On Display


know your limits

an on display collaboration : a picture prompt

December 28. 2000



the picture I chose

When you're a child, you're told "you can do anything". You can be a professional baseball player. You can be a rock star. This is the United States of America, you can even be president.

You take tests in elementary school. They determine your "aptitude". You're told you have the ability to be a nurse (a nurse?!?), an engineer (doesn't that involve math?), an artist, or, if you choose to go right to work, a bus driver. You decide to be an artist. These "aptitude" tests will allow the school system to forever divide you and your peers into the stupid kids and the smart kids. Don't pay any mind to what they really call you - "tech prep", "college prep", "honors". You know what it means.

You were never good at math. You gave up trying in 4th grade, preferring to fill your notebook with drawings until Mr. Gardner caught you. By the time you're in junior high, you're told you'll never be good at math, but it's okay, you'll just go the college prep class. The shame. Lumped in with all the football players and the kids who will be pregnant or married within five years. You miss your friends in the honors classes. You stare at your desk and get Bs.

By the time you get to high school, you're "the artist". This identity derails during your senior year. You're told by your teachers you have to produce, you have to work, buck up, stop being a baby, go see a shrink if you're having problems, but you should really be working up to your potential. After all, there's college portfolios to submit, and I know you can do better work than you are. You try, but you feel nothing, no passion.

You get to college. You're in an art school. Art students aren't supposed to be smart. Your intelligence is insulted in your academic classes over and over again, and you find your mind wandering from Socrates and Freud. You doodle in your journal and write angsty poetry about the guy you're currently obsessed with. Eventually, you stop going to the class, and when you see the F on your report card, it's not really a surprise.

You find yourself questioning why you do what you do. Your teachers are telling you you're good. Be a painter. Be a potter. Be a sculptor. You should do computer work. You find yourself being pulled in all directions. A small voice in your head wonders "Why do I have to fit into your categories? Can't I just take what's in my heart and mind and make it real?"

There's so much you want to do. You want to travel all over the world. You want to take pictures of everything you see. You want to swim in an ocean as clear as glass. You want to climb a grassy mountain and watch the clouds blow by, with the sun peeking through. You want to make art, you want to live a passionate life. Through your entire existence, there have been things people have told you can't do. And most of the time you listened to them.

It was no one's fault, really.

One Year Ago:
"It's really odd to see all these people again from high school. The dynamic seems completely different in some ways, because, for the first time, we're all coming from different places and completely different life situations. When we were in high school, all our experiences and points of view came from a similar source, because (with a few exceptions) we had lived in Lebanon all our lives, and had known each other since elementary school."