Decisions, we make them every day.
Some are easy. Some are random. Some we give great thought to.
And some we make way too quickly!
The decisions we make reflect the choices we make. Every choice we make can lead to good, bad, or even dire consequences.
In Juvie, when working on a scene about the different choices we could have made and should have made, one girl said,
“Ms., in the moment it is so hard to make the right choice. Almost always I make the wrong choice and that leads me to serious shit. That’s how I ended up here.”
“I know,” I say. “Sometimes you make a decision and when you look back you have no idea what you were thinking or if you were even thinking at all.”
“The job is to stop AND think, and it is a hard job.” I add.
“That sucks!” she says.
“The people I kick with are so random. The choices they make are all under the influence and driven by drugs.” She shrugs.
It is quiet.
“Well,” I answer. “You need to surround yourself with other people.” I say.
“How should I do that?” she asks.
“I am going back to the same place I came from. How can I ever change anything?” she asks.
“I will be surrounded by drugs and a sea of fucked up.”
I look at this young girl.
What should I say to her?
What advice can I possibly give to her?
“Well…” I take time answering,
“You need to make a choice not to do what you know is wrong.”
This particular one is an amazing artist.
She can draw the most profound drawings.
“You have art,” I say.
“What does that mean?” she asks me.
“It means you need to draw, and paint, and use your art to protect you.
Don’t smoke. Draw! Don’t go out gang-banging. Draw!
When your heart aches, pour it onto the paper.”
“Oh,” she says.
I am not sure she fully understands what I am telling her.
When she got out of Juvie, she came to my Homeboys class.
She was definitely under the influence.
My heart was so incredibly sad.
“Come with me,” I say.
We go to Staples and I get her really nice colored pencils. You know, the kind that comes in the tin box.
“The pencils have a little bed,” she says laughing.
I also get her the colored pencils you dip in water and turn into watercolors.
“That’s rad,” she says.
When I think about it, it actually really is.
Then we get two sketchbooks, one for the water paints and one for the pencils.
“So,” she looks at me and asks, “If I draw in this book, then that’s doing the art that you said?”
“No, Sweetie, you have the art inside you.”
I put my hand on her shoulder.
“You, YOU are the art. These books are just the place you are going to park it.”
And somehow that analogy worked.
“Oh, I get it!” she said. “So I should use my art like an escape car.
Instead of smoking weed, hop in the car and draw myself away.
Instead of kicking it with the wrong people, drive away to my art.
And this book, the book you got me, well, the book is where all the cars are parked when I am driving them.”
I am amazed by this kid.
“Yes,” I say.
“Ms.,” she asks. “You think we can sell the cars in the lot?”
I almost fall over.
“That could be a possibility,” I say.
“Well,” she says. “That would be the best fucking choice I ever made!”
“Yes, it would be.” I say.
“Ms., You think I have a Lamborghini in my parking lot of art?”
“Oh, Honey,” I say a little teary, “you have so much more that that!”
I pay for all the art supplies. We walk out and all seemed well.
But the parking lot I gave her was not strong enough to hold her difficult life and all the drawings in the world could not help her make good choices this time around. She slipped and recently was picked up and incarcerated again.
I know from my own experience that sometimes we make really bad choices without thinking. And even the best of art can’t protect us from the consequences.
I have made sure she knows I am here.
I have made sure she knows it’s okay.
I have made sure that she understands that the parking lot can be empty or full, but I will make sure it is always open for her.
And, really, that is all we can do.
Leave the door open. Be forgiving. Be kind and patient.
In the sketchbook I got her I wrote,
“My sweet girl. Your art is a constant and always there.
You don’t need the fancy pencils to make it. You can use anything.
You are stronger than you think and your creativity is your freedom.
Use it well.”
In the darkness she is in right now, I really hope she remembers those words and that they bring her some light.