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A Healthy Break: What I Learned in a Year

Claire Zhang

It was the end of my freshman year at a high school in Beijing. At the time, I had come out of the school year with a daily dose of art under my sleeve. Art class, art extracurricular, and outside tutoring offered me a continuous stream of art activities to participate in.

Whether it was researching about artists, painting a still life, or creating graphics for a school club, I was fully immersed in art in Beijing. Art was my specialty, and I was known amongst my peers for my art. I even ate lunch in the art classroom.

When I was accepted to a boarding school in Massachusetts, I was determined to reinvent myself. Moving to the other side of the world, I wanted to throw away my old self and find new passions.

I didn’t want to be tied down by my passion for art, maybe I had grasped onto art too early.

Sketchbook, Claire Zhang
Charcoal Drawing, Claire Zhang

As I perused my new school’s website and the admissions video, I couldn’t wait to learn more about the “ideal boarding school student.”  I came across sports like lacrosse and squash, and clubs that I’ve never heard of before. Extracurriculars such as Young Republicans, Classics Club were part of the quintessential New England student profile. What I didn’t see was visual arts.  Call it a teenage crisis, but the complete lack of art classes led me to conclude that I wouldn’t touch art for a year. I wanted to have a year to explore other interests, and see if separation would make the heart grow fonder.

My time away from art felt like a breath of fresh air. Having no artistic commitments felt almost liberating. For three months, art didn’t even cross my mind. I played soccer, started becoming interested in biology, and spent my free time making new friends in an entirely new environment.

However, I found myself doodling incessantly in class, as if the art was starting to spill out of me. It was difficult getting grounded in a new school, and I gravitated towards the familiarity of my passion.  When I started to look at art accounts on Instagram, and passed by our school’s art classroom, I wanted to shout: “Hey! I draw too!”

After a year away from art, I knew for sure that separation from art solidified my passion even further. I saw that art was where I felt most comfortable and where I belonged.

If I didn’t take a break from art, I wouldn’t have appreciated me passion. Previously, I worried  that I was missing out on opportunities to improve my artistic skills. During that first year of boarding school,  my art became this itch I couldn’t scratch, and a thought that I could not shake.  Art was where I belonged, and it’s where I will stay. Now, I do as much art as I possibly can, anywhere that I can.

Don’t be afraid to temporarily leave your art.  A break can bring you clarity, new ideas, and a sense of belonging. If art is really your passion, you’ll know when you take a step away.

Sketchbook, Claire Zhang
Claire Zhang
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