Recently someone proposed a question on my high school alumni's page.
What was a memorable moment from your time in boarding school?
My senior year was full of Physiology, Biology, multi-variable Calculus, physics, Latin... And two painting classes. Both painting classes were one night a week for three hours in an old operating room. Both painting classes got me through my senior year.
Art had always been a part of my life, but never had it been vital. That year was particularly stressful as I was, for the first time, a 'C' student. Granted my calculus teacher did suggest I not try multi. By the end of the semester after several hours of in-office tutoring, study sessions, and perhaps more than one long cry in the bathroom, I ended up just fine.
Between these moments of stress though, were these precious breaks. Art classes were considered an elective, meaning I was by no means required to take them. Not only that but if I deemed them 'too much' or not what I wanted, I was allowed to drop out midway through. It started with a multimedia class, continued with a photography class and acrylic painting, and ended with oil painting.
Most of the other students saw this as extra work. A three-hour chunk of time taken from their valuable study time. With 5 college-level courses, what teenager would volunteer for that sacrifice?
But with 5 college-level courses, what teenager would understand the need for that three-hour break?
Our time had been steeped in theory and calculations. Chemistry lab reports, Physics problems, Calculus proofs. What I needed was a time to let that all go. A space where I was never wrong and the pressure for grades, college acceptance letters, and social status could ease off my shoulders. That space became my safe haven to feel comfort and serene.
When spring came around and my months living there were winding down, we would open the side door. It was still dark, sometimes raining, and we were allowed to truly appreciate where we were. Soon the finals would drive us to all-nighters and energy drinks. But even those don't last long and high school would be over. In that moment though, we were there. Quietly painting to the sound of water falling down and following the brush wherever it took us.
Every time I return, I make a point to stop by the studio. Even if the doors are locked, just seeing the sign lets my shoulders drop, releasing the pressure. I went for the science and math but discovered a part of me that was larger than had I imagined.
Now, I'm leaning more evenly between the two parts. Learning to code websites, while still working for a science-based company fills my theory and fact side. While writing, blogging, and photography fills my art side. But I recently realized, it wasn't in the way I needed.
As has been my inspiration for a lot of things lately, a podcast brought this to light. The artist was only doing art for money and never just for herself. While I've yet to be paid for any of my work (especially the book that is 20% finished, with 10% planned for a rewrite) I have thought of this as my second job. So I didn't have that creative outlet either. That time to just do whatever with no consequences.
I don't have three hours a week to give up in one chunk, but what I do have is fifteen minutes. Each night for eight days now I've been writing a few sentences on something I've noticed that day, an interaction between people, the environment, or even just my emotions. And just in this week's time, I've noticed I pay attention to the world more and come that time at night, that 15 minutes at the same desk in front of the window, I find my shoulders drop and things just flow.