Calculus class tends to involve more rational expressions than artistic ones. Then again, once math started involving more letters than numbers, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself searching for other ways to pass time in grade 12 calc. Perhaps it was the transcendental caffeination I underwent before the 8:05 class, or the inspiring topography of my teacher’s ancient face, or just the result of boredom and a nice pen, but as we approached the end of limits, I began drawing instead of deriving.
Before I start to sound too artsy, I should admit that I’m not very good. Perhaps that was a good thing – should Mr. C peer over and see that I was obsessively scrawling his ear, rather that some theorem, I doubt he could have determined what it was. Yet that was what made it such a delightful creative exercise, I was expressing for the sake of creation, not consumption.

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Since arriving at Mac, I’ve stopped engaging in these personal acts of creation. Perhaps it just isn’t a priority, or my classes are simply too complex to while time away but I think that rather than have too few creative outlets, I have too many. If I want to write, there are endless places to be published (hello!), if I want to draw, there’s nothing preventing me from picking up a pen and doing it—no prof will halt a lecture to stop me from doodling.

But that’s the issue: there’s no secrecy, no silent thrill of stolen moments, just a pressing self-consciousness. It feels silly to actually set aside time to sit down and draw – it’s too deliberate. Before, I had an excuse to be bad; of course portraits come out wonky when the subject keeps moving; of course sketches won’t be perfect squeezed between equations.

When I gained the freedom to create, I lost the freedom to fail. This seems like an absurd complaint, that it is too easy to do the things I enjoy, but the issue is really that I am too diffident to enjoy the things I do not find easy. Earlier I said I was not an artist because I will not claim this part of myself without a disclaimer; I need to dash everyone’s expectations so that I can create my own. For some reason self-expression can come with a bizarre pretention, as if suddenly everyone will pounce and ask just who you think you are.

Of course, sometimes that self-consciousness disappears. Sometimes it is overcome with confidence, sometimes just giving up. For me, it came with the realization that I was sitting in another calc class at 1:30 p.m. in pyjamas and sandals, bearing witness to a boring proof. I realized that if no one had noticed my mismatched socks and Birkenstocks, then they’d probably ignore a few pen scratches to soothe my itchy fingers. I had the surprisingly glorious revelation that no one cared. I had held the irrational fear that someone walk up, squint at my scribbles, and ask that fearsome question, “Who do you think you are?”, when really, the only person asking was myself.