I believe that art fuels the soul of the human spirit. My current job, as a pediatric resident physician, is very demanding and very rewarding. Every day I get to interact with children and participate in their health care. To see a child get better after I have treated him is still miraculous to me. But even with this great job, I am often faced with an aching emptiness.
When I decided to become a physician, I made the knowing choice of turning away from my artistic being. Throughout my school years, I trained, rather intensely, as a cellist from the time I was seven until I graduated from college. The closest I have gotten to interacting with God was during orchestra concerts – the beauty of being a part of the harmony among dozens of instruments brought me to an ethereal high never again matched except in the birth of my children. I took ceramics classes in college which made me almost as happy as playing my cello.
But when I chose a career, I felt that in order to really give my life away and help others to the best of my ability, to be an artist would be selfish. No one foisted this belief on me. I was not pushed into medicine, nor did I come from a family of physicians. In fact, my mom has an art degree and we often went to museums and concerts as kids. My sister also has a degree in art, and my siblings each played at least one musical instrument. My dad and mom even went to every concert I ever had.
All through medical school, and now in residency, I have tried to stay grounded and focused on my outside life in addition to studying medicine. But my lack of creativity in these past several years has begun to chip away at my soul. I sing to my daughter daily, I color with my son, and I try to cook often, since these help that part of me, but my soul craves for more – to be in a painting class or playing in a 50 piece orchestra.
I do experience happiness and satisfaction from my job, like when I have talked a reluctant family into immunizations for their child or made a kid comfortable even though I am looking in his ears. But when I look at the amazing work that our music therapists do and listen to opera and go to museums, I miss the joy of creating art for the beauty alone. I no longer believe that being an artist is selfish. And I do plan on retouching that part of me, because I am sure my soul will die without art.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.