I found solace in painting this summer. To keep the not-so-happy part short, summertime seasonal depression is nothing new for me; Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” has been my anthem since early high school. This summer, however, it seemed as though for the first time my sadness has a reason and a catalyst: rejection, multiple times. I never occurred to me that applying to summer internships was a lot like applying to colleges my senior year: sending a bunch of applications in, hoping one doesn’t reject me. Except, unlike colleges, internships couldn’t waitlist me like Vanderbilt. With the dozens of rejections, my summertime sadness seemed to surge this year, and the normality of not wanting to leave my bed only intensified as I spent mornings scrolling through my friends’ pictures at their internships, sorrowfully double tapping as I read their captions of “Black Excellence” and “Black Girl Magic.” Vandy’s “work hard, play hard,” atmosphere filtered into the summer, and the normalized pressures of wanting to be the epitome of Black girl magic, everyone seems to expect, both hit me like two freight trains coming from opposite directions.
As someone who aspires to be a writer, is intending on pursuing a writing related major, takes a lot of writing class, and very often writes for fun, I needed a new hobby that didn’t constantly remind me of how I felt at the time: “My writing isn’t good enough for the professional world.” However, while dodging those reminders, I was reminded of something that I forgot: not every hobby needs an ulterior motive; not every hobby needs to be monetized; not every hobby needs to be something you can put on your résumé. So, for the last couple months of summer, I found something I wanted to get better at and tackled it: painting. I always drew, painting was just one of those things I was never good at. Painting random pictures of animals and nature scenes didn’t automatically shove all doubts of myself from my head, nor did it immediately make me less sad, but it helped. And as my skills slowly improved, I felt as though I had accomplished something, even if it wasn’t what I intended to accomplish this summer. In learning that each brush stroke matters, no matter how small, I accomplished patience and the ability to allow myself to trust each and every process.
Though it may sound corny, this summer was a small brush stroke in my life, and even though the paint’s hue wasn’t exactly the color I wanted it to be, in the end, years from now, my picture wouldn’t be complete without it.
So, as you get settled into your new classes this school-year, I hope that you settle into a new hobby too. It doesn’t have to be a side-hustle, or an effort to stay fit, or a credit hour, or a résumé booster. You don’t even have to be good at it right off the bat. It just has to make you happy and provide as an escape from the pressures of being a Black student at Vanderbilt. After spending the summer painting, my head feels clearer, my peace feels protected, and I’m ready to hit the ground running this year. To keep that energy, I’m making a goal to paint at least two pictures a month while school is in session. They don’t even have to be good. They could be the worst pieces of art I’ve ever created. But even if they are, a clear head and dry eyes is the way I want to start every assignment, essay, quiz and exam this year. I’ll hang them on my wall like they’re museum-worthy to remind myself that I’m doing fine.
Whether your new hobby is painting, yoga, dancing, swimming or even as random as (finally) learning to play spades or throwing a freaking frisbee across Alumni Lawn, I encourage you to make time for it and acknowledge your successes with each improvement, no matter how small. We are never too busy to schedule in time for peace, and as you fill up your planner this school-year with important dates of upcoming tests, homework due the next week and club meetings, don’t forget to pencil in time for a hobby. Don’t forget to pencil in time for you.