Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Case for Aquamarine Blue...or, Stifling Creativity

Before I start, a disclaimer: I adore teachers, even the ones who are bad at their job. Both my parents were teachers. My mother went back to school in her fifties to obtain a PhD in Education and then used it to teach teachers how to teach! So, please don’t misunderstand my intention. As you know, certain experiences in our childhood have great influence over us, and a seemingly insignificant incident from the first grade haunts me still.

It involved a color and an art assignment. It also involved creativity, freedom of expression (or lack there-of), and the misuse of power.
The simple fact that I, at the ripe age of fifty-one, still remember it, vividly, tells me it was anything but insignificant. A second fact, that this event involved a (once) beloved teacher, is even more horrifying. Children are vulnerable. When the adults they adore mistreat or hurt them, well…you can see why so many of us end up with messed up relationships and low self-esteem.

It was a simple thing. We were given an art assignment.
Media: pastel chalks. Advised color: aquamarine blue.

I don’t know if I needed blue for the sea or for the sky, but my teacher told me to use aquamarine blue. (Why she found it necessary to dictate my blue color choice, I don’t know. But, suffice to say, there were probably underlying control issues going on. Certainly something she could get away with in a room full of six-year-olds.)

So, I carefully checked all of the different blues and used aquamarine blue. What happened next is embedded in my memory. When I proudly showed my teacher my art piece she raised her voice, “I told you to use aquamarine blue, Rebecca!” I, a perfectionist at the age of six, was horrified and ashamed.

Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering what on earth is wrong with me, talking about aquamarine blue and the hurt I experienced at six because I wasn’t allowed to create an art piece, while other children in our world are suffering horrendous abuse. This is exactly my point. If something so small and seemingly insignificant still holds a piece of my brain property, what other occupied real estate is close by?

Perhaps this wasn’t just one woman’s need to control her first-graders. Perhaps this was an early indoctrination of following the rules (in a society in which the rules are mixed up), and then getting into trouble for following them! Perhaps this was a reflection of the devaluation of the creative, of the arts. Perhaps this was a mandate against personal expression and dissenting opinions.

I wonder, do you have any early experiences, seemingly insignificant, that still haunt you?


  1. I can't think of one specific experience right this second, but the way this post resonated with me I KNOW there are a number of them.

    My heart goes out to 6-year old Rebecca who was trying to do (even against her own creative urges) what she was told -- and caught heck in spite of trying...

    I'm not sure how we can protect our kids (or grandkids) from this kind of hurt (especially the dearly sensitive ones). I try to encourage as often and as much as I can when i see/hear kids being creative (remembering a little singer in the store a few weeks ago - who was embarrassing her somewhat shy mother by belting out a song - lol)

    Wish there was something we could to to GUARANTEE that no child could ever have their creativity - their selfness harmed by judgement...

  2. Thank you, Karen! I feel your deep kindness, and both my 6-yr-old and 51-yr-old selves are luxuriously taking it all in.

    Thankfully, I think many school systems are much better at encouraging and supporting both creativity and different perspectives in our young children. I hope this expands to become the norm.

    Love that you were there for the little singer. You remind us that we can each do our part in responding in a supportive and encouraging way to young ones. And, for those acts we can't prevent, the healing can come at any time. I value freedom of expression and the arts so much more because of experiences such as these.

  3. When I was four, the son of my parents' friend, maybe seven, took my wind-up radio and threw it into the sewer on purpose, where it lay broken and unreachable. It was the first time I'd ever realized a person would do violence on purpose.

  4. Your comment made me cry. All of these are connected--denying our freedom of expression, misusing power, violent acts. So sad.