“What do you want to do?”
This is the question I heard the most when I was a junior and senior in high school, looking ahead toward college.
“I want to be a doctor or a writer,” I’d respond. Two very different career paths, one that I was more suited to than the other, but both dreams that I had throughout high school.
“Be a doctor. You can help people if you’re a doctor.” And this is the response I always heard.
I can help people… if I’m a doctor.
This viewpoint always caught me off guard and it’s one that I never bought into. Sure, I get it. Doctors literally save lives. Patients come in with an illness or injuries that could end their life, and doctors can save their life. They can rid a person’s body of that disease, they can treat an injury so that the person survives. It’s not always a guarantee, but they tend to the physical ailments and visible wounds. They save lives daily and I’m in awe of the work that, not just doctors, but all of those who are in the medical field do. (Believe me, they have saved the life of someone that I love dearly and I am forever grateful!) The work they do is amazing and so necessary and I’m grateful that there are people who take on those careers. They work hard, they sacrifice a lot, but they do amazing and necessary things.
That being said, writers save and transform lives, too. How many people have pointed to the Harry Potter books and said, “This series helped me through a tough time in my life”? How many people have found the courage to voice their own traumatic experiences after reading Speak? How many people connected with 13 Reasons Why so much that they credit the book with saving their lives?
Words are powerful. Words can cut you; they can tear you down. But they can also uplift you. They can provide the support, encouragement and escape that you need during hard times. They can give you the courage and strength you need to face the circumstances that you might face in your life.
And this is true for all the arts–art, music, dance…
I ordered a painting from Kendra Castillo’s recent release and received it last week. There was a storm brewing inside me the day it arrived: I was overwhelmed by increased activity throughout the week at work, I was stressed over a message I had misread, and I was frustrated by a certain situation. In the midst of all this turbulence, I opened up the package and gazed at the painting. And I took a breath. I stepped into the painting and felt peace and calm.
The work that creatives do is amazing and so necessary and I’m grateful that there are people who have been given creative talents, who probably could have done something “more valuable” with their lives (and possibly more lucrative!), but chose to share their gifts with the world.
As a writer who checks in and out of the writing community online, I hear this all the time: the world needs your story. Sometimes it sounds cheesy, but it’s also true.
There is someone who needs your painting to be able to take a breath. There is someone who needs your story to give them courage to articulate their own. There is someone who needs the world you created to find an escape during a dark time.
Keep doing what you’re doing, because what you put out in the world can save and transform lives too.
I’d love to hear, what’s a book/song/movie/dance that helped you when you needed it?