Whenever I’m writing or doodling alone I think of that super-confident, sassy, vaguely skanky girl from my memories of Year 7 with whom I had the misfortune of once sharing a classroom. I think it was one rainy lunchtime where she was escaping the rain and I was escaping people, not really being fussed about chasing boys or cigarettes at the age of 11 like my peers. I was doodling faces in my form’s diary planner thing that they handed out in an attempt to encourage the doing of homework and remember filling the outlines over and over to see what would happen faster, the pen running out of ink, or eroding the paper completely and leaving me with cut-out heads. Fun!
Upon spying this exciting filler activity of mine she gleefully cackled to her twinnish friend, “Oh look, she’s drawing people to keep her company!” I probably tried to laugh along and show my appreciation of the great joke and mask my embarrassment, failing to realise what a see you next Tuesday she was being. There’s still a part of me that always processes put-downs as mistakes of their makers; I have this naïve faith that people can’t possibly be that mean. Can they?
I still sometimes hear her unkind ‘observation’ echoing in my memory, or sometimes shrieking over my shoulder whenever I sit down to draw something (or rather more frequently these days, write). Am I really only creating things to keep me company? Too escape the fate Roberta Sparrow described: “Every living creature on earth dies alone”. Or rather didn’t describe, she too being fictional.
If you want to get all analytical about it, maybe it represented an unconscious desire to mutilate. 4REAL. But I think honestly I just liked doodling. Still do, all over post-its at work when trapped on the phone, in the margins of notebooks when I get bored of writing about myself (it can happen).
Attempts at demoralisation were frequent at that school, on a much larger scale of course than the incident I have described above. I was lucky enough to be whisked from this school to one where intelligence and hard work were rewarded. Friendly competition between students also encouraged the breeding of A* results. An obvious side effect was me being rapidly delegated from teacher’s pet/uber-swot and unfortunately there were no music, media, drama, or art classes in which I could doodle a tent to cut out and live in as a young friendless Tracey Emin. But I left with much better grades than I would’ve had if I stayed at that previous school.
Something needs to be done to make knowledge seem cool. Learning and creativity need to be celebrated, not made fun of. And I don’t mean the creativity of how short school girls can wear their skirts these days or how many different colours they can put in their hair or layers of make-up they can slap on. Have I done showing my age yet? I think so.