This afternoon I received a text message that got the wheels in my head turning. “I have a painting related question: I want to start painting, I have no clue where to begin! Can you help/guide me?”
My first question: “What medium do you want to paint with?”
My second question: “What kind of stuff do you want to paint?”
There’s a reason I asked those questions in that order. I don’t care why anyone wants to paint or, really, do any art. Art has its own value. But from a practical standpoint, you need to know where you’re starting.
It happened a lot.
“And this is our art director, Goose,” My boss said, introducing me to the parents who were visiting our camp (or visiting members from the council that owned our camp, or any number of other people).
I smiled. “It’s nice to meet y’all.”
The mother tilted her head. “You…don’t sound like you’re from around here.”
“No, ma’am. I’m from North Carolina.”
My boss grinned, a hint of amusement. She’d once told me she loved the looks on people’s faces when she introduced me to them; I was not unlike a lost tropical bird to many people, even in Pennsylvania. “And she goes to school in Michigan.”
“Oh, are you studying art?” the father asked.
“No, sir. Biology. Microbiology, specifically.”
Both parents stopped and stared at me. You could see the wheels turning, trying to understand how all the pieces of me that they had just been handed fit together, how any of it made sense. My boss just beamed. I smiled too. I never really got tired of the confusion either. I earned that quiet little mischief.
On a chilly day in January 2009 I found myself signing up for classes at the community college near my hometown in NC. I had previously attended a 4-year university about 4 hours from my home, and was, frankly, still stunned over how quickly my life had changed when I had finally told my parents that I just could not go back to that school, that my mental health just couldn’t handle it anymore. Somewhere underneath the blank pale mask of shock was anger, thrumming low and deep, that I had to take a college algebra class before I could work on any of my dreaded math requirements. I didn’t want to take an algebra class, I didn’t want to take any math class that I didn’t have to, because math wasn’t just something I loathed, it was something I feared: I had been diagnosed with dyscalculia the previous spring, and I still wasn’t entirely sure that there was even a place for someone like me in the science world.
In hindsight, that math class is possibly the best damn thing that ever happened to me. Because I learned not just how to finally do math I was supposed to figure out in high school (and never did), I learned a lot about, well, learning.