I’ve seen a whole bunch of these letters around, and never felt like trying one. But then I read this rather marvellous take on the idea by Non Pratt, and I’ve got all inspired. Plus, picking up a pencil/crayon has reminded me, very clearly of a particular incident in my teen years that turned out to be much more formative than it should have been.
So here goes.
There’s a teacher you’ve got at the moment who doesn’t seem to like you. I don’t think it’s personal, actually, although it’s difficult to tell, both for you there, and me now. I’ve never been all that good at reading people, can’t think why 😉 It’s the art teacher – you know I can’t even remember her name? And I bet she forgot us the moment we walked out of her room.
Fab room, the art room. Big old attic like space, with sprawling tables, and heaps of stuff all over the chests of drawers and bookcases all around the edges. Not a clean, open, inspirational space, far too much clutter for that. But light, and chatter, and what should have been so much fun. Because art is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?
School didn’t take it seriously. Although everyone had a double period timetabled in, right up until when – 3rd year? But it was one of the lessons you were allowed to miss for things like music lessons. And I missed the second half of art for a whole year to do violin. I don’t think the art teacher liked that. And I think that’s got a lot to do with why she told you that you can’t draw, and gave you a failing grade in the internal art exam.
Even though you only had 40 minutes to do it in, not 80 like everyone else, because violin.
Yes, it’s the only failing grade you got in an exam at senior school. Came close with Basic World Geography (so it must have been fourth year) but scraped a pass despite doing stuff all work. We weren’t supposed to revise for art though, and I couldn’t, you couldn’t, if we’d wanted to, because let’s face it, we don’t have a clue.
Except actually, the reason you started to think that, the reason I’ve thought that for all these years, is because of that bitter, twisted art teacher, carrying out her vendetta with the music department by trashing your self belief. And you will, I have, spent all those intervening years laughing it off, to hide the pain. Not trying. Not drawing. Putting myself down.
I don’t like failing. I’m not good at it. I haven’t had a lot of practise – the flip side of being really quite bright is that it’s quite easy to scrape through most things even without really trying, and when I do focus, when I care enough to focus, there’s little I can’t get my head around.
Except drawing. Until now.
When I discovered, over the last few months, that I can. I can do this. I can learn to draw. And with the right set of instructions, I can produce something really rather good in minutes. (Well within that 40 minute window, when I was supposed to be drawing a twig. I can still see the twig actually, it wasn’t very impressive, and granted my picture wasn’t desperately good, but I don’t think it was worth failing.)
There are two lessons to be learnt from this experience, teen me. One is that not all teachers have your best interests at heart. They may not even be teaching you at all. And the second is that if you want to learn something, believe in yourself and go out and do it.
Now I’d quite like 97 year old me to drop a letter back to 44 year old me, to let me know whether working all of this out made a difference or not.
Go get ’em.