“Mister Rivenberg! Will you please stop doodling and do some work! You’ll never get anywhere in life if you just sit there drawing all day!”
My teachers always told me off for doodling. My workbooks would be littered with seemingly random scribbles of off-topic thoughts, but I think it was just my hyperactive brain letting out some of the junk that was buzzing around in there and getting in the way. Sure, pictures of spaceships or turtles didn’t help in a maths lesson, but that didn’t mean that my brain didn’t think they were pointless ideas. My brain didn’t want to switch off its creativity just because art class had finished and we were in a different classroom for that 45-minute lesson.
I was lucky, in a way, that I found most academic lessons a school relatively easy. Maths and science were full of concepts that I quickly understood, and so I didn’t need to spend half the lesson repeating the same exercises over and over. I knew how to do the thing, I’d proven that I understood it, yet I had to write out 20 different sums just because the teacher said so. I was a little disobedient. Frustratingly trapped in a classroom repeating the same lotions was numbing for my mind. But I had one reliable escape – my creativity.
The squared paper of my maths books was the perfect grid for assembling skyscrapers, inking dozens of windows in perfect proportion and perspective; Designing cars by sketching curved bodywork onto the square frame of the page; Trying to replicate brand logos from memory. I’d even draw out entire comic strips if the drudge of the lesson allowed it.
Naturally, as soon as I could choose my career path, I opted for studying the obvious A-Level subjects for a person like me – chemistry, biology, geography and French.
Makes sense, right?
You see, I had listened to my teachers. They were the wise ones, imparting their advice to me in order to secure me a stable future. My highest grades were in these subjects, so that must be what I should study. Logic prevails. I had looked at this information, grade data and professional opinions too, and decided to become a Marine Biologist. It seemed to offer me the science that I enjoyed combined with travel and adventure.
It wasn’t long into my A-Level studies before things started to go a bit wobbly. I stopped doing homework assignments, skipped the odd lesson, and seemed to disengage in class. I even ended up clashing with the teachers, ultimately changing colleges. Moody teenager? Perhaps. Arrogant hormonal 16-year old man child? Probably. Complete loss of passion? Definitely.
Sure, I was good at science, and I still love science today. But was I really passionate about it? Not compared to how much joy I got from creating things. Of course, I had been told for a long time that my studies were about a career, where I could earn great money and do well in life. It’s not about doing a hobby or colouring-in all day. That’s not a job, that’s just wasteful.
Today, I have spent at least an hour listening to my favourite music while drawing hares because that’s what I’m being paid to do. Part of my job is to doodle, and scribble, and draw things. I am paid to have ideas, to nurture the ideas of others, to take a handful of words and transform them into a tangible end product. Today it was hares for a logo. Tomorrow, page layouts for a magazine. The day after, who knows!?
It took a number of lost years before I made creativity my livelihood. I have a science degree, which I have used zero times since graduation. My course was a complete waste of time, career-wise, even if my time at university wasn’t all that bad. I grew a lot personally, forged some good friendships, and made many memories – but I didn’t do anything creative. Instead, I worked in bars, where I created new cocktails, and I enjoyed it. I started cooking professionally, and I was great at it. Before long, I was a head chef, developing menus and dishes all the time, and I loved it.
Eventually, I left cheffing. A combination of health and exasperation were behind the decision to hang up my professional apron. I never regretted it. Work in outdoor education, forestry, and even mental health services followed, as I searched for that fulfilment that I had been striving for. Eventually, in my late 20s, I started designing again. It didn’t take long before I was earning reasonable money. I worked long hours, chained myself to my desk, and networked as best I could, but I never felt exhausted. Sure, I felt tired at times, but even to this day I never run out of passion for what I do.
It is t always easy, but even when it’s tough I still keep going. Quitting isn’t an option. I was dragged away from doing what I love, and now that I have it I don’t want to let it go. I do t want to stop doodling. I want to get somewhere in my life by sitting here drawing all day.