This past Christmas, I’ve had the good fortune to receive a lesson from one of my greatest teachers.
How did that happen? Simply through observing the way my favorite 9-year-old was interacting with the gift my gentleman friend and I had given him. I know I have a lot to learn from children, and that was once again made clear in a beautiful way.
We’ve given him a kit to create pop-up books. In the kit were included two blank hardcover books, markers and other accessories he could use to create and illustrate his stories.
As soon as he was done opening all of his presents, he opened the box, grabbed one of the books and the markers, and wanted to get started. Right then and there.
You know what went through my mind at that moment?
Something like: “Hey, not so fast! Is that really a good idea? He hasn’t even had the time to think about it, to plan the masterpiece that would be worthy of being thus immortalized… Won’t he be disappointed when he realizes he has ‘wasted’ one of his books by rushing in this way?” Et cetera. Et cetera.
Oof! I thankfully held it in. No more than a feeble “you sure?” went through my lips, and I let him go.
As you’ve certainly guessed, my reaction was totally a reflection of what *I* would have done. My own insecurities. The way I would have agonized in front of those blank books before doing anything with them – that is, admitting I eventually would have done something with them, which is far from certain!
Yup, my damn fear of not having the best idea ever, as well as my absolute certainty that I would have a better idea right after I’d started drawing and that I would have thus ruined the whole thing – I’d have let them stop me. And that’s not even taking into account my fear of not being able to do something that would meet the standards… which standards? My own distorted stuff masquerading as true universal standards, of course!
In short, I have tons to learn from that wise little guy. That is why I took notes as I watched him go.
In my mental notebook, I noted that…
Clearly, that artist knew where he was going. No agonizing over details. Decisions were made quickly, with confidence.
That artist wasn’t hesitating for even one moment. His decisions were put into application as soon as they were made. He showed that creation happens through action.
That artist’s vision was personal and self-assured. Comments and questions about his work never led him to reconsider his creative choices.
Nowhere in the process did the idea of perfection intervene. When I pointed out that he had forgotten a few words in the middle of a sentence, the artist simply added those words over the line. He didn’t lament that his page was ruined.
That artist had no difficulty declaring his work done. No existential questioning, no wondering whether something was missing, no interminable fiddling. A certainty as to the completion of that piece.
He was genuinely proud of his book and happy to show it to anyone who would look. No hedging, no false modesty, nothing but beautiful self-confidence.
And I have to give justice where justice is due: none of the worries I had when this all started were justified. His book is absolutely fantastic, down to the tiniest details.
The cherry on top of the sundae?
All of that happened pretty late at night, a time at which I’m not expecting much usefulness from my brain, and even less from the brain of a kid of that age. It was past 1 a.m. when he finished and showed us his book. What was he doing at a quarter past one? He was telling me the title of what would be his second book and describing his plan for it, page by page. Uh, wow.
Also? When I told him I was delighted to see him enjoying our gift that much and that I was at the same time feeling a bit sad knowing that he would so quickly be done playing with it, he told me not to worry. He said those books would be fabulous souvenirs and he’d be really happy to have them on his bookshelf. Such a wise perspective!
All things considered, I’d say I am the one who’s received the best gift. Thank you, C.