For so many years, I have had a specific feeling. It usually pops up at the sound of new music or at two in the morning when I want to sleep, but that is neither here nor there. I have been trying to pin it down, and after too many cups of coffee today, I think I finally have. I want to share it with you.
Ah yes. You’ve all done it. When you hear the words “I’m an Art Major” all you can think of is weird people who hang out in creepy corners with a woe-is-me attitude, and sad music. And if you’ve been lucky enough to catch sight of an Art Major in the wild, good for you! They are hard to spot away from their natural habitat, AKA the Art Building. But what exactly does an Art Major even do?
Lets start with a little math, shall we? (I know, I know, you’re an Art Major, math is the enemy, but just read me out.) The maximum recommended undergraduate semester work load in college is 17-18 hours. What does that mean, the high schoolers all wonder? Well, a class is generally a three-hour course, meaning they meet for three hours a week (one hour every Monday, Wednesday, Friday or and hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday). Fitness classes and the like usually only count for one hour, even if they meet three times a week. Don’t ask me why, Have no clue. So in theory an 18 hour course load means 18 hours of class time every week, right? And that’s the stressful end of the spectrum.
Well folks, an art major takes much more than that. All studio art courses meet for DOUBLE the time slot, and still only count for a three-hour course. So a studio course meets for six hours a week. The average studio load is three, so that’s already up to eighteen hours. Now, there are other requirements for the University that you have to meet. This means you are taking three other courses (at 2-3 hours each) so you can graduate on time. That means you may be taking 18 hours according to codes, but in terms of class time, you are spending upwards of 23-26 hours a week in a room.
Then there’s that old adage of “One hour in class needs three hours of study time outside of class.” Ha. Haha. I laugh at your measly three hours of work. All of my art professors expect to see me in the studio outside of class at least 10-12 hours a week. I am now up to about 57 hours of occupied time (yes, I used a calculator. This is the real world). Let me walk you through what that looks like.
Studio art classes have a tendency to fall at 8am. I have 8am’s straight across the board, and probably will until I graduate. It’s a fact that I hate but must accept.
So, my Monday’s start off at 8am with Photography. We do a lot of working in class for this one, our professor helps us make sure our prints are looking ok, no spots or smudges, checks our contrast so they aren’t flat, makes sure we are including elements of the project. Now, this is real film photography, and so it takes awhile to process. An hour and a half to develop and dry the film, and then you can finally look at it, only to discover that the pictures you wanted didn’t turn out, and you’ll have to go shoot them again later. You print what you can (a print takes 45 minutes to set up, expose, develop, rinse, and dry) and then it’s time to move on. I spend the break between classes studying for my other classes, quizzes and such that I could. Or I may spend it doing nothing, because it’s the beginning of the week and ignorance is bliss. Then it’s on to art history and political science, taking notes and making sure that I have all of the homework assignments and reading written down to work on later.
After class is out for the day, I usually take off for the art building, because drawing doesn’t open up for working until 5:30, and I have things to do. I usually work on Design stuff (which is on Tuesday) for two or three hours, and then I go to eat dinner with friends (gotta see them sometime, you know?) Then its off to drawing for the remainder of the evening. It usually takes about three to four hours of work to get where I need to be for the next day, and then I go home in the dark. Now I can sleep, right? Wrong. I’ve got other stuff I need to do, so for the next few hours I take care of little stuff, emails and such that need to be dealt with and have been ignored lately (being an Adult is so boring and annoying).
Finally I can shower and go to bed. But guess what? Another 8am is here! I get up and spend 3 hours in Drawing (not my favorite), trying not to tear my hair out. Then I go eat lunch before going to spend three hours in Design. This class is fun, but it also makes the biggest mess. My logic is to stay after class instead of packing it all up, so I usually don’t leave until 6 or 7, when I eat dinner.
But wait! Theres that roll of film that needs to be developed before tomorrow! So it’s back to the art building for another two or three hours to develop film and print pictures. About nine I head home. Sleep now, right? Nope. I have an essay to write for Art History and some PoliSci to read for tomorrow. And that maintenance request for the broken toilet seat, laundry from two days before to fold, and on top of that I can’t even see my floor. Sometimes I just give up and go straight to bed.
The days to the end of the week follow in similar fashion. But somehow in the middle of all of that I have to eat, sleep, talk to friends for my sanity and theirs, do laundry, fold laundry, clean my room up so I don’t choke on dirt in my sleep, pay rent, talk to professors, arrange meetings, do dishes, go grocery shopping, go art shopping, and just generally keep life from falling into disrepair. When Saturday rolls around, I sleep until noon. It’s no wonder, right?
Then it’s straight to the art building to work on stuff until dinner, then maybe I can hang out with people (if they aren’t busy either) or actually have some non-school related time for myself. Sunday is church and then a nap to catch up on more sleep before the week starts all over again on Monday.
