My teacher is saying something. She’s pointing emphatically at the whiteboard– at least I can see it in my peripherals. My textbook is open, my fingers strategically placed on the last page we had for homework. For all intensive purposes, I’m the most attentive student in class. I’ve neatly tucked my latest “A+” essay just under my notes. I’ve scribbled our upcoming test in my planner. Everything calmly communicates to onlookers that I’m in history class. 

Unless they notice my eyes. Glazed over, spaced out.

I’m not here at all.

I’m staring out the window.

Growing up with leftovers of 20th-century education, it was convenient to be gifted in reading and writing. Sure, I worked hard, but some things just came naturally. Spelling tests were easy. Essays flowed well. I didn’t ask to be good at it. It just happened (with the help of legendary teachers), and this was useful in school.

The problem was, my flair for English was also a remarkably effective diversion. It distracted my teachers, my classmates– even myself– from something else that came naturally. Yet this rowdy part of me did not help me focus in history class. It rarely motivated me to finish the assigned reading nor did it get my essays done. It often did the opposite.

For all intensive purposes, something was wrong with me.

I was an artist. ​

​I don’t just mean that I could draw. Everyone knew I was “artsy”, that wasn’t a problem. Visual art was quite helpful for projects, almost as useful as English. When you can make a clay model of a Medieval castle, no history teacher complains that you don’t pay attention in class. So, I’m talking about something a little more than talent. It certainly includes reading, writing, and drawing– but it is not limited to it.

I was an artist. This was deeper than surface skill. It was an unmanageable disease. I wasn’t content. I wanted everything in blazing colour, told through a dramatic story, I kept asking the “why” behind it all, I craved to create beauty and mystery dancing alongside prose and fact. I flirted with both sides of the proverbial fence in class debates. I checked out when ideas got too black-and-white– they had to be three-dimensional, at my fingertips, yet simultaneously out of reach.

And I wanted to stare out the window. 

For all intensive purposes, something was wrong with me. 

Because, if something separates you from the status quo–
something’s not right, right?

“In the beginning, God created…” Genesis 1:1. A wild flash of light, a to-and-fro waltz of stars and earth, the raging commotion of every creature’s inhale, exhale. This was not the status quo, far from it. God spoke, life was created. Yet throughout history He did not just speak in black-and-white fact. At least one-third of the Bible is poetry and song. God’s own words are charged with emotion, laden with mystery, and riddled with double-meanings. Yet somehow, even raised on this reckless book, I started to think that being an artist (like Him!) was an optional extra. Art wasn’t useful, nor was it needed. Or so I thought.

My teacher is pointing at the whiteboard again. I jot down the latest homework, tearing my eyes away from the scene that plays out our classroom window. I glance down at my notes, a collision of coloured present and historic fact. Despite all my calculated efforts, I have not managed to suffocate the artist within me. 

She’s still here, even in history class.

She spills out on to every piece of paper, into every presentation, even into every test. Unruly, yet surprisingly productive. Everything wildly, gleefully gloats– “I’m an artist!”– and no matter how many times I stuff cotton wool down that artist’s throat– it can never stay down for long. With a cheeky grin, she always spits it out. Saliva and all. She stretches each cotton ball into clouds that dot the skies of my imagination.

And we fly.

There was never anything wrong with me. 

And if you think something is wrong with you,

maybe it’s the first sign

that something is actually

very, very


Photos: History class at Makua Lani Christian Academy, 2009-2010. Taken by myself & my mother.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 08:03:35 GMT