To The Man Who Told Me I Was Too Old To Color

Dear man in Barnes and Noble,

You saw me curled up in a big comfy chair with a large bag of colored pencils and a journal with coloring pages. I had my ear buds in listening to some acoustic songs, trying to center myself and get myself to a more peaceful place. I am sure that the reason behind my coloring didn’t even cross your mind, and if it did, you probably could not figure out why a girl my age was sitting there by myself doing an activity that, in your mind, only 5 year olds should be doing.

“Aren’t you a little old to be coloring?”

I didn’t really answer your question then, mainly because I did not know what to say and was caught off guard, but I am going to answer it now.

No, I am not too old to be coloring. You told me that you used to color when you were a little kid, but that people my age don’t color. First of all, have you looked in Barnes and Noble? You were there. The store is filled with coloring books and Mandala books for children, teens, and adults. Granted, I know you are quite a bit older than me and so we have very different experiences; you may not be up to date on the latest trends, and I certainly do not hold that against you. I have grandparents, and I respect them and what they have to say. However, you talked to me for 40 minutes in Barnes and Noble, when I do not even know you. I was trying to be polite and listen, but the truth is, I just wanted to return to my coloring book, music, and forget about everything for a little while. By the comments you made, I’m sure you thought of me as silly and naïve, you certainly did not take my field that I am in seriously: “Well, have fun picking a part people’s brains”, you said to me about social work as you left. Here is the thing: you don’t know a thing about me. You made assumptions without knowing the story, the background, the truth. I was in Barnes and Noble trying to kill time, minding my own business, when I was interrupted in a not so nice way. You probably didn’t know that before coloring in Barnes and Noble, I was sitting in the parking lot for half an hour having a meltdown. You probably didn’t know that I was experiencing symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, and low blood sugar that all piled up to create one big mess to the point where I was in tears unable to go into the store for a chunk of time. You probably didn’t know that before driving to Barnes and Noble, I climbed 6 flights of stairs on campus with a heavy backpack and a chronic illness just to be too scared to walk into the MSW student lounge, so I  turned around and descended the same 6 flight of steps. I felt dizzy and weak, I felt as if my body could collapse. You also probably didn’t know that prior to THAT, I was in the store on campus buying some school supplies, and counted my money incorrectly at the cash register due to brain fog and anxiety, and felt so embarrassed and anxious that my body started to shake. You must not realize what it is like to live with a mental illness, and a chronic physical illness for that matter. I know because I know your life story after listening to you talk for a good solid 40 minutes. You certainly had your challenges that you faced, so why did you judge a book by it’s cover? Did you ever think that maybe I was trying to cope with one of my own challenges? That I was doing something to help myself get to a better place? It probably never occurred to you that I suffer from anxiety disorders, or that I have a rare metabolic disease along with some other chronic health problems. I was just trying to get myself through the rest of my day, doing what I had to do to get by, and I really did not need or appreciate the comments that you, a total stranger, made to me.

So, to go back to your question, no, of course I am not too old to color. I am not too old to journal. I am not too old to hug my stuffed animals when I feel scared or anxious, or when I am in the midst of a panic attack. I have to do what I have to do to get myself through the fear, and over the mountains that sometime prevent me from living my life to the fullest. We all have barriers and obstacles that we need to learn to overcome. Mine may seem silly to you, but to me they are very real and frightening, and I am not going to be ashamed of using my coping skills and taking care of myself, no matter where I am. Next time you see someone doing something that you don’t understand or that you think is silly, I invite you to keep an open mind, and to remember that we all have very different, unique experiences. You never know what kind of battle that person may be fighting, and if you do not know the reason or story behind the action, don’t judge. Take a step back and think before you speak. You told me that young people should talk to older people because they have a lot of good things to say. While I do not deny this is true, I love having conversations with my grandparents and family friends who are older, I did not learn anything from your words. Rather, I learned from your actions. You were a bit rude and made false assumptions. However, thank you for reminding me that I need to stand up for myself more, and that I should not talk to strangers for almost an hour straight (haha), maybe 5 minutes at most if they seem harmless. I am not holding on to the anger and frustration that I felt when you were putting in your two sense. It is not worth it, I am letting it all go because there are other things that I could be worrying about. I just thought you should know the answer to your question.

Claire

 

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4 thoughts on “To The Man Who Told Me I Was Too Old To Color

  1. It seems this man doesn’t realize that older people can also learn from the young, just as we can learn from the older generations. I own several adult coloring books, but before that, I kicked it old school and used kids coloring books when I need to relax and calm down in college. Keep being you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. x Claire I have so much respect for you for speaking out about this and for your choice of coping skills. This guy sounds like an entitled, short-sighted, self-indulgent windbag. His choice of coping skill – i.e. lecturing a young woman who was by herself was inappropriate. He should have respected your boundaries – anyone with any sense would have seen that you were engaged in your own activity and not sitting there in need of or fishing for advice. I hope that writing it out helped. And I hope that the experience doesn’t put you off Barnes and Noble or colouring. x Em

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. Listening to this guy go on and on must have felt like being a social worker listening to your first client. And that’s how it might be. Your clients may have a lot to say, although none of it may appear to be about themselves. He has many issues, but he’d rather make you seem like the one with the problem. In blogging about the encounter, it is evident that you already possess the most essential tool a social worker can use: a listening ear.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t talk to strangers for prolonged periods. Perhaps the guy was out of line. But it seems clear that he needed some sort of companionship or even just a smidgen of human interaction, and God led him to you, a budding social worker whose compassion for others shined through her own multiple layers of problems that day to reach out and hear him. By acting as a sounding board, you gave him the outlet he needed. By pointing out what he perceived as your flaws, he was able to save face and not reveal his own. You are well on your way to achieving your goal in social work. Even though you are only a couple of weeks into your graduate classes, your it seems your clinical work is already well underway.

    Liked by 1 person

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