An older relative recently asked me, “What do you do for fun? Are you on a sports team? In the band?” And while I scanned through my mind, envisioning the rainbow of iCal tasks and events I accomplish everyday, I could not come up with a solid answer. I could talk about how I write for some blogs (let’s ignore the fact November was a homework-heavy month and I kind of took a writing vacation…) or how I go running to clear my mind or how I arrange my schedule to allow adequate time to visit museums and galleries or how I never let my camera out of my hand. I could have mentioned the fact that I love reading a great novel or revealed that I enjoy creating new pasta recipes and I adore blasting music for spontaneous dance parties in my room. However, in trying to make my interests sound appealing, I felt like most of my pursuits were rather trivial.
“I like community service…” I offered. Which is true, I spend six hours a week teaching kids to read, write, and speak English but I guess that’s not quite the same as training for the varsity volleyball team. He looked in satisfied. “And I sing in chorus.” There. I’m part of a group. Ha. See, I do have fun!
“Do you want to be a singer?” No. I sit there and hope that no one really hears me, actually…
“Well, actually, I just have a wide variety of interests, so I don’t really concentrate on one I guess. I want to be a writer…” I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty insecure.
Why can’t I have fun? Since when does an eighteen year old in New York City not know how to have fun?
I continued pondering the question as I made my way to The Met the next week. The thing about The Met is that it’s just too big, too grand and overwhelming to see all at once. Even if you walk through all the galleries, there’s no possible way you can internalize everything you’ve seen. So I choose a period to focus on each visit. Sometimes I want to go back to see my old friend Botticelli and escape into his mythical world, other times I want to visit my ladies Frida and Georgia and maybe even Vincent or Pablo, just enjoy the moderns, and other days I find myself moved by Manet or Daumier or Redon or Watteau or anyone else who picked up a paintbrush or some charcoal or a camera and decided to capture the very essence of his or her existence.
A great work of art remains unmatched, unchallenged, unafraid to exist and persistent in its own reality. You can walk between Dali and Miro and question your morality, your desires, your future or you can just admire the colors. You can walk past a Monet and think that a poster with his floral pattern would perfectly match the décor in your powder room or you can really look at it. You can look at it and see the signature in the corner, you can know that Claude’s hand once signed this very canvas, you can consider everything that ran through his head as he created this scene, you can imagine the thousands of people who have seen this painting, the thousands of feet who have stood in your exact same spot and the thousands of eyes which have glanced at the paint and thought something about their lives.
I’m not a great artist. I grew up with a crayon in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, but I’ve never completed a Met-worthy masterpiece. However, I find that the solace I discover in these creations, in artworks at the Art Institute in Chicago or the Guggenheim in Venice or the Reina Sofia in Madrid or even a tiny gallery in SoHo, somehow makes me a better person. Art makes me think of the greater world around me, an individual’s ability to create and impact the world. You look at the brush strokes, these thin lines in the paint, and know what one person accomplished this, someone had this idea and shared it with the world. Art inspires me. It makes me want to do good things, to see the world and learn languages and teach others what I know and create my own masterpieces, whatever they may be.
And while I know a great majority of people who would not classify visiting a museum as “fun,” I find that that’s where I’m happiest. That’s where I find inspiration and ideas to enhance other aspects of my life, bringing fun and joy to whatever I do, whether it be jogging through Central Park to and from Museum Mile, going out with friends, or just singing a little more loudly in my choir rehearsals.