A personal essay about painting as a way of healing.
I painted in high school with the legendary Mr. McGiff— the kind of teacher that 99% of the kids go into the class thinking "I’m not an artist” and come out painting like Picasso. I will forever be grateful to him for helping so many students find a sanctuary and passion in art. My senior year of high school, 12 of us took Art Major - it met the same amount that your English or Math class would meet, and we had our own painting studio separate from the other painting and drawing classes where we could be sophisticated upperclassman and blast Vampire Weekend.
Though art provided this sanctuary, I defined myself more through athletics and being active. When I got to college, my days were centered around my love for lacrosse: I'd focus on eating and sleeping well so I'd be ready for practices, running tests, and lifting. I eyed art classes at Rhode Island School of Design that was down the hill from Brown, but never took a class because I felt it would take up time that I didn’t have as a college student-athlete.
My junior spring, I experienced an inexplicable fall in my health: It was hard for me to walk 10 minutes to class and I slept over 13 hours a night. I had floaters in my vision and I couldn’t read for class. Between the spring and summer, I saw over 10 doctors.
Instead of returning to Brown for my senior year of college, I stayed at home on a health leave. When my body was too weak to do many of the things I was used to doing, like playing lacrosse, running, and being with my friends, I took out my paint brush.
Today, I continue to paint through aches and weakness in my body. Though I have made huge strides since being bed-ridden in 2013, I have not gained back my 100% (physical) self yet, and painting helps me move through that space of uncertainty and heaviness — into a space where things feel right and at peace. Having defined myself as an athlete the first 20 years of my life, I have gained meaning through art, and connected to a sense of self that I can't put into words except say that it is magic. When I am still working towards being able to run and exercise again— and when there are weeks I feel too weak to go on a walk or do yoga, I take out my paintbrush and create meaning in my head and peace in my body. I sort through emotions and let go of what is not mine as I mix a pink sunset.
If I had known I would still be trying to heal 6 years later and still complaining to my mom on the phone that it feels like i have mono, a concussion, and a hangover all at the same time…Still seeing different doctors every other week…Still bed ridden for days at a time…I would be mortified. And it is a bit mortifying to admit that I am still struggling with my health. But if you had told me I would be living in the Pacific Northwest hiking among 300-foot trees and swimming among orcas, painting while blasting Mister Wives and giggling to myself with no one around except a couple plants and gluten free toast — and finding a deep joy through coaching lacrosse to young girls — I’d smile to myself knowing I have found a life that keeps me giddy until I get there.