There was a time when I loved drawing, and I loved doodling and I loved making random things. So one fine day, when a well-meaning teacher asked us to start off the year by writing a short paragraph on ‘What I Want to Be’ so she could get to know us better, I naively shared that I wanted to be an artist. The days went by, nothing was mentioned about that paragraph, and soon it was forgotten, almost. Sometime long into that academic year, that teacher asked us to close our books, and to each draw a map of Peninsular Malaysia from memory. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the angle and bulge of the peninsula quite right. The teacher walked by my desk, and said: “How can you be an artist? You have no sense of perspective!” She happened to be the school’s Career Guidance Counsellor as well, but that’s beside the point. An adult, a figure-of-authority, a teacher, a person we’d been taught to respect, had basically told me to forget it – you can never be what you want to be – or at least that’s what I heard. Perhaps an angrier, angsty-er, more confident teenager would have taken those words as a challenge and would’ve made it her life’s mission to prove the teacher wrong. I wasn’t that kind of teenager, and I’d been well-trained by the school culture to tow the line of mediocrity – lie low, don’t draw attention to yourself, stay out of the line of vision and you’ll get by. I never quite was able to fully shake that mentality – somehow, I’d always felt like I was faking whatever confidence I displayed. Perhaps some of you feel that way too sometimes? Anyhow, I digress.
Life happens, and you let it take you where it will. Sometimes, it’d lead me down a path of creation, and sometimes it wouldn’t, but anytime I admired someone’s creativity, or was in a position where I had to create an original piece of work, I could count on that teacher’s words coming back to taunt me.
While lurking through countless artists’ flickr streams a few days ago, I decided enough was enough, I was going to exorcise that demon once and for all (is that possible?)! So I’ve resolved to doodle everyday, because nothing you or I say can help me create, except the act of creation itself. To make sure I actually do it, and to stop giving excuses (keep quiet, voice-in-the-head!), I’ve decided to give myself a target to upload a doodle-a-day to the internet so:
a. I’m not just responsible to my ever-forgiving journal that doesn’t mind if I don’t touch it for months on end; and,
b. I can’t self-censor.
If you like, you can check if I’m keeping on track through:
But I’m missing the most important point I wanted to make. Most of all, I meant to share this story because the biggest lesson it has taught me is not that I can’t create, but that words are so very powerful; particularly words from a teacher to a student. It’s easy to underestimate how long a casual comment you make can stay with a young, open mind. I’ve tried to remember to make mine count. Are you making yours count today?