Positive Voices is a regular blog feature showcasing emerging, young artists who embody the Above the Influence message of staying true to one’s self while inspiring other young people in healthy, positive ways.

Our newest collection of ads were made in collaboration with Vine creator Maris Jones. Having only recently graduated college, Maris is already making a name for herself and earning a following with her unique style. As we learned while getting to know her, Maris totally got the Above the Influence message during her own teen years, and it’s clearly a message she took to heart!

What’s the number one thing you know now that you wish you had known in high school?

I wish I had known that it was all going to get better.  I have started to realize what you feel and do in High school has little importance when you’re older. The only thing that sticks with you are the friendships. Whatever pressures you feel socially fade away with time. I look back and laugh at some of the things I thought were a HUGE deal. It’s great to realize that it is totally acceptable to be yourself when you reach adulthood. 

What was high school like for you? Did you love it? Hate it? Was there pressure to fit in or be a certain way? 

High school was high school. I think anyone looking back would say it was definitely an emotional time just because of the age you are. I found that by staying true to myself and holding my own, peer pressure effected me very little. If you feel strongly in your beliefs and ideals, no one can tell you otherwise. I think it is important for kids to know that everyone is different and being unique is special. It’s crazy how teens try to all fit into the same mold. I think I avoided a lot of pressure by just being truthful and genuine with how I felt. People have a hard time stepping on you if you’re strong (or pretend to be).

Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for teens having a tough time figuring out who they are, or want to be?

All I can say is that it is a tough age and a lot of changes are happening. You don’t have to know exactly who you are as a teenager, but I would encourage teens to exercise various things they might be interested in. I think it is most important to just try to enjoy yourself, and who you are or what you want to be will fall into place with time. I don’t think I knew anyone who knew what they wanted in High school. The great thing about growing up is you get to see everyone you know finally fall into place. It’s just the journey of growing up! Of course learning is key, so pay attention in school!!  

Did you feel pressure to achieve a certain level success so quickly? How did – or do you – manage it?

Definitely with our time there is a high level of pressure to succeed. It is almost impossible to avoid it. Our culture is so fast paced that it’s hard to keep up which creates a lot of stress. I think being determined and hardworking is important, but I also know that we have more time than we think we do. Adolescent Content, the production agency I work with (which enabled me to create the wonderful new ATI spots), creates a great atmosphere and steps in as my mentors to create a positive experience given the pressures I face. It’s great to have a strong and helpful support system as a young person. There are so many societal pressures to become something quickly, but you need to just try and go at a pace that works for you. It’s important to tell yourself that it is not a race! I have found that surrounding yourself with peers who are going through the same thing keep you sane as well. We are all in the same boat and it takes some of the pressure off. 

Do you feel like you have to maintain a certain version of yourself on Vine or other social media? What is something about the IRL version of Maris that would surprise people?

I definitely have a certain version of myself that I try to maintain for vine. I have gone in a route where I speak very little and cover a lot of nostalgic topics with visuals. I think what would surprise many people is that I talk a lot and I am very goofy. I have portrayed a version of me that is composed and quiet. Art is so important because it let’s you express various feelings you have within you and it doesn’t have to stay static. I know my vine persona will change over time. Just enjoy what you do and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!