Today it's white. Like the snow floating down from the murky sky, almost a sea of endless white, excepting the trees and houses cutting a cross-section into the earth. Some people think that white is the absence of all color, but they are mistaken. That's black. White contains all of the colors of the rainbow in color theory. White is a blank slate with the potential to show any hue. I learned that in middle school. Well, I was a middle school student but had been taking college-level art courses at the local community college. I
remember my terror the first day in that class. I had a bit of social anxiety as it was, but to put a 13 year-old in a room with 15 students ranging in age from 18 to 20, was borderline cruel. My mother registered me for the course, convinced that the experience would be good for me.
Several weeks passed before I stopped having panic attacks on Saturday mornings. I cried a few times, begging my mother to allow me to stay in bed. Every week she said, "Just try it for one more week." Until I had reached the halfway point of the semester, then she began saying, "You're almost done."
Sitting in the half-empty classroom until the other students arrived was nerve-wracking. But the three hours of isolation, devoted to drawing, were bliss. I would never have been able to achieve that at home, my father breathing down my neck to get to work on my unfinished chores. My mother wouldn't own to it, but I suspect that played a role in her decision to push me into the class.
Years later, I can admit that my mother understood me better than I realized. She hid her talents, a singer who didn't sing. She felt that she had lost some of her gift, and therefore couldn't bare the sound of her own voice anymore. She feared I would deny myself the joy of creating something that no one else could for fear it would not be accepted.
The other students were intimidating, taller, if not more mature. I wasn't obsessed with art, but middle school curriculum didn't allow for much independent thought or study. We drew pictures of our hands or shoes, more outlines than anything recognizable, with pencil on newsprint. I had begun asking my parents for sketch pads and soft graphite pencils a few years earlier, but I had no inkling of what to expect from a real art class.
Initially, the attention I received from the professor and the other students was unwelcomed. I was certain their focus was merely due to the fact that I was young and they wanted me to feel comfortable, which ironically produced the adverse effect. None of the students ever said a cruel word to me. They encouraged me, sensing that I was shy and apprehensive. When we reviewed our work with the class, I was naturally nervous, certain their work would be far superior to my own, startled to learn that was not the case.
Ashley was the most popular student in the class. She was outgoing in a way that was not obnoxious, and well-liked but not superficially, like the cheerleaders at my middle school. I liked her too, for her genuine conversation with me. I felt like a human when she critiqued my work, which was far less critical than the term implies. I admired her flax-colored hair, and the way the boys in the class spoke freely with her. Boys were still a complete mystery to me at that time, it made me nervous anytime one of the boys in the class spoke to me.
My work was uncensored, though immature. Looking back upon on of our asssignments, the abstration of a seashell, I am not embarrassed but see pure joy in it. That's what today means to me, a realization of pure joy in something that produced fear initially. Another step forward, another day in my journey to fulfillment. The day ahead full of hidden color.