Disclaimer: So I realize that this page is less for my viewers and more an opportunity for me to organize my own thoughts and life, but I figured that I haven’t yet had time to explain and/or reflect on my experience in art school. So here it is, a reflection about my first semester.
It would be overly dramatic and downright inauthentic to claim that the change could be pinpointed to a single moment in time. After all, I’m constantly changing my mind about everything, oscillating between dieting like crazy and devouring buckets of full fat cheese and lime popsicles, caring about my appearance and wearing my dad’s old pajamas to school, wanting to stay at home with my parents and frantically searching for cheap apartments to rent and one way tickets to the opposite side of the globe.
But there was certainly one moment that was a potent turning point in my decision to give up the years of college credits I had collected and become an aspiring artist. It was a rainy Monday, or Tuesday…or Wednesday or Thursday, I can’t really remember, to be honest. It was more than halfway through the unbearable summer session in which I was taking General Chemistry lab, the last lower division requirement for the Chemistry major. I had been putting off this class, and for good reason, I thought as sweat beads gathered on my lab goggles, blurring my vision of the bunsen burner and ring stand. Mechanically, I began to clamp my test tube onto its stand over the flame as the words of my fellow student and my TA began to waft over me.
“Yeah, I haven’t been able to find a fucking job for months. I need to find some updated postings on Indeed. I only get paid nine dollars an hour to be here.”
With I shock, I realized that it wasn’t my fellow student talking, but my TA, my incredibly smart, level-headed, master’s degree holding TA. And what followed in my brain was a single string of words. If there’s no guarantee that I will avoid being broke even with a master’s degree in Chemistry, why am I here instead of pursuing what I truly love?
That was just the beginning of a series of events which prompted me to take my escapist dreams of running off into the sunset and painting for a living and attempt to materialize…at least part of it. Without telling my parents, I researched art colleges and ended up putting together an application for a school where I had attended a summer program in high school – all less than three weeks before classes would start.
After my interview, I was feeling pretty confident that I would get in, especially when the admissions officer told me, “You have performed consistently well in college, and your portfolio is good – this is all helpful for us when we decide to award merit scholarships.” And then it became time to tell my parents, especially because, if admitted, I would be starting school in two weeks.
After many haphazard, emotional arguments were made, tears were shed, and sighs of exasperation flooded our house, I finally took my dad to visit the campus…and he loved it. He loved that the school seemed to be so full of not only art, but opportunities to work on digital platforms. “The world is becoming more and more digital,” he would tell me. “Soon enough, textbooks will be obsolete.”
“Which major are you most interested in?” The admissions officer had asked me during my interview. When I responded with “Either Toy Design or Digital Media,” she implored me to keep an open mind during the Foundation year, as I might end up loving something that I had never considered before. And to be honest, the quest to decide which major I would like to focus on still continues, now eleven weeks into the semester.
There are times when I question why I decided to come here. Why did I forsake my good student status to be a less-than-mediocre, inexperienced student here? But overall, the answer is clear: I’m staying here. I’ve come here for a reason. I’ve earned my scholarship. And the satisfaction I feel when I complete a semi decent drawing or painting is a tenfold comparison to the satisfaction of completing a lab report. I am still learning. I will get better. I will keep trying.
(Disclaimer: image does not belong to me. You can find it at http://politichicks.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Never-Give-UP.jpg)
Last Friday, in my Life Drawing class – possibly the most challenging class I’ve ever had to take – my hipster ultra-feminist teacher showed us this cartoon as a way to inspire us, as the whole class has been deflated this week and unable to function at the same level. At first, I interpreted the stork as school, or drawing, more specifically, life drawing, and myself as the frog – although my arms haven’t yet found their way around the neck of the stork. But upon deeper inspection, I realized that it is easier to blame others, the school, my drawing class, for my own shortcomings. Who am I kidding? The stork is a facet of myself, my ego, which is preventing me from opening myself up to learning new things and admitting that I am not the best I can be yet, but I can get better.
Because there are moments when I feel tears creeping their way into the corners of my eyes, and all the self inflicted wounds on my wrists and on my belly sting clear, as if they’ve never healed, and I absolutely loathe every inch of my body, from my incompetent, sloppy hand to my brain, riddled through with holes like a slab of swiss cheese. And it is in precisely those moments that I have to remind myself that inside my twenty-year-old body, there is a shattered and scared little girl, and she needs me. She needs me more than anyone else. Would I dare slash the wrists of a child, or belittle her every action? I have to remind myself that deep inside me, there is a lost and confused child that is depending on me for encouragement. And right now, there aren’t many external encouragements – accolades, accomplishments, recognition – to pacify her. So all I can do is show her the picture above and whisper those words. Never give up.