I remember when I was signing up for classes last semester, and I had to choose a 4th class. Because I'm premed and majoring in BME, all of my semesters have pretty much been planned out for me with engineering pre-reqs and major requirements. This was the first semester I had to make a decision, the first semester I had a choice. One of my friends on the same path as me decided to go for Biochem to check that box, and I came so close to doing the same; several of my other friends were taking it this semester as well, and I, of course, liked the idea of having that support system. I remember the weekend before registration, I had all of my classes book bagged--Biochem included--and I realized that I was dreading the upcoming semester. This wasn't how school was supposed to be, just a chore, but that's what it had become the past year taking all engineering and science pre-reqs. Where was the excitement, the drive to know that I used to have in high school? It had been beaten out of me by the endless all-day STEM that I never seemed to have enough time to handle, especially this past fall. Suddenly, I was determined that this semester would be different.
Throughout college (and high school, for that matter), chorale had been my outlet, a chance to forget about the academic and social pressures that came with my course of study. Because of this, I was immediately drawn to the idea of taking a class in the arts. I used to draw all the time, taking art classes since before I can remember up until high school when I had to quit due to the workload. Over time throughout high school, I slowly stopped drawing, even for fun, as classes got more intense. So on a whim, remembering how much I used to love art, I decided to take Drawing instead of Biochem. This was perhaps one of the best decision I have made since coming to Duke. Throughout this class, I have rediscovered what I had forgotten I enjoyed so much about drawing. You have to be totally focused on the subject and portraying it accurately in 2D, which makes you forget about everything else in the world besides paper, object, pencil, lines. There is something so calming about getting lost in a drawing. The rush of joy and satisfaction when the picture starts to come out looking like the real thing is indescribable.
This class gave me the chance to remember this, as well as learn some new techniques I had never heard of before to hone in my skills. I was always told I was good at drawing when I was younger, but sometimes struggled with parts of my drawings looking washed out, or just a little off. The seemingly too simple methods we learned to help, like using a straight edge, marking angles, sizing objects based on a single reference, using darker lines, etc. actually made all the difference. I have grown more in this class than I ever did before, and I actually felt how my skills were progressing as depicting angles and lines more realistically became so much easier.
As this semester went on, I noticed that I was a lot less stressed out than before, and I was actually enjoying all of my classes. I was excited to go to lectures and learn for the first time in I can't remember how long. I'm not necessarily saying this all had to do with art, but I think it played a big role. Art always gave me a chance to clear my head and think about the world differently from the analytical sense I was so used to for the rest of my academics. Even when the semester got more intense, art was always a respite where I had 2.5 hours to just sit calmly and draw and center myself.
One thing I worried about taking drawing was that I would lose my love
for art because it would become a chore, but the opposite has happened. Though I would sometimes feel pressure to get enough sketches or assignment drawings done, once I started working on them the stress disappeared. Because I was required to do art, I drew far more than I ever would have otherwise, and I have grown to love it even more. I found over the semester that after doing art, I could think more clearly, unclouded by the stress and pressure I was so used to that came along with the heavy STEM workloads of my other classes. Some might say I made and am making a mistake by taking Drawing rather than fulfilling another premed requirement. But I would say art is just as important for maintaining balance, and mental and emotional well-being. This Drawing class has given me the chance to rediscover a passion I have not had the chance to explore since childhood. And isn't that what college is supposed to be all about?