I was in Hobby Lobby the other day looking for a new calligraphy pen. As I walked through the aisles, it reminded me of when I was a little boy. I would have been in heaven.
Living in a small town, we didn’t have specialty art supply stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels. All we had was a small Wal-Mart in the next town over. As a single-digit-age kid, my world is incredibly small so a trip to the next town felt like a huge adventure. And a trip to Wal-Mart was like Walt Disney World. ‘Cause that meant I could get a toy. And also some new crayons.
I was happy with my one aisle of arts and crafts our Wal-Mart provided. Over the years, I did outgrow the space as I eventually purchased just about every piece of charcoal, fine-tipped drawing pen, pastel, and watercolor set available. But at first, I was mesmerized by all the different tools and techniques I wanted to master.
I loved drawing when I was a kid. And coloring. And painting. And building. And creating in general. It was fun for me and the more I did it, the better I got at it. Not only did I enjoy the creative process but took great satisfaction at the outcome, felt genuine pride over that final polished piece.
Art was all I knew and that’s all my peers began to associate me with. I was “that chubby artist guy.” And while I was better than average, I was no Picasso. But everyone acted like I was. And I found that kind of reputation hard to live up to. I started developing art anxiety that compounded my general anxiety. I wasn’t as good as people thought and I started to feel like a fraud. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be as amazing as others expected. And the art that I enjoyed so much began to feel more like a chore.
But I thought college would help me catch up to the expectations people had for me. I would learn the craft, refine my techniques, and learn to fall in love with art again. Unfortunately, attending an art school only reinforced my fears that I was not good enough. My classmates were lightyears ahead of me and wildly talented. But again, art was all I knew. God knows I’m not good at math. I’m not really good at anything, actually. So I stuck with it, got my degree, then promptly moved back home and “retired” from art.
I didn’t want to deal with my insecurities, didn’t want to face the possibility of failure, so I just stopped trying. One of the biggest mistakes I could have made.
Since graduating college nearly ten years ago, I’ve only occasionally done something creative. I’ve drawn a picture here or there. I’ve made a couple of videos. But for the most part, I’ve just not been artistically active. But I still think about it. I still want to learn more about drawing, photography, calligraphy, design, and animation, which was my major in college. Yes, ya boy knows how to do cartoons. I could have worked for Nickelodeon if I wasn’t such a knucklehead.
Back then, I had no expectations. I did art for fun, not for fame or recognition or validation. It was for me and me alone. And the mistake I made was trying to associate my art with my value.
I still feel the pull to be creative. I still get excited about stationary. Still feel the pinpricks of possibilities from pens and pencils. It’s bittersweet and it almost hurts a little bit because I think of the time I wasted and think that I could actually be talented if I would have just kept practicing. Now I’m very behind. But that doesn’t mean I’m totally done.
I almost want to start over completely. Rebuild a foundation first. Start small. And go back to my roots of doing art just for the fun of it. Just for me. It used to be soothing and enjoyable and I want to have that back because I could sure use some soothing these days.
There are so many resources out there. It blows my mind. The Internet is an amazing place and offers so much knowledge. Youtube alone has so many free videos that can teach you to do just about anything you’d ever be interested in. There are also great places like Lynda, Udemy, and Skillshare. And although you do have to pay for those, some of the classes might be worth it.
So that’s what I want to focus on. I’ve had good intentions before and they never panned out. But this time I really do want to get back into it. And I want to take it easy on myself. I’m no professional and I’m not going to try to be one. I just need to do something creative and productive instead of just being lazy all the time. I want to feel proud of the work I do, like I used to be.
I often wonder if you think of me.
Can you separate me from the others you follow? How do I stack up against better beards and bodies?
I wish you knew I post things just for you sometimes. I study what you like and try to follow suit, to show you I like it too. We have a lot in common and I think we’d have a lot of fun together. Do you ever think that?
