When I was a kid I only had two subjects I really struggled in, save for gym class which I refused to participate in anyways. The first is obvious, math. Most students struggle with math. I never figured out what made it so complex for me but I stopped trying after 3rd grade. The second major subject I struggled with was not one you’d expect if you know me at all. It was art. I had a really hard time in art.
My struggles in math has cost me access to a career path I really had my heart set on exploring, computer programming. I couldn’t successfully complete the prerequisite math courses to even take the computer science courses I desired so heavily to take.
This brings me to why I am talking about art now. From a very young age I loved drawing. I enjoyed coloring in coloring books. I also really loved painting. I didn’t care if it was water colors, acrylics or oil paints I just enjoyed painting. The problem is I suck at it. Unlike math where I essentially handicapped myself because I stopped trying. At least in that regards I have nobody to blame but myself. Art was different.
When I was in kindergarten my teachers and school counselors discovered I had something wrong with my fine motor skills. This left me in a position where my handwriting was illegible. I was exempt from learning cursive as a result. I attended special education courses as well as physical therapy my entire elementary education. In fact it was a result of this therapy that I was told I needed to play more video games. I had a doctor note telling my parents it would help with my hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. The downside was this was a physical handicapt that prevented me from fully exploring a craft I always craved, artistic endeavors.
I learned to over come my handicap despite never getting a proper diagnosis. I was told, my mother told me the school told her the reason for my issues were because I had switched from being left handed to right handed in kindergarten. There may be some truth to this. I have certain tasks even to this day I complete left handed whereas opening doors, writing and certain other tasks I performed with my right hand. This is not to say I was ambidextrous. Rather it was more like I just had no proficiency and as a result never developed a proper dominant hand, they both remain largely submissive in their own respects. This does cause issues in typing but I have learned to feel the keyboard so I can type quite well, accurately and fast even with my eyes closed.
This brings me back to art class. When I was a kid I loved drawing cartoon and comic book characters. I even invested allowance money into art supplies, art books, supplemental art courses and magazines that featured art heavily as a topic. I desperately wanted nothing more than to learn to draw. Lacking artistic talent was never my issue entirely. I can use a computer to create pleasant, colorful compositions of artistic expression. As a writer I discovered being creative minded bore me tremendous talent I could utilize to provide myself with a living based on my writing alone.
I had one art teacher who recognized my passion for art was held back only by my inability to coordinate my hands properly. Sure I eventually developed some coordination skills, after all I was a drummer, break dancer and turntablist which necessitated I teach my hands to work well together in tandem. That being said I still to this day have tremendous pain in my muscles whenever I try to use my hands for extended periods of time. I can manage to type or play a video game for a spell but do require frequent breaks in order to prevent my hands from cramping. The downside to this is I can’t draw a straight line to save my life. Even if I were to use a compass or other instrument to aid in drawing a circle I never could draw pleasant circles. The best I could muster are doodles that others would call scribbling at best. This broke my heart.
I wanted to be graphic artist. I wanted to design video games for a living. Being held back by my math limits was hard enough on me. While I made every attempt to overcome my math deficiencies in college I stopped short of a C- in a class dubbed “math for liberal arts,” aka math for dummies. Upon completing the course my instructor advised I take a remedial math course to hone my skills. Looking at the path it would take by adding three full semesters of basic high school level math just to get me up to college freshmen standards I declined thus putting to bed my dream of becoming a video game designer. Or programmer.
What does that have to do with art? I took one art course every semester in high school. Despite having this handicap coupled with under developed skills in regards to basic art principals, my high school art teacher never gave up on me. She pushed me to my limits. One of those assignments had me attempting to draw a still frame image from one of my favorite anime films, Project A-ko. Even though it was an R-rated animated film with full frontal nudity she allowed me to bring the tape to school on the grounds it was for educational purposes. While I earned a passing grade on the assignment she should have failed me.
All in all the truth is I never completed any of the tasks assigned. She passed me on the merits of “you did your best” and she was a church going teacher who respected my Sunday-school teaching mother and deacon father. Thus I was passed not because I developed the tools to do so, rather on her knowing my mom personally.
This getting straight A’s in high school art courses despite never learning the skills bite me in the ass once I made it to college. The very first course I failed, miserably, was my 1st semester art course. I took introduction to art appreciation because it was supposed to be an easy a. Well I failed the class. I had to use all my talents as a communications major to talk my instructor into allowing me a make up extra credit assignment. Instead he gave me the ten bonus points to pass me so I didn’t have to repeat his course.
This is all a reminder that not everyone can learn everything just because you set your heart on it. While it is true there is no limit to what a person can learn, there are limits on how much a person can learn. A jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none leaves a person with a knowledge base a mile wide and an inch deep. In other words you can learn too little of too many things. This is what I did. I spread myself too thin. I had a math teacher tell me I could learn math if I tried harder but I would have to sacrifice other subjects I was taking to put in the effort and make room in my brain. She said it boiled down to effort. I was unwilling to put in the effort for math. In regards to art I tried. I even took a graphic design course during my journalism studies to which I failed hard because I never could grasp the art principals. I understood them but never could implement them in practice. I reached my limit and I am okay with that. I had to learn despite having a desire to learn everything under the sun I do have limits. That is what makes me human.