On July 21 at about 5 a.m. I was ready to go, wearing a tired smile and my favorite fleece jacket, with two heaping suitcases at my feet. My plane was bound for Ann Arbor, Mich., where I would be working at a series of internships in the arts.
Although I’m a heavy packer in general, in this case, my suitcases were larger because I had no idea what to expect. My internship seemed to veer off of the beaten paths at UCLA science labs and entertainment production companies, which so many Harvard-Westlake students travel.
As someone who never saw the point of building blocks or dress-up in preschool when there was a drawing table in the corner, I have always thought I would pursue a career in the arts. That vision of my future was expected by friends and especially family, who would shower me with oil paints and sketchbooks and endless colored pencils during Christmases and birthdays. It seemed necessary that I set aside some time before junior year this summer to further consider my artistic possibilities.
During my five-week-long trip, I worked for an art gallery, a clothing designer, jeweler and printmaker/college professor. Throw in an intensive art course at the University of Michigan and I was really in the thick of it, getting to see the creation, process and production of all different kinds of artwork.
I felt blessed to be a witness to all the creativity and inspired hard work that the artists around me would grind out every day. Whether it was the vine charcoal permanently smudged into my fingers one week, or images of dozens of precious jewels sliding through my head the next, the amazing artwork around me stuck with me, and even more so did artists who had followed through with their unlikely ambitions to be rewarded in the end.
Amid all the pencils and printing ink, it was easy to forget to self-reflect. What had been sneaking up on me for weeks was the realization that I did not really want to pursue art professionally. Yes, that’s ironic and seems to defeat the purpose of my entire trip.
The truth is, this realization gave me the most valuable lesson I could take home with me. However hard it is now to make such a drastic change, I would never want to wake up years after schooling and networking to think “this is all wrong for me.”
At an age where more young hopefuls than ever are venturing out to find cheap rent and follow their artistic passions, I wish them the best of luck. The best of luck to all hyper realists and pop surrealists and all the rest of the art rats out there.
For me, however, it is a passion not a profession. Though I would never stop making art, I feel that I have had opportunities which allow me to contribute to society in ways that many cannot.
Of course I’m an indecisive teenager who might change her mind in the future, but I hope students know that it’s never wrong or too late to take a step back and reexamine one’s goals and choices; all you have to do is give yourself that opportunity.