When I was four, I would color the old used bricks of our fireplace and ledge (which my father had so beautifully built and which took up an entire 24 foot wall) with my favorite colors: red and purple. My parents could never catch me. They knew it was me and I knew they knew it was me. I left clues. I colored most of the rocks in our backyard, and even the tree bark. I made marks on every clean sheet of paper in the house.
I never had an art class growing up. I desperately wanted to make things, so I began sewing crazy quilts at four or five....especially when I'd visit Granny and Papa in Tomahawk, Arkansas. Granny made quilts from the clothes she and her family had worn. She adorned every bed with her quilts. She kept her family warm with her quilts. She lived with her art.
The recurring concern for my parents when I grew up was that I would never be practical, that I had my head in the clouds. The deeper truth was that I was dreaming of what was not and asking why not?
In seventh grade, I announced to my mother that I was going to be a psychiatrist.
I did become a physician. At 25, I made it to Harvard. I accepted a prestigious residency in Radiology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital. I was on top of the world until I realized that Radiology, one of the most competitive and "hot" areas of medicine, then (and now), was not my true calling. I'd rather be either actually talking to patients or home painting abstract oils or watercolors or writing poetry, for that matter! I called up Stanford and got a position in Psychiatry, at which point my mother reminded me of my 13 year old proclamation that I'd be a psychiatrist. Only then did I remember!
Psychiatry is considered the most vague field in medicine, as well as the most fluid and creative. It is the only part of medicine I could live with. Choosing Psychiatry was an act of coming back to my own self. So much of my work in psychotherapy is exploring the mysterious, unknown parts of the self. In this work, I realized that I had some unlived, orphaned off parts of my self that had been patiently waiting to be rediscovered.
I found my way back to my art. Back to making things, making marks, making colors. Back to investigating the unknown, ineffable aspects of myself and others. My parents no longer worry about my dreaminess. When I left Radiology, John Shillito, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the Brigham said: "you went from shadows to nuances". My reply now is: "I've come full circle, back to shadows again". I've come home.