Letters From A Devastated Artist

“I didn’t become an artist. As long as I can remember I always have been one.”

Dear Mom,

I don’t like school. I don’t fit in. The rest of the kids make fun of me. Why am I always left standing by myself when they choose teams for sports? Why do the captains argue in front of everyone because they don’t want me? But then, why do they always fight to sit by me and force me to let them copy my test paper when the teacher isn’t looking? Why do I feel so…alone?

The other day, Leon, one of the captains was playing foursquare at recess and a boy scored a point against him and Leon suddenly started hitting him in the face over and over again. Why did I feel terribly sick watching Leon’s empty eyes as he turned the smaller boys face into a bloody pulp.  How could Leon suddenly stop and go to another game and start playing as if nothing had happened? Why did he never get in trouble? Why are the teachers afraid of him too?

Another thing, why did my teacher give me an “F” and write big red lines all over my paper because I didn’t use “standard writing”? She didn’t like my pretty curls and circles that make my cursive writing different. She told me I had to write just like everybody else. I wonder, Mom, why do I have to write like Leon? I don’t want to.

Oh yeah, and why can’t I square dance in physical education? Why do I have to tell Coach Johnson that I’m not allowed to dance because it’s against my religion? Why do I feel so lonely when I’m sitting there by myself while everyone else is having so much fun? Why do I feel so, how do the long-haired kids say it…square?

I love to fly, though. The first day of summer is the best day of the year. The wings sprout from my back and I run in circles until the air propels me and schwoop, suddenly I’m up to seventy feet. I see East Lake Park far below, the pond, my school, empty and hot. My shadow moving across the ground like a ghostly vapor. Flying over our house, I realize how small it is compared to the great big world that surrounds it. Roads leading here and there. I feel them calling and know I will soon follow them to wild adventures that now I only dream about. Soaring and dancing in the air with the wind at my face, I feel so free.

As I circled my home far overhead, I wondered what would happen, Mom, if you suddenly came out to hang the washing and looked up. Somehow, I doubt if you or Dad know I can fly. And that someday I will fly away forever. On weary wings, I flew back to the park and drifted down. There was a sudden jolt beneath my feet and I kept running while my wings and body adjusted and came back to earth.

Exhausted and shaking, I walked back home, my wings safely sheathed beneath my shoulder blades until next summer. I quickly found a piece of paper and crayons and began to draw the vibrant greens of the park, the curls of the leaves, and the yellows and circles of the algae-filled pond. I looked up and it was tomorrow.

I like summer. I don’t want to go back to school.



24 Responses to “Letters From A Devastated Artist”

  1. Weeping. Simply weeping. A river.

  2. Geeze – my life in Elementary School – I hope my kids have it easier in school than I did – or at least that I'm there for them if they don't

  3. Very touching. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Thank you so much, Fran. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  5. So weird/refreshing to know that I'm not the only one who felt like this.

  6. Wow, you captured in words what I've felt so many times. I see some of the same things in my daughter now too. Thankfully I recognize the artist in her and try to encourage that as much as possible out side of school since so many schools seem to find it necessary to squash any spark of creativity or difference.
    Can't wait to read more.

  7. I'm so glad you are there for your daughter. My Mom was my savior in so many ways. She fought for my creativity. I now have two extremely creative and artistic daughters, thanks to the example of my Mom.

  8. Oh, I had the same experience with square dancing. It was so unnecessary. I'm not sure if you ever get over that feeling of being an outcast.

  9. Great thoughts Randy…
    …our religious heritage did so much damage, to so many. I am surprised that so many our age stuck it out.
    Thank God my parents had an open mind and made decisions on God's Word not on non-biblical thoughts.

  10. I guess I'm blessed to be a teacher in my school district–we have a strong gifted program and our high school fine arts department is second to none. Creativity is honored in our schools. Now, I will say that the arts in our nation's schools may be pressured out with all the standards and testing that the federal and state governments are pushing. But, until that time, I enjoy what our students create.

  11. This is exactly why I am on the school board of my daughters' school – to ensure that they are in an environment where their creativity is nourished and celebrated, where they are encouraged and affirmed, not pulled down because they have the same artistic personality as me. I went through similar experiences (apart from the dancing thing!) in my little village school in rural England, and again at my fancy private school in the city. It wasn't until our equivalent of Senior High, at yet another school that I finally felt the freedom and permission to be myself and finally be accepted. I wouldn't want anyone ever to go through the bullying and the barbed comments from both students and teachers that I experienced if I can help prevent that for this next generation.

    • Thanks, Mark, for this insightful post. We parents need to champion our creatives. It is so odd that I though I was the only one to go through the bullying and ridicule. This has obviously struck a common chord-and it is not just an American phenomenon.

  12. That's why we Home School.

  13. The reason I taught for so long in public school is I wanted children to have the experience of a teacher who loved learning….one who understood that moving for some meant ability to think…..coloring, drawing, writing was expression of thought, not messy papers….and it is the reason I still consult after twenty years for those who don't "fit" public and private school's definition of gifted learners….because the schools and rules are too busy rigidly trying to define giftedness instead of appreciating and supporting learners gifts.

  14. Uggg this hurts my heart to read. It's my kids. It's my son to a T. I miss the teachers who see them as special and wonderfully gifted instead of not the traditional child and so therefore a problem. The stories I hear of how they are treated. Thank God they know Him and how He designed them. He created a true Masterpiece when they were formed.

  15. Randy, I was on the margins of being one of the "loser kids". So I worked hard at not being – – mostly by working hard at being one of the others. As long as I picked on the losers, I wasn't one myself.

    If I'd been at your school, I'd have picked on you, too. I'm very sorry about that.


  1. uberVU - social comments - March 23, 2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by randyelrod: “Letters From A Devastated Artist” My first short post of a new series.Today: “Dear Mom,” http://ow.ly/1pNun

Created by Randy Elrod

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