair is black and straight. Her eyes are beautiful, their color light against dark make-up. Her voice is low and soft. She has a wonderful smile and doesn't seem the least bit shy or nervous about our interview. I learn that on June 5th she will turn 18 and graduate from Bluffton High School. She seems older. More mature.

I have been told three things about Karsen: she loves tattoos; she loves photography; and her mother fondly describes her as "a bit of a rebel." I love photography. I love rebels. I really don't understand tattoos.  I am looking forward to being educated.

Once we sit down I immediately ask her about her tattoos. "I like wearing people's art," she explains to me.  Her body is a gallery. The first tattoo is a colorful "sugar skull" in profile on the top portion of her foot.  It is an image from the Hispanic "Day of the Dead" holiday. She has cherry blossoms on the right side of her upper chest and a sparrow on the left.  On her right arm she has an infinite hope symbol beneath a script tattoo which says, "Love is the movement" across her forearm. She tells me about an organization "To Write Love on Her Arms" (TWLOHA), which is an interfaith, non-profit organization that provides support for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, or suicidal thoughts. On her left arm is a tattoo replica of Jeremy McKinnon's signature. She laughs and says she is totally obsessed with him. Seeing my blank look, she helpfully reminds me he is the lead singer of A Day To Remember, a band who also champions the TWLOHA organization. I am being introduced to an interactive culture and community for which these tattoos are symbols-like the creative, artistic expressions of all cultures.

She says, "I'm terrified of needles. I cried when my dad took me to get my flu shot." She laughs at my expression and continues, "I know. Crazy. But it won't stop me from getting more tattoos."

We move on to photography. She is an award winning photographer. She placed third in the South Carolina Schools Photography Competition-open to students K-12 statewide-and sponsored by Winthrop College in Rock Hill, SC. The winning photograph is hanging on the wall.  It is a photo of the storefront window of Paris Market, located on Broughton St. in Savannah. Her AP Photography instructor advised her to focus on "storefront" photos for her senior portfolio project. Her talent and vision are obvious. She loves both digital and film photography and has mastered Photoshop and dark room techniques. "I hope to get an internship with a local photographer when I graduate. I know this is what I want to do. I take my camera everywhere."

I say, "So. I hear there's a rebel side." She grins-a little mischievously-and says, "I'm a nice person, but I can have an attitude." She didn't believe in the Bluffton High dress code-polo shirts and black or khaki pants. She wore what she felt like wearing and got detention-Friday afternoons from 2:45-6:45pm. She didn't believe in detention so she walked out. Apparently, she wore them down. She wears what she wants. She isn't in detention. And she is graduating. I suspect they recognized a creative independence. She says, "I have a sense of humor but I also tell it like it is. If people don't like it, I just ignore them." I don't sense any belligerence. She just seems to know who she is.

She's a responsible rebel. She works 20 hours a week at Piggly Wiggly and loves her job and her manager. She is excellent at Customer Service. She handles difficult people with "The Tone" which she describes as being rude back but sounding nice.

She says, "With my family and friends I'm the entertainer." She does crack me up with the story of finally cleaning her room.  After months? Years?  Karsen is so natural and delightful I leave wanting the very best for her in every way. Happy Birthday and Happy Graduation Karsen!


Up Close:

Family: She's incredibly close to her Mom Denise, her Dad Waldo, older sister Kayla and younger sister Macie, who she calls "a mini-me."
Fun: She loves to bowl with her boyfriend; she loves music and going to the Van Warp Tours
She says she can't: dance.
Desires: To do everything with photography; be smart about the future; have some time alone with no other responsibilities.