I found myself doodling on a notepad at work one morning. It was a slow day and I spent most of it waiting for information from others before I could complete the few projects I was working on. I spent an hour filling up the page with random shapes and lines, little creatures, bits of body parts, anything really. I found myself so enraptured by what I was doing that before I knew it the whole morning had passed me by.
I’m not an artist. Sure I can draw things and it mostly looks like what I am aiming for but something is always off. The parts don’t quite add up to the whole, the shadows and highlights never quite end up where they should be, one eye is always bigger than the other, giving the subject a very startled look. But I’ve always doodled and drew and while I wasn’t going to have an art show any time soon it’s fun to do.
I’m whiling away the morning drawing when a coworker comes up to me and asks what I’m doing. I’m bored, I say. The words escape my mouth before my brain and pull them back, back behind my teeth and down my throat, where they will die in my lungs. But they ran out my mouth and into the world, dancing on the quiet air. I looked up at my coworker, my eyes were wide in my own surprise. She laughed and made a joke of how hard I was working and that was the end of it. But it wasn’t the end of it because as things do the words triggered a memory and I was off down the rabbit hole of my own mind.
For some unknown reason I thought it would be a good idea to take a 6:40am math class. I would always say that I’m never good at math, I don’t like math, my brain just doesn’t understand math. But that’s not true. It’s more honest to say I don’t care about math even though it was at it’s heart the core of everything I was studying. Chemistry was math, Biology was math, I loved Biology and the math never bothered me the way it would in my math class.
I was late almost every day to that class, often pulling into the parking lot as the class was starting. I showed up with wild hair, still in pajamas half the time, trying to remember if I brushed my teeth. I slid into my seat by the door and she would always have a comment.
Her name was Ms. Tanaka. At the time she was the bain of my existence but looking back she is one of those teachers I remember fondly and if I could go back in time I’d slap myself for being so mean. She was young and perky and she was so good at explaining math and making it understandable that if I had tried I could have enjoyed myself. But I was 18 and trying too hard to be cool in a school full of people who were also trying to be cool and no one cared and no one went on to do anything better.
I had my notebook open and I was doodling something down the spine of my notes, barely following what was going on when she called on me. In my memory she knew my name and I was called on a lot. But I’m sure the reality was that she didn’t know my name, the girl who was always late and sullen. But she did call on me and I remember not looking up from my desk and just stating “huh” to the class.
“What are you doing? Are you taking notes?”
“I’m bored.” I remember freezing as I said it, chastising myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid, I repeated as a mantra to myself. I looked up at her then. Her eyebrows were raised.
“I’m sorry this bores you. If you don’t like the class feel free to not take it.” She finished her example and the time was up. Everyone gathered their things, giving me glances. I was the girl who said she was bored and I wished that the ground would part and swallow me whole. It didn’t though. I had to walk out the door, I had to face her.
“I know you are probably taking this class as a requirement but it would be nice if you could act like you care while you are hear.” She said the words to me but not to me. She said them to all the students who were disrespectful of her time. After all she was here every morning too, ready to teach and answer questions and help us learn. Help us be the adults we were supposed to be.
I failed that class and had to retake it. I retook it with her and did really well the second time. It would be many years before I doodled again. I often found myself drifting in and out of lectures but I never took pen to paper quite the same way I used to. Something had changed. I wouldn’t say I became a better student, in fact as the years dragged on I became worse and by my senior year I was terrible to have in class. But I never displayed such outright boredom for a class since that experience.
It’s funny because the experience itself is nothing really, a small exchange between a crappy student and a teacher. In the grand scheme of things there are bigger memories, bigger moments, defining times, but it was this memory that came to me on a quiet Monday morning.
That memory led to others and I was winding through my late teens/young adulthood in no particular order, hopping from year to year going forward and backwards in a lazy zag.
My memories don’t work in chronological order. If you asked me what happened when I was three and four and five I’d have a hard time answering you. But if you asked me what happened with the pinata on my birthday I could tell you all the details about that, I was three I think. I could tell you about the time I tried to feed a bone to my dog and she bit me because I was a dumb kid who didn’t understand how she worked. I could tell you about the time I had to change my other dog all over the playground at school because he followed me there one afternoon. Or the time I lost a lens from my glasses and didn’t notice until an hour later. Or any of the number of times I had to climb in through my window or the bathroom window because remembering to take my keys was the most difficult thing as a kid. But these don’t come in order but rather they flit around, hover at the edges until a seemingly innocuous thing as a doodle brings them roaring to the surface and I am reminded of just how interesting life can be.