Is it worth it? I sometimes find myself thinking.
Yes. Because when I get out of class for the day and my hands are covered in all manner of graphite, ink, paint, grease, burns, scrapes, and shavings, I am the happiest (or at least most content) I have been in a long time.
Who needs sleep anyway?
“Be careful,” my mom always tells me when I pick up the car keys.
I used to get annoyed, and I would shrug my shoulders and sigh. “I’m a good driver, mom,” I would grit out. “I’m always careful.” It annoyed me that she didn’t trust me to take the turns at an acceptable speed, to follow the rules of the road, to pay attention. I knew, in all my seventeen year old sureness, that I was a good driver and that I would be fine.
But sometimes, things happen that we can’t control. Sometimes, no matter how good of a driver you are or how carefully you pay attention, something will happen that will find you in an ICU waiting room at 2:00 am, sitting and praying and hoping. It will rock your world by taking away people that you thought you would always have by your side, leaving you standing with a hole in your heart and all trains of thought derailed by this unexpected occurrence.
When things like this happen, you have no choice but to change. It hurts, badly, and in some ways it will always hurt badly. But you have to realize that life moves on. Time doesn’t care about how badly we hurt, it bulldozes right over feelings and sometimes leaves you in the dust, trying to wrap the memories of what was and keep them in mind for what will be. But this is my reminder to you that the past is over, and we can’t go back and change it, however much the what-ifs can haunt us at night.
That doesn’t mean we forget. But we change. We adapt. We stop being careless with our words, because they can bring back bad memories. We sometimes find our smiles a little strained because something small reminded us of a different time. Realize that the good memories can sometimes hurt worse than the bad. Remember that everyone moves through grief at different paces, and when you feel like you’ve healed, someone may be so far behind you that they still hurt like the pain is fresh. Know that when some people snap, they really just don’t know what else to do. Try not get angry at them.
We all show love in different ways.
“Be careful,” my mom says when I pick up the car keys.
“I will be,” I promise her solemnly.
“Drive safely,” I say to my friends. “Text me when you get home.”
We change. But we’ll be alright in the end. In the meantime, we lean on each other and we love. Sometimes that’s the best thing to do.
I am scared. I am afraid to lose my creativity. Because you see, creativity is a hard thing to keep. People extoll it and praise it and admire it, they wish they had it, but it takes a lot of work to stay creative.
Writing is hard.
When I write, I write to make sense of the world. I write when I’m stressed, when I want to make decisions, when I’m happy, excited, or upset. I have journals and folders and scraps of paper that are filled with words explaining my thoughts and ideas and telling stories.
But sometimes, wrangling those 26 letters into what you want to say is just so hard. That little cursor can just sit and blink at you for hours and nothing will be written, and with every second that passes, you get more frustrated. I can’t tell you how many word documents have started out with variations of the word “ARGH” because I just can’t get my internal dictionary under control. You trip over every syllable and delete more than you write.
I think part of the problem is that we tend to write under the impression that we have to impress someone else. We write with the fear that everyone who reads it will be disappointed. We write for everyone else.
That is wrong. We shouldn’t write for others. We should write for ourselves. Write what we want to hear, write what we need to read, because there is a very large chance that there are people out there who need to hear the exact same thing. The truth has a habit of sneaking onto paper when we aren’t looking, even if we didn’t know we were writing it.
You see, writing is not a point A to point B activity. When you write, feel free to skip around. Start in the middle and skip to the beginning. Write the last paragraph first, say something that has no context anywhere else but your brain. After word vomit, go back and edit. It will all be okay. You don’t like the whole thing? Start over.
No one can tell you when, where, and how to write. The best thinking times are in the car or in the shower. Paper is a non-judgemental surface, and you can say anything, anything you want, even if it’s just ‘no no no no’ over and over again.
After all, that’s why I’m writing now. I had nothing to say, and as my wise english teacher Miss. Adams used to say, “Say something.” It doesn’t even have to be profound. It can be ‘I like donuts.’
I’ll keep this short, because it is Christmas Eve after all, and I know that everyone is busy getting kids to bed and busy being ‘Santa’, so I just want to leave you with a Christmas wish.
I hope that all the lights work on your tree, I hope that your Christmas is at least chilly, if not exactly white. I hope that you get to sleep in past seven in the morning, and I wish that if you don’t, you can take a nap tomorrow afternoon.
I hope that all your traditions are fulfilled with the utmost excitement and joy, and I hope that your night is silent. I hope that all of your stories are exciting, and I hope that the memories of this Christmas last you a lifetime.
Most of all, I wish you a holy night, and an exciting morning.
And in the words of my favorite Christmas movie, “there’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas”, and “God bless us, everyone”.