This blog is an op-ed piece written by Rachael Heffernan, writer and researcher for The Drawing Board.
Everyone finds themselves in an uninspired funk every once and a while. Except, it seems, children. Children always seem to be discovering things, or trying out something new, or getting excited about mundane activities.
Well, part of that is obviously because everything beautiful and wonderful and fun in this world is new to children, and due to that small fact everything is way more exciting to them than it is to us dreary, old, done-everything 20-somethings.
Everyone thirty and older just scoffed at this post. And with good reason, because another part of why children get so excited about stuff all the time is because we give them stuff to be excited about.
Give adults some children to entertain and suddenly they’re off to the museum, or looking up crafts to do, or pulling out an old microscope to look at grass. Suddenly making cookies seems like a good idea, and before you know it you’re running around in a tutu talking about fairy circles and the magic of the universe.
“Well,” I thought. “I don’t need to have children around in order to put some effort into making my life interesting. I’m going to do some stuff!”
And the first thing I came up with was to grab a bunch of weird, random things – whisks, spatulas, sponges, a slinky – and try to paint with them, with the help of some of my lovely co-workers.
We got together with some ultra-washable tempura paint in a room in which we had taped 6 large white Bristol boards to the walls and floor. Then we shoved some hors d’oeuvres in the oven and got right to it.
It was a fun night of sabotage and creativity. We all got covered in paint, which made eating tiny pizza-bagels more difficult, and succeeded in using every weird painting tool in one way or another. The Bristol boards are now lovingly hung on my wall in my living room, a little pop of colour and creativity to remind me of a great night.
If you find yourself bored of the same-old same-old, go to the dollar store, buy $3 worth of Bristol boards and let loose! You don’t need a lot of money, space, or expertise to have a good time and bring some much-needed creative energy to your life.
Very recently, The Eleventh Stack posted an interesting blog about Little Golden Memories – the acts of reading and being read to, particularly in childhood, that left a lasting impression on you. I have to say that as a book nerd, some of my favorite memories of my childhood (if not almost all of them) involve reading or writing in some capacity. I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t reading something. From the ingredients on the box of breakfast cereal to the instructions on the shampoo bottle, I’d find time to read every line of text in my house again and again. Often, my mother would find me in the wee hours of the morning, head buried in a book under the covers, flashlight in my mouth.
Oddly, my love of reading came from my fear of dying. I had two grandparents pass away when I was very young, just around the time I was getting into reading and I have very vivid memories of reading voraciously to “fight the clock.” When my mother would come in my room to take away the flashlight so I could get some sleep, I’d wait until she headed back to her room or the living room before yanking open my curtain to squint out a few chapters by the moonlight. Reading, for me, was almost pathological.
The first book I ever “read” (see: memorized) was Fifty Below Zero by Robert Munsch when I was around five years old. (Actually, I have no idea when it was. It could have been earlier. I started reading very very early). I remember begging my brother to read it to me until I could mouth the words along with him, savouring the sounds coming out of my mouth, knowing that I was doing the next best thing to reading – that my words were lining up with my eyes scanning all those foreign alphabet letters on the page, that every line I got in before the page turn was a victory for my mimicry. One afternoon, my brother and I were in the basement of my grandmother’s house. My mom and her parents were in the second kitchen discussing grown-up things when my brother called them over.
“Nakita wants to read something,” he said.
They had the look of surprise but listened attentively while I cleared my throat, holding up the Munsch classic and proceeded to “read” the entire book cover to cover.When I was done, they clapped and clapped. This was the first positive experience I had with reading and it is one of the only memories of my grandfather that still remains in my mind. In a way, when I return to it, I am reading him again and again, a memorized version of someone once written in life.
As I got older, my appetite for reading only increased to disturbing levels. I remember in the fourth grade, my teacher created this classroom challenge called “Around the World” which was designed to encourage us to read. We all cut out and coloured our own Pink Panthers, and labelled him with our names. My teacher had set up little points all around the room and for every book you read, your panther would move a space. If you made it around the room, your panther had gone around the world! Well, this is exciting stuff for a child-freak like me who savours both reading and competition. Naturally, I checked out dozens and dozens of books from the public library and in the month, had lapped the other students in class several times totalling over 80 books. I clearly had an issue.
In the fifth grade, I got accepted into the Advanced Placement class at my new elementary school and we learned about mythology as part of our curriculum. I will never forget our project for the mythology unit which entailed researching the storytelling structures of myths and writing our very own. Mine was called Why We Call the Moon Lunar (wow hahaha) and I even had the cover laminated. I cherished that thing for years.
Another story my mother just loves to tell everyone, much to my embarrassment (but obviously not too much because it is hilarious and I am now blogging about it), is what I have dubbed The Aardvark Tale. In the summer between Grade Six and the beginning of Grade Seven, I was terrified that I lacked the knowledge to participate in the great academic halls of JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL. During the first week of summer holidays, the sun was shining, birds were chirping and my mother entered my bedroom to find me holed up at my desk, surrounded by papers and books, writing furiously. She peeked over my shoulder at the essay I was working on and discovered that I was crafting a history of… the aardvark. Turns out, I had started the very beginning of my knowledge journey at the first entry in the encyclopedia which my mother tore out my hands and locked away, pushing me to go play outside with children my age. She also (mercifully) enrolled me in a performing and visual arts school for junior high to diversify my interests and skills… basically so that I’d be something more than a massive nerd.
Instead, I became a painter and a band geek. Much cooler, I know. And even though I had a number of years of pure creative output, it was my experience in my history, english and philosophy classes that really stuck and I enrolled in University in the history program. It was basically my dream: reading and writing all day. Every day. Just because.
I’m a now pursuing graduate studies in history and the volume that I read and write has only increased. I remember in my first semester back at school after a five year break (in which I read at least 200 texts, if not more – I lost track – I have a legitimate disorder), one of my classmates commented on my speed reading in front of the class. I felt like that Aardvark expert all over again – a complete and utter, undeniable nerd, in other words. That first semester saw the following stats: the reading/skimming of 78 books, the watching of 16 films, the reading of at least 47 articles, the giving of 4 presentations, and the writing of 165 pages in 3.5 months… I want to say that is all I did in that time, but (as you know), I am also the owner and head writer for The Drawing Board and so was reading, researching and writing for many clients in that time as well.
In the words of a dear friend of mine: I need to be “quaratined.”
Now that I have a kid of my own, I can’t help but wonder if she will be like me in this respect. I would love the opportunity to share my love of the written world with her, but don’t want to pressure her if is not as “into it” as her mom. That being said, if I catch her writing essays on Antelopes or something, I’d love to help her hone her craft and nerd it up just like me… with a lot more outside playing thrown in the mix too.
What are your favourite reading and writing memories?