When I was little, I would make music out of the sonnets I scribbled in the margins of my geometry homework. I painted lyrics across the cloudy skies outside my bedroom window and drew light from the most mundane of surroundings. I made music with the only chords I knew on guitar: the sunniness of D-flat major, the quiet melancholy of A-minor, the crisp brilliance of an open E-string—like a medley of birds chirping to the awakening of a Thursday April morning. I would play until the skin wrapped around my tired fingertips would crack open, callused from the burden of childhood creativity.
When I had no one, I was friends with Beverly Marsh. When trapped inside during the howls of a distant thunderstorm, I journeyed through the daffodil-licked fields of Green Gables with Anne Shirley. Kate Wetherall taught me intelligence goes beyond a letter grade on an exam. My entire life has been an ever-changing myriad of new and evolving obstacles. But one thing I’ve always been able to depend on is my deep and indelible love for literature and the arts.
I used to dream in haikus on tear-stained pages, writing my pain into poetry and turning the poems into songs. I organized these songs into albums to symbolize different chapters of my life. But part of growing up has been accepting that life isn’t like the concepts you learn in music class, where the most complex of harmonies or structural motifs can be broken down into simple chord progressions or universal themes that make enough sense to deconstruct the complexities of real life. That being said, regardless of our society’s shift towards careers in the scientific field, nothing will ever invalidate for me the significance of the arts and humanities in our society.
Entering high school, I was immediately discouraged from pursuing writing. At the hypercompetitive pre-engineering academy I attend, subjects in the STEM field are valued far above the liberal arts by most students. English, history, and other humanities-related courses are all somewhat underemphasized and I still feel a constant longing to learn more than what is introduced in English class.
At a place where seemingly everyone else wanted to pursue computer science, medicine, or engineering, I felt out of place, and began underestimating the value in loving the humanities. Throughout freshman year, I was also constantly told writing and the arts were a waste of time, and that I needed to focus my time on more “academic” disciplines. This led me to feeling unproductive whenever I pursued interests that deviated from the pursuits of my peers, even when it came to simple tasks like reading a book or writing poetry instead of studying thermodynamics or optics. I felt the core of my identity ripped out of me every time I heard complaints from my classmates about having to study the works of Mary Oliver and Billy Collins.
Sometimes I wonder if any of us ever hesitate to think of where society would be without a trace of art or writing. Think of all the ways in which literature and media have helped individuals connect during times of crisis, especially in the past years. Think of what our society would look like without music on the radio, movies and television, or even decorations around the house. Every facet of our everyday lives is enhanced by artists and writers. In the words of Billy Collins, “The function of poetry is to remind me that there is so much more to life than what I am usually doing when I’m not reading or writing poetry.” At this point, I’ve chosen to no longer feel guilty or inferior for my passion for the arts. As a doctor or lawyer, engineer or psychologist, I will be a writer. It’s what keeps me sane—what keeps even the mundane aspects of everyday life colorful and filled with meaning.
And the beautiful thing about pursuing writing is that it is not something that exists to be corrected with red pens, crossouts, and numbers that determine your future. Art flows from those broken by criticism and perfectionism—a world where the only goal is to communicate the future in a society of closed doors, and reconstruct a more beautiful present—one where even the birds chirping outside your bedroom window, the trees singing lullabies in evening wind, and the blanket of autumn wind greeting your skin on the way to school seem beautiful, too.