[Editor’s note: Detours from home is a Rappler column where readers can share about the new things they have been doing while in quarantine. In this essay, a student talks about going back to one of her first loves – drawing. You, too, can share your own Detours from home story.]
Before I became anything, I was an artist. I was that kid who was poised at an early age to be somewhat gifted in the arts. Those annual nutrition month competitions for posters promoting a balanced diet of Go, Grow, and Glow foods were my arena. I developed a dexterity with a variety of mediums – colored pencils, markers, oil pastels. I would draw everything from half-formed silhouettes of a fruit bowl to lesser quality copies of my favorite anime characters. I was making an enterprise of myself through honing my own talent. I was promised great things.
Then I grew up.
Puberty, riddled with capitalist values, led me to think that maybe art was not the field for me. The politics of grade school always place competition as a measure of success. Classmates around me were revealing their giftedness in the more popular mediums of watercolor, calligraphy, and digital art – crafts that I never had the patience to foster. I was left stagnant, stuck with pencil drawings. It felt futile to pursue a talent that I knew would only end up being a hobby and never a profession.
But is that really so wrong?
It is ingrained in us to see our education as a stepping stone towards larger hallmarks of success, or essentially, financial stability. Education is hardly ever promoted for the value of learning itself. Coupled with the framework of profitability from the rise of influencer culture on social media, we are consumed with marketing ourselves, curating ourselves. We have commodified ourselves through the most digestible aspects of our personalities, so much so that we have placed ourselves onto a pedestal of characterization. Even time is plagued by the anxiety of marketability. We are guilted into carving time as a resource, an opportunity, another circumstance of optimization.
Our hobbies, therefore, whether we subconsciously acknowledge it or not, are calculated according to commercial value. We weigh our interests along with the investment of time, energy, passion and some of us get lucky enough to make a life out of our hobbies altogether.
But not all of us are born lucky. What if you weren’t born good at the things you liked to do? What if you were born mediocre and the pressure to capitalize on these interests only left you defeated? Can a hobby simply remain a hobby?
I stopped drawing at the age of fourteen because I thought that was the best I could be. I thought: if that was the best, and it wouldn’t be my ticket to greatness, there must have been no merit in me trying. At least, that’s what I thought six years ago.
To cope with my own restlessness during three months of quarantine, I brought out my old sketchbook and Faber-Castell colored pencils. I tried sketching a dinosaur, a sea lion, and cartoonish girls inspired by a show I was binging. I felt like an overgrown child, sprawling my art materials across the dinner table. The experience of sharpening my pencils, collecting the shavings in a corner felt alien.
Admittedly, my skills haven’t advanced much since childhood. My strokes are clumsy. I still accidentally crumple the paper by erasing too forcefully. I am still overly critical of how I draw hands. But it made me happy.
Drawing in the simplest sense offers a sliver of escapism when the digital space exhumes the worst parts of myself. When I am exhausted by variables beyond my reach, I know that at least within the confines of paper, I can shape my anxiety into a figure of joy. I can feel like a child, innocent and free from the mental gymnastics of deciding on whether staying online sustains me or only robs me of hope as currency for change.
Part of the appeal of drawing, for me, is the familiarity. The experience in itself is a time capsule. It reminds me of gentler days when my naivité was less muddled with the cynicism of adulthood. Especially in a pandemic when any scrap of normalcy, when nurtured, feels like a gateway to a different world. Now, I am less concerned with monopolizing the art as a side hustle, and instead, I am more concerned with just getting better at it. For myself.
The world is terrible. The flip side is, it always has been. When the fatigue of advocating for social change morphs it into an unreachable goal, we have already stripped ourselves of the opportunity to bridge solidarity with one another. While we all fight against a global pandemic and much closer endemics within the spheres of our lives, reverting to our hobbies extends us the stamina to stay brave. Our hobbies serve as a tangent for finding the mental fortitude to forge on, despite how desolate the news cycles can get. – Rappler.com
Sofia Guanzon is an aspiring writer (among other things) but for now, she's a student preoccupied with learning how to put her idealism to practice. She lives in Metro Manila.