Dreaming With Your Eyes Open

I am not, nor have I ever been, an artist.

I am and have always been, a dreamer.

When I was in 3rd grade I had a necklace from Claire’s, which, in plastic silver letters, labeled me as such.

Because I am a dreamer, I’m a doodler. I work my magic on a page otherwise filled with notes, a church program, or a napkin. With limited space, comes limited expectations. There’s not enough room for a masterpiece, but plenty of room for a minorpiece.

Doodling is for dreamers because doodling is a form of dreaming with your eyes open.
You see, twice a week around noon, notes may suggest you're in History 201 discussing the urban centers of Mesopotamia, but the margins of your notes suggest you're somewhere else entirely.

You are in a galaxy filled with smudged stars, rather than a classroom filled with blank stares. How could you look up at your professor when the cartoon face almost covering your definition for "Homo economicus" is much friendlier than his? According to your margins you’re somewhere with sweet-smelling penciled flowers... far away from the body odor of the student athlete one seat over.

Doodled dreams are more pleasant than reality.

My senior year of high school, a friend of mine committed suicide. He and I had danced together, laughed together, and sent smiley faces over text. In the days after Brandt was gone, there weren’t many smiley faces to send. His funeral was the morning of my senior prom. I sat in the audience and listened as someone read memories from the microphone. Some of the memories I had been there for.

My mind hurt. Could I have done more for him? How was I supposed to dance that night knowing that he would never dance again? How could I celebrate my senior prom when he would never step foot into his? I hunched my shoulders and dropped my head; the weight of it all felt too heavy.

That’s when my mom, seated beside me, began to doodle. She didn’t have a pen, just her pointer finger, and she was using my hunched shoulders as her canvas. She doodled lines and swirls on my shaking back. It relaxed me. Just as doodles do in class, they brought me to a better place. My breathing slowed and I thought of the good times. A curve she drew reminded me of Brandt's smile, some dots of his freckles, and some circles of all the times we danced.

That was years ago. Now, I’m in college. I have my day down to a doodling routine. In ancient civilizations, my notes are covered in hearts, masking the fact that I’m disinterested in any time period before 1900. My religion notes are covered in tulips and roses that threaten to take over the page like a house engulfed in a vine. During sociology I write my first name, in many different fonts... and if no one is sitting close to me I might mingle it with the last name of my crush.

Hunched shoulder canvases are harder to come by. You have to pay attention to see them around you. I try to doodle on those too. On hunched shoulder canvases you have to be steady. They’re often shaky, but offer room for a real masterpiece without any of the pressure. On hunched shoulder canvases doodles feel more important. On hunched shoulder canvases other information isn’t important, there aren't any notes to be taken, and dreams don’t have to be limited to the margins.

Sometimes I reflect on my doodles, and if they really have any importance at all. Hunched shoulder canvases erase their doodles the second you leave them. Other doodles are just marginalized to the corners of a notebook, never allotted as much space as the notes in the middle. Maybe, in that sense, they’re really not that important to the world. However, I believe in the importance they have for the individual. I believe that doodles, no matter the canvas, can take us away from places that are too painful to be in at the moment. Sometimes it’s a history class, other times it’s a funeral for a friend. They give us the hope of something happier when we need it. They allow us to dream with our eyes open. To me, that's pretty important.