Friday, April 10, 2015

Tricks we play on kids

For a long time, I knew I wasn't good at drawing or team sports - so I took that to mean that I wasn't creative or athletic. And so I have a two-part theory about the misconceptions we pick up as kids - which stick with us as we grow up.

When we're kids, being good at drawing somehow gets linked to being good at art, and being an artist gets linked to being creative. I don't know how that message trickles down. Maybe because drawing is the most accessible of the art skills. All it takes is a pencil and paper; it's what kids start doing as soon as they can grasp a Sharpie and access the nearest wall. I have never been good at drawing, so I got it into my head that I was not artistic and therefore not creative.

I feel like I, unfortunately, perpetuated that idea at first as I stumbled my way through teaching arts and crafts in Palestine (pictured). I taught a bunch of drawing projects that, while they were clever and easy to prep for, were probably frustrating to kids who didn't feel like they had drawing skills. This was certainly not the case with my own art teachers, who came up with fabulously creative projects that I took pride in my work on.

As I've described before, I graduated college and got bit by the creative bug and started art journaling and making minibooks and taking on creative challenges. And now I wish I had made making stuff - fine art though it is not - part of my life sooner. Because there are lots of ways to be creative, and very few of them involve line drawing.

Similarly, I think that when you're a kid "being athletic" gets associated with "being good at team sports." And I was decidedly not good at team sports. Some combination of the athletic skill and coordination I didn't have and the shyness I did. (I feel like team sports are designed for people who are either athletic or confident enough not to be bothered that they aren't). So for a long time, I thought I was completely unathletic and therefore never really developed any kind of independent exercise habit. (I am not counting playing on the tennis team because, the way I played it, it did not involve a ton of hustle. I also never made varsity and so the varsity coach took pity on me and made me the "team manager," aka water girl. But that's another story for another time.)

But the thing is, in your adult life it doesn't really matter how well you can throw and catch a ball. Sure, pickup games and team sports can be fun and bring people together (or maybe it's just the post-game drinking that does that) - but the important thing is that you move your body. Which, really, is a completely different thing. Turns out, I am not completely unathletic. I am decent at jogging and Bar Method and pacing the house to get my 10,000 steps (though I am not good at spin class). And taking that time to move my body has made all the difference in my well-being in the rest of my life.

So somehow we get the idea that drawing = creativity, and team sports = athleticism, and form our beliefs about our skills in each accordingly. I can't really link this to any concrete messages I got from adults as a kid, but I think these are fairly common conceptions.

The point is not that I am an amazing artist or athlete. But I am glad that, in fumbling my way into adulthood, I've been able to broaden the story I tell myself about myself. Pretty cool that we get to grow and change and choose how we want to create and move our bodies - and see ourselves.

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