Do not become overspecialized | Teen Ink

Do not become overspecialized

April 24, 2022
By EvaChoi BRONZE, Hightstown, New Jersey
EvaChoi BRONZE, Hightstown, New Jersey
2 articles 6 photos 0 comments

Thousands of miles in the air, a Single quote forced me to reevaluate my entire life. I was on a plane to New York City, going through my old files when I found a YouTube video I had saved years ago. 

The video was an Oxford Union speech by Dame Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief at us Vogue, and I used it to write a school newspaper article back in second grade. 

Without a second thought, I started watching it, When a single quote caught my attention. “Do not become overspecialized,” Anna said in her sharp British accent. Like a knife, her conviction cut into my mind, making me question everything I thought I stood for.   

For the last two years, I’d attended an art academy for 12-hour days, which prevented me from doing any activity other than art. This was my decision, as I had never considered exploring any other passion. However, Wintour’s words made me wonder if I’d become overspecialized in one field. Had my decision to focus on art been a mistake?

I was soon to find the answer. After landing in New York, I have whisked away to a 5-week theatre arts camp in Connecticut. This was my first introduction to other art forms, such as theatre history and creative writing, showing me how vast the art world was. During weekend visits to Manhattan, I marveled at musicals like Mean Girls and Aladdin. Studying the costumes, set designs, and choreography, I wondered how a painter like me could ever contribute to something so spectacular.  

Aside from the visuals, I found the greatest enjoyment from the stories themselves, such as how the archetypal hero’s journey could be re-told countless times with new originality. The scope of musical entertainment—from the writing and directing, set and costume design—gave me an epiphany: I’d misunderstood Anna Wintour’s quote. She was not discouraging having an area of expertise. Rather, she was saying to be open and collaborative, instead of toiling over solitary, fruitless specialties.   

My obsession with art had not been fruitless, as it taught me to see the world creatively. However, it was rather solitary. Thus, I chose to discontinue the art academy and explore creative writing, sharing my work with friends and family. I also started dabbling in other visual mediums like photography and digital design to involve myself in more activities at school. With more time on my hands, I even founded my club, Starlight, a club that promotes and fundraises for girls’ education. 

While it still incorporates my love of art, the club also taught me about marketing, leadership, and communication—skills I never would have developed in front of an easel.   

    None of this is to say that I’ve abandoned art altogether. I still enjoy spending time in front of a canvas. But I like spending equal amounts of time in front of other things: a journal where I jot down my novel ideas, a computer doing a Starlight Zoom call, a bookshelf looking for a new world to enter. Someday, I hope to join a musical production, perhaps as a writer, perhaps as an actress—or maybe as a costume or set designer, utilizing the visual part of my brain in a collaborative setting. The possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to see what else I can become. 

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