Rebel with a Crayon: The Witch and the Fear
When I was in first grade, I was terrified of my teacher. Absolutely terrified. If I was able to, I would’ve hid under my desk for the duration of each day. Of course, on the first day of school, I was excited. I was the dorky kid who LIKED school. I was totally prepared, too – I had a Batman lunchbox. My lunchbox was AWESOME. Nevermind that I was the only girl who carried a supposed boy’s lunchbox. I rocked. I was a rebel.
Until, that is, I set foot into the classroom, and The Panic set in. (Not to be confused with the pain. I still have all of my appendages.) My pulse went insane. I wanted to FLEE, and I briefly considered running full tilt out of the room.
You see, my teacher was a witch.
Or, at least, I thought she was. One of my favorite movies at the time was The Witches, starring Angelica Huston. And my teacher, who I’ll call Mrs. X, looked just like her. Dark hair, plum colored eyeshadow, and I was fairly certain she was wearing a skin suit. Here is the 20th anniversary trailer:
It was horrifying. I couldn’t wait to get home. I told my mom. (Who, to her credit, did not laugh in my face.) To this day, there are a few scenes (the painting scene) from that movie that STILL creep me out. Eventually, my mom convinced me that my teacher was not Angelica Huston or an actual evil witch, capable of turning children into mice. There was no painting she could trap me in. I was going to be okay.
By the middle of the year, I almost wish she had. There were two things I remember getting in trouble for in her class. One was my inability to cut along the lines. (I still cannot do that. It is my arts and crafts SHAME.) The other thing I remember being chastised for was a) coloring outside the lines (slightly) and b) coloring a sheep purple. Purple is, and was, my favorite color. As far as I was concerned, everything in the world SHOULD be purple. My teacher, though, did not believe in creative coloring.
Due to other circumstances, I did not have to endure her classroom for the entire year. But that Purple Sheep incident stuck with me. It did not, however, stifle me. I’m still more likely to color a sheep purple than white. That’s just boring. I don’t do boring (unless you count crocheting in front of the tv, because I’m secretly a 90 year old woman).
Fast forward to seventh grade, I encountered Mrs. X again. It was as if the universe had decided to recall my traumatized state, hurling me unwittingly back into her classroom. (Dramatic? ME? Shush.) This time, it was not as her student – but to read to those unsuspecting pupils within her care. In seventh grade, one of our units was to write and illustrate a children’s book. Mine, dear gods, was about a stuffed bear. It was terrible. I am fairly certain it was cheesy and made no logic sense. But I colored it pretty. And you know what? Part were colored in PURPLE. Don’t think I’d forgotten the offending Sheep Incident.
As fate would have it, I was assigned to Mrs. X’s classroom. As soon as I found that out (what were the odds?), I felt an old panic explode in my throat, like a rabid baby bird trying to escape. It was as if I was back in first grade again, standing in the doorway, wondering if the Witch was going to eat my soul.
This time, I was braver. I was nervous as a newborn on ice skates, but I marched up to her, smiled – and asked if she remembered me. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps I wanted to prove that I would stomach terror that would’ve felled an elephant.
She smiled, and it was a dreadful thing, nodded. Yes, of course she remembered me. How was I? How were my parents?
I did not ask her why she hadn’t aged a DAY. I did not ask her how she was still torturing the masses. I did not comment on the fact that the classroom pet was a freakin’ mouse. I smiled, stuck it out, read my book – and fled as soon as I was able.
But here’s the thing: sometimes, our fears don’t change. Sometimes, we push them aside, forget them, shove them under other memories. We bury our fears in the hope that they’ll disappate or disappear. It’s almost as if they’re gone. Until, that is, they’re not.
What is important, then, is what we do with fear. How it’s handled. Do we run, acting as if we aren’t different than we once were? Or do we say, screw it, I can face this?
When given the option, screw it, I can face this wins every.single.time. Facing a fear means staring it down. Not giving up. Not running. So much is lost in that moment where one decides fight or flight. If you run, you’re losing every single scrape of potential inherent in that possible decision. But if you fight? Sure, you might lose. You might screw up. You might look like the uncouth fool.
But at least you tried. And least you did something. At least you stared at the Witch, without looking away. That, in itself, means you won.