Zoe Kirchoffer-Talbott’s journey to freshman year has been one of comparisons, creativity

On the gray and cloudy day of December 29th, 2005, Zoe Kirchoffer-Talbott brought some sunshine into the world. She was born the daughter of Matthew and Melissa, and sister to 18-year-old Ben. Fifteen years later Zoe arrived at Madison High School as a freshman. Her journey to this point has been one of change, stress, comparisons to others and art.

Zoe’s childhood was described as relatively normal, except for one incident where her brother accidentally dislocated her shoulder. She was around three and was jumping on the bed when she fell over. Ben grabbed her arm to stop her from falling off, and the force dislocated her shoulder.

Her brother Ben remembered immediately.

“I felt awful,” he said. “She must have been two or three, so I would have been maybe six. […] It’s not everyday you dislocate a 2-year-old’s arm.”

In her early years, Zoe was described as stubborn but passionate; hot headed but very determined. Recalling a story her dad told her, Zoe was a toddler just learning to walk. She got up and walked to her brother’s room, wobbly on her feet as most toddlers are. Apparently she hated how she walked so much that she didn’t walk again for another couple of months; Zoe wanted to get it perfect.

One of the first major events in Zoe’s life came before she even reached double digits. During second grade at Rigler Elementary School, she moved to The Ivy School, which practices Montessori style. Her parents thought that Rigler wasn’t challenging her enough, and so moved her. Consequently, Zoe was separated from the friends she had made at Rigler, and moved to a school where she didn’t know anyone. Even when she went to Beaumont Middle School, where many Rigler kids went, she’d been separated from them for so long that it was hard to rebuild those friendships.

“The reason why those transitions earlier in my life were such a big thing is because I… I enjoy change, but I want to be able to choose it on my own terms. And so changing without having a say is kind of stressful for me, because, you know, new things can be a lot to take in,” Zoe said.

Change for Zoe wasn’t done, of course. After Beaumont came Madison, and a new high school experience. Making friends at a new school is hard enough, but the current online environment has made it exponentially harder. It was, in fact, Zoe’s biggest worry about coming to high school.

“Going to high school, having barely any friends, […] it’s just kind of stressful,” Zoe said. “And then also being on online school, it’s just kind of a lot different from what I was expecting and I feel like I can’t even make new friends, which was one thing I was stressed out about.”

Despite the limitations, Zoe has formed some relationships over the online environment. Even though she says there hasn’t been a great chance to make friends, there are definitely people she feels more comfortable with, like when in a breakout room or doing an assignment.

Although school may be challenging,  Zoe has always gravitated towards something she loves: art. Acrylic on canvas, watercolor and drawing are her standard modes of expression, and it’s clear that art is important to her.

“Since I was little I really enjoyed doing art, and I kind of stopped when I got to middle school,” Zoe said. “And then over quarantine I revisited my creative side, which I really enjoyed doing.”

Zoe visits her creative side in other ways as well. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana fame is a role model for her, and it’s clear she enjoys music. She even started to learn guitar in April.

“She’s always been drawn to drawing, painting, any arts-and-crafty sort of thing,” Ben said.

Unfortunately, not everything that has been a part of Zoe for a long time is positive.

“ I compare myself a lot to other people,” Zoe said. “When I’m doing work I want to try my best and I kind of push myself sometimes because if it’s not perfect then I feel like I’m doing it wrong.” 

She added on later, mentioning how this particular trait has been with her a long time.

“I’ve always been the kind of person to compare myself to others,” Zoe said.

Although trying to do your best is always a noble goal, Zoe talked about how it can get in her way. Trying to get something just right can lead her to procrastinate because she gets stressed out about doing it at all. 

These mental attitudes extend to her artistic side as well. 

“I don’t do realist art, […] but then when I see people [who draw realism] I’m like, woah, they can draw a person that looks exactly like a person. I just feel that they’re so much more talented, and I find myself comparing myself to them,” Zoe said. “I’ve been trying to draw more realism lately, and I get frustrated because I can’t make it exactly like the person in the picture. I get frustrated easily because I can’t do it right.”

Ben concurs with Zoe’s perfectionism.

“She can be pretty anal about certain things,” Ben said. “When she’s got something in her head that she wants, or a way that something should happen, she gets on that pretty hard.”

To those who don’t know her, Zoe Kirchoffer-Talbott could just be an average person, a face lost in the crowd. Those who do know her understand she’s a creative, perfectionist, slightly stubborn, interesting person, who you’ll be glad you got the chance to meet.