New Year’s Resolutions (aka A Letter to the Kid Struggling in School…)
Happy 2017! I love the idea of New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve never been big on making them (or keeping them, I should say). I have a habit of making grandiose plans when I’m hyper-motivated (like on January 1), and then feeling massively disappointed in myself when I inevitably fall short of my goals (like on January 2). Rather than make lofty resolutions I know are unrealistic each new year, I’ve taken to reflecting and reassessing small things in my life I can change (like trying to eat frozen pizza only once a week), and reaffirming the positive aspects of myself and my life I’m pleased with (like hey, you got out of bed this morning! Good job, you!). Clearly, I’ve got this New Year New You thing figured out.
This post is not so much about resolutions, rather a few nuggets of wisdom/insight/lessons from some of the reflecting I’ve been doing this week. The intended audience in my mind while writing this has been kids who are struggling in school (art class in particular, but any subject, really), but it works for all ages, really. I need to remind myself of these lessons every day.
When I was in kindergarten I couldn’t cut a straight line. I was certain I would flunk out of school by Christmas. That sooner or later they’d discover the fraud I really was. All the other kids were so confident. They could use their plastic safety scissors the way the kindergarten gods had intended. All the other (smug) little five year olds could cut along the straight dotted line and create two pieces where one had been. I could not. I was defeated.
In grade school, despite the absence of dexterity, I was obsessed with arts and crafts. Capital ‘O’ obsessed. Clay, beads, felt, embroidery thread, gum wrappers, buttons, scraps, colored pencils, puffy paint. That covers about .01% of what consumed my obsession. Given my love of arts and crafts, art should have been my favorite subject in school. Instead, I dreaded it. I loved my grade school, but we had a scary, dictatorial, towering-of-a-presence man teaching us, who, instead of tapping into our natural sense of creativity, taught only history and theory with endless slides and lectures, as if we were grad students. I love these subjects now, but at eight years old they meant nothing. And to me, this further crushed my creativity. The message I received: “This is art. If it doesn’t resonate with you, you aren’t meant to be an artist.” I was defeated.
In middle school, I took a few art classes that were more focused on creating and developing technical skills than on history and theory. I’d found my heaven! Until we had to draw. Three dimensional objects. To this day, these are four letter words to me. My poor mother. The hours she spent with me at our kitchen table trying to explain the concept of dimensional objects, only to be met with a bawling pre-teen screaming ‘but a cylinder’s top is a CIRCLE! WHY is the top an OVAL when I draw it?????’ (this was around the same time she had to spend days trying to explain why there are letters in math. It just didn’t make sense! And she calmly looked for different ways to explain it, evening after evening, until I understood. That woman is a saint.) Here’s a picture of one of my attempted 3D drawings of our station wagon (as drawn by me at age 11, in my pink diary, on a road trip with our family, filling the time the way kids did before iPhones existed)
Just to drive home the point, here’s a close up:
Yup. It wasn’t pretty. And again, I was defeated.
When I was in college, I studied Elementary Education and Spanish. It was a rocky experience for me; I didn’t get along very well with most of my education professors (though there were a few in there I still thank the universe for). One day, one professor, who I respected greatly but didn’t like much, told me, earnestly, that I’d never be a teacher with handwriting like mine. I finished my degree and keep up my license, and the reasons I don’t teach now extend way beyond that moment; however, that’s the moment that sticks with me. Every thank you note I write and include in my orders, I hear a little voice telling me ‘you’ll never make it; with handwriting like yours…’. Again, I was defeated.
Why am I sharing these stories? To encourage you not to give up when you feel defeated. In kindergarten I wanted to throw away my scissors forever. In grade school I learned that art was boring and passive and that crafting was ‘just a weekend hobby’. In middle school I wanted to throw every three dimensional object through a window, and tore up my fair share of sketching pads. In college I felt my entire existence and purpose in life was discredited. But I never quit. I listened to those voices, but thankfully, I never let them take control (thanks, mostly, to my parents, who never let me believe I could be anything less than who I wanted to be). And now I can cut an (almost) straight line, draw technically perfect three dimensional objects (if they’re simple ones), I’ve learned to love my terrible handwriting, and I’ve made my ‘weekend hobby’ into a full time job.
So, on this January 1st, whether you are one for lofty resolutions or not, I extend this simple message of reassurance & hope for the New Year (whether you’re 7 or 107 or anywhere in between): ignore the defeatists, and listen to the voice in your head, your heart, your soul, telling you what and who it is you want to be, and go be it.
Love and blessings and a Happy 2017 to you all <3