While I live near Detroit, Boston has a certain sense of an intellectual home. It’s because I went to Wellesley College, and had my mind blown by the people and art I got to know. But Wellesley didn’t just teach me facts and figures, it taught me what unhappiness feels like and how to stop it. It forced me to learn how to repair myself.
See, I come from an emotionally abusive household. I then threw myself into an incredibly tough and elitist place. Wellesley is a place that still in many ways clings to the ivory tower. Academic achievement is difficult, and at times seemingly impossible. There is an undercurrent of a rat race of accomplishments and self-importance as a way to cover insecurity and failures. The Art History Department, for all my love of it, is not free from this. People compare internships and grades in a subtle way that often leaves someone feeling left out or insignificant.
In my second semester at Wellesley, I suffered from a bout of depression that caused me to disappear from reality. At least one friend was afraid I was dead. In my fourth semester, after a horrible roommate situation, I finally realized just how screwed up all of this was.
As I talked about last time, the Art World is often ready to chew someone up and spit them out when they are of little use anymore. I realized Wellesley wasn’t for me, as it was a microcosm of this world. I couldn’t change the culture, was truly miserable but that degree is worth more in this field than I think I’ll ever know. But I could change myself.
I have, ever since the fourth grade, hated writing. My mother and fourth grade teacher told me I was a bad writer. And Wellesley’s focus on academic papers only further convinced me of that fact. So when I finally realized my junior year that I was never going to write a paper a teacher would want to keep as a sample for other students, I just let it go. I stopped beating myself up and just accepted it wasn’t for me. I realized that the writing you find on this blog is for me, that accessible but factual way. That way of telling your truth as it is today, and not in formulas and perscription. That’s why I now love writing.
I have, ever since I was in High School, preferred presentations and projects. The spontaneity and problem solving is great for letting my mind be free. So whenever I had the chance to work in the field, I did. Whenever I could do research projects or presentations, I killed it. I pushed for my way of learning and sharing to be accepted.
I have, ever since I was 16, loved wandering around big cities with no plans. I love just being in an urban environment and learning from observing. I work best when I’ve stumbled upon some random coffee shop or bar on a Sunday afternoon. So that’s what I did. That’s how I found peace in a world that wanted me to be a perfectly organized, usually panicking, academic writer. I’d pack up my backpack, head into Boston and do my homework.
So no, now I’m not so literate on the iconography of late Italian Renaissance paintings or on Mexican art in the 1700s. I do not have the GPA to even try to get a PhD, even if I some day change my mind. But I do remember how to say no, and how to lend a hand when I see someone struggling. I’m now a person with boundaries, confidence and some semblance of real world knowledge.
Too many people burn out in this field because they don’t spend the time to learn who they are and what they really want. How to get where you want to be professionally gets a lot easier when you know your limitations and strengths are. It’s a lot easier to ask someone for an informational interview when you know what might work for you. It’s a lot easier to succeed when you know to walk away.
At the end of the day, it’s just you and what makes you feel alive that matters.