I want to show you who I am through pictures and words and song lyrics. And maybe a few funny memes here and there. I want to be smart and funny and intellectual. I want to be artistic and slightly quirky with a keen sense of pop culture and wise words. I want you to see I’m well-rounded, that there is an infrastructure of feelings beneath the surface level sadness. I’m more than my misery. It’s just hard to convey that sometimes.
I don’t know you. But I know your smile. And I want you to know mine.
I’m often disinterested in things around me, be they people or policies. I’m numb to the nightly news and find favor in sleeping. I don’t care about a lot these days. But for some reason, I care that you will one day care about me. And maybe it’s because you’ve awoken my interest like a long-dormant entity roused by provocation. But what you’ve provoked in me, I’m not quite sure. I can’t say I understand it but there’s a part of me that finds comfort in it. There’s a part of me that finds electricity in it.
I often want to talk to you. I want to reach out like the many times I’ve reached out but I’m scared to make that step. My fingers are frail from past failures, my legs weak from chasing abandonment. I’ve stayed to myself for so long, for too long, and there is an ever-increasing curiosity as to how I’m now coming out of this relationship coma.
But would you like me if you knew me? I’m kind of hard to deal with. I have trust issues and I don’t think highly of myself or anyone else. But I’d like to think you’d change my mind about that. I know it’s a big task but I’d like to hope you might be up for it.
Or maybe I should keep things the way they are, a delicate balance of curiosity and anonymity. You don’t really know me and I don’t really know you and maybe I’m too scared to crack apart this fragile daydream. I’m afraid what spills out will spoil this moment, these days of studying your interests and engaging you from afar.
I dream of advancing inches, of getting closer to conversing with you. But I also dream of just keeping you in my mind, of late night movies and simple dinners, of you grabbing my arm as I make you laugh, of you keeping your hand there two seconds too long. It’s safe to think these things, to enjoy the moment in my head without fear of failure or falling by the wayside. And for now, it’s enough. And really, it will always have to be enough because we will never be. And maybe keeping the faintest attachment is the best thing to do. Hurt often follows closely behind beating hearts.
For now, I’ll just be comfortable being curious. And I hope that somehow you read this, although I won’t explicitly show it to you. And I hope if you do, I make you curious as well.
I’ll take this moment. I’m content with knowing you like what I share. It gives me hope that you might think about me what I think I think about you.
I had a dream the other night…
I walked along my usual dirt road route. I concentrated on my iPod and tried to find a few uptempo songs to carry me through the next mile when a school bus zoomed right by me on the narrow dirt road. It shot up a cloud of dry sand that landed in my eyes and the crevices of my mp3 player. When the dust cleared, I saw the driver had horns jutting out of either side of his head.
That’s when I knew it was time to turn around and head home.
The distance from the dirt road to home lengthened the farther I walked. My stomach tightened with a growing anxiety I couldn’t place. That’s when the memory of a dead kid crept into the forefront of my mind. He was found underneath a small bridge in a shallow body of water near where I was walking. His face had been torn away. He had greasepaint smeared on his hands.
The road lengthened even more as the school bus appeared in the distance in front of me. But during the time it took for the bus to circle back around to me, it had changed. It was armored with steel rods like some kind of brace or support system fused to the sides. It tore into the dirt and kicked up a blinding cloud of dust. It charged toward me, the engine growing louder. The sound caught up to me first, entered my ears and invaded my body.
I saw my house on the horizon and ran as fast as I could to make it to my front door before the school bus could make it to me.
I burst through the door to my kitchen and found my mom putting away dishes. I wheezed as relief pushed away the engine noise in my guts. I told her about the school bus.
As I spoke to her, she closed the cabinet door and turned to me. There was something off about her face.
“What’s wrong with your nose?” I asked.
“It’s just blistered,” she said. But as we talked, it grew bigger and bulbous. It flushed red as if all the blood vessels in her nostrils had burst in unison.
Something wasn’t right. I took a step back. I kept my face to her as I inched closer to the front door. My hand reached for the doorknob as her nose bloomed into a blood-filled ball.
And then she lunged.