A life lesson that an art student taught me today

Today I was invited by my sister-in-law to a graduation exhibition of her design school at Lille. It was a simple setup: each graduate took an empty class, and introduced his or her project to the visitors.

To my great surprise, the exhibited projects were not, by common standard, good art works. They were intriguing, but not technically good. I mean my sister-in-law is on her second year of the school, and I’ve seen how she showed great drawing techniques and art sense. I couldn’t understand why, with three extra years of study, the graduates would do such a lousy job.

This question haunted my mind during the whole exhibition, but I didn’t bring it out, until I saw this project. The project, comparing to others which were intriguing or at least interestingly weird, seemed extraordinarily banal. There were a dozen of Facebook type selfies on the wall, with the number of “likes” and a list of hashtags written at the bottoms. Below each photo there is a small black box containing a smaller photo of this person’s normal day. The idea was not bad but not very special either, especially there seemed very little work done considering the 6 months time. “That’s convenient” I couldn’t bear this anymore and complained with a low voice. The student looked at me with an embarrassed smile and explained that his idea was to illustrate the contrast between what people show on Facebook and who they really are. Then he told how stressful and anxious he felt when he put his selfies out there and wait for strangers to “like”, how he intentionally posed himself similar to people who he thought to be narcissistic and feminine, and how he chose those stupid hashtags to get his selfies wider spread.

At the end of the exhibition, I met a teacher of the school and he expressed his astonishment that this student had chosen such a project, because the student was technically talented but had an extremely introverted character.

Suddenly I got the answer to my question. Instead of doing something easy to them such as drawing aesthetically appealing pictures, the students had chosen the difficult thing to do, even though the difficult thing for them was as easy as posting a selfie on Facebook.

It takes great courage for us to confront and overcome our fears. It takes even more courage to make the decision in the first place: abandoning what we are good at and giving the future to the unknown.

I felt so sorry for my ignorance. Today an art student taught me a very important lesson about living a wholehearted life. Daring greatly, experiencing the process rather than focusing on the result.

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