Discovering Myself in the Love for the Process

To me, there’s nothing more entrancing than art. Whether I’m talking about it, looking at it or creating it, something always draws me in. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed art, in all of its strangest forms. If I’m not discussing it with my friends, I’m having a conversation with myself; or contemplating its many aspects in my head.

In elementary school, it was quite obvious that I was the only kid that enjoyed our three hour long field trips around Mass MoCA: a contemporary art museum right in the heart of downtown North Adams, MA. Sure, my feet hurt and my stomach was longing for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I packed, but in these moments, it didn’t matter—I was feeding my soul instead.

My appreciation for art grew year after year, but unfortunately, creating it did not come easy to me. I was incredibly self-conscious about every piece I made, thinking “Someone could undoubtedly make this seem much more immense and valuable.” A passion that was once stress-relieving was now the biggest cause of my self-deprecation. At one point I stopped creating art altogether. I would stare at a blank canvas as it seemed to be mocking my artistic block. My watercolors would sit so long on my bookshelf that the top coat would collect dust. The pencils never left the box. The creativity I once had vanished.

As a result of this constant self-doubt, my freshman and sophomore years of high school continued to suck the inspiration out of me. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was going to therapy twice a week, leaving me with no time for the art I desperately and unknowingly needed. Throughout those years, the art in my bedroom virtually disappeared. The paintings I did have began to chip and peel. I went to school, dragged myself to therapy, then barricaded myself in my room. It seemed like a never-ending cycle.

Finally, during the summer leading up to my junior year, things seemed to turn around. I joined a writing group and I realized that I could use writing as an outlet for my stress. During this time, in the margins of my journal, I would create doodles as any other 16 year old would do, but for me, it was sort of a turning point. The doodles became drawings and the drawings became paintings. I realized through my art I could express how I was feeling; even the bad stuff. Art was always a time-stopping, peaceful, respite for me to unwind, but now it had a new meaning as well. It became a new source of therapy for me.

To this day, I still struggle with the self-doubt surrounding my work, but I’ve learned to accept this; what artist doesn’t once in awhile? With every new piece, I try to venture further from the sadness I was previously feeling. I may not create as many pieces as I did when I was 12, but it sure beats not even having a doodle on a page. As Thomas Merton once said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Each minute I am surrounded with art, especially a piece of my own, I  slowly discover myself as I get lost in my love for the process.