I want to begin by noting just how risky this topic is for me to publish. As a current student in preparation of entering the field of healthcare, it is considered completely ridiculous, foolish, that I would choose such a profession and did not grow up with an absolute passion for anatomy. I was not the kid who sawed maliciously at frogs and cats, digging through their flesh with oddly gifted precision, scavenging the brain, eyeball — lens, even — and causing the instructor to become secretly disgusted and concerned for my psych. No, I was not that student at all, and to admit this, though they may have already caught on, will reward me with disproval from my fellow students and unconcern from my advisors. Let it be known that I find it remarkable, miraculous, to be aware of the mechanics of my own body as it beats, ticks, whirrs, but, honestly, my demeanor in high school consisted of nothing less than your everyday, preppy lover of the arts.
It was my seventeenth birthday. It must have fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday, because the memory brings tones of exhaustion and boredom; of snooze buttons, throwing on a polo before the sun arose and sitting uncomfortably in a desk that I was outgrowing. Disappointed I was, too, that a day that should have felt festive I perceived as being frustratingly ordinary. I had doodled and scribbled through a category of calculus with a nulling cloud of headache swirling above my eyebrows (Goodness, I used to be incredibly moody. I guess I still can be, but I think the introduction of regular caffeine has lessened that from my system.). God bless, however, because right afterward was English III.
Literature was like walking aimlessly in the relentless summer heat for hours and misstepping into a swimming pool; creamy, pristine, complete with other-worldly sun rays striking through its surface. The relief struck me fast as I floated into the dimly-lit classroom, slinking to my desk, melting into my chair. Our teacher, who sat peacefully at her desk, rustled through her papers. The desks were arranged as she liked them, around the perimeter of the room, facing the middle. There, she had arranged the quaint, tranquil scene that was the source of my dazing: a glowing candle and a porcelain vase full of silk, blue roses.
We were studying The Glass Menagerie at the time, which when reading I remember interpreting to be quite the casual play, but, that day the atmosphere it radiated was nothing less than mystifying elegance. As we read aloud, we solemnly passed a miniature, glass unicorn, each pausing to hold it cautiously by its torso. We would raise it to the mid-morning light as it broke within the figurine and scattered playfully about our desks. When it was my turn to momentarily care for it, I wondered at its mild little face, enchanted by its purity. It must have had a chipped hoof or tail, because I remember our teacher quietly complaining about a careless past student, although the imperfection caused me to adore the figurine even more (“How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken.”). I wanted to hide it, to slip it into a pocket and drift away with it, allowing its magic to be alive and with me wherever I went, forever.
Of course, I did not steal the unicorn that, now that I am looking back, eventually became a bit pagan amongst the class, but I did leave the room feeling uplifted, refreshed, joyous. Being immersed in a story had always been something that gave my spirit a rest.
My first year studying the sciences found a way to tire me. After hours of lectures over aerobic respiration, the complexity of a plant’s stem, and the Origin of the Universe, I would stumble out of my five-hour General Chemistry lab for a direct path to my bed and air conditioning. Some weekends I would return to my hometown carrying a bit of a tense presence, causing those who knew me best to worry about me. However, though some may argue strongly otherwise, I refuse to believe that I was worn because of the subject itself. No, what caused me to ache was not that I chose to study something that required discipline, it was because I had strategically neglected to continue enjoying what I was born to love. No longer was I sketching before bed, singing obnoxiously in the shower (or wherever I went, for that matter), or finding new angles to photograph a moth or a grasshopper. I was cold, shallow, playing the part without adding personal flair. The things that normally fueled me were not being practiced in fear that I would lose appreciation from those who surrounded me, and I was draining myself.
Whatever your employment, your study, there will always be a downfall: a colleague to disagree with, a lousy place to live, finances. Even if I had achieved my childhood dream of becoming a pop star, there would have been long, hot bus rides, a manager I didn’t like, a family far away from where I was. If you choose to make your lifelong dream your employment, please feel the power to do so. However, you must realize that it does not take a life-changing event to make yourself happy. If you love to read, carry a book for your bus-ride. If you love to draw, spend a few extra minutes to add character to a birthday card. If you love nature, take the long way home. If the excuse is that there is not enough time, than you have not made enough time. Verbal approval and paychecks are wonderful things, but they will never satisfy a starving soul. It will be up to you to create the moments that give you joy. Do not neglect those joys from yourself, either, because we need them like food, water, and air to breathe. Without them, we are lifeless.