Friday, November 20, 2009

Paying it forward, giving it back, or just realizing one is older and wiser.

A few days ago, I came full circle, a journey that was 30 years around. It was one of those déjà vu moments but this time I was on the other side of the mirror. (and male so don’t be really literal about this.)

Soon I will finish the first of two college courses needed to keep my teaching certification active. Life drawing class has been wonderful, allowing me to brush up on long dormant drawing skills. The other students for the most part are about 19 years old, beginning art careers, deciding majors, finding their inner voices and developing a creative vision. 30 years ago, that was me, a graphic design major at the time, or so I thought, a direction practical in nature even if I did not feel it in my soul.

At the drawing horse next to me all those years ago, was a scruffy character in a biker jacket with long stringy hair, maybe tattoos (I don’t remember) and he scared me a bit (okay, a lot) so I avoided him and his constant glances at my drawings. One day after class he asked me my major to which I replied graphic design. He looked at me and at my drawing, and back at me and said “no, you are an artist; you should be a painting and drawing major”. My response has long since left any functioning brain cells but it was along the lines of needing to be practical and prepared. He smiled at me (which did not make him look quite so scary, but he could have used some dental work), and said “you will be unhappy for the rest of your life unless you follow what you know is inside. You should be in fine arts.” (Weird how I cannot remember a thing I said, but everything he said…) He was right. I was already unhappy with the thought of pens and grids and typesets filling my future (remember, this is 1980 so we still used a ruler, no computers). I switched my major; I wanted to be a painter.

Slipping to the other side of the mirror now, I had a young man in class next to me in a funk about his work, not feeling the poses, mentally burnt out. I offered my colorful pastels as a change of pace from the black charcoal. He drew with renewed energy and a growing sense of excitement over the possibilities of color. At the sink after class, I asked his major….it was graphic design. I pointed out his obvious talent and we started talking. It was my story all over again, I was listening to myself (with a much deeper voice and in need of a shave, but work with me here). I told him he should be a painting and drawing major. We discussed possibilities as it is a whole new and different art world now, but listening to one’s inner voice never changes. This was the first time after 9 weeks that he ever spoke to me…must have been my van-driving, long haired, wrinkle cream wearing image that scared him off to the other side of the room. I have nice teeth though.

Even more amazing is what the power of sharing will do. Whether it is a stick of colored chalk, a warm and genuine smile, a word of advice or the voice of experience, one never knows when it will make a difference in someone else’s life. That biker boy of so long ago will never know the impact his simple observation made on my life. Maybe someday this young man will think back to the old lady in his drawing class and remember the time his talent was acknowledged by someone other than an instructor and realize that sometimes the soul has to take priority over the sensible.

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