Since I was a young lad, I had a strong interest in photo/film work. I wanted to be a movie director.
Luckily, my parents had a camcorder. One of these.
When I was 10, I would storyboard these elaborate movie plots, develop characters, then use the camcorder to direct and film the scenes with my friends. We would shoot skateboarding scenes, fight scenes, you name it.
The movie I remember most involved a skateboarding gang (my friends and I) vandalizing an apartment building, going to jail for it, then escaping from jail. It was a blast. Don’t worry, no apartment buildings were actually vandalized, we used cardboard boxes and other props.
I remember how excited I got about my movie ideas. I would think about them all day at school, and when I finally got home, I would get to work creating my next movie.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually educating myself better than my teachers were.
Here are some things I was learning:
I was the leader of the projects; the one with the ideas–with the vision. I was responsible for putting it all together. I had to coordinate our schedules and make sure everyone could meet at the right time to film a certain scene. This was tough when each of us had to ask our parents and then relay the information back through word-of-mouth communication. We didn’t have cell phones. Sometimes we would meet up to film a scene in the morning before school.
I couldn’t manage the filming, directing, props, acting, etc. all by myself. So I would give my friends tasks, like finding props, or getting everyone the right outfits, or taking over camera-work if I had to act in that scene.
I had all these ideas and visions for characters and stories, and I somehow had to bring those out of my head and into reality. I took it step by step, and I never really got overwhelmed because to me it was simply a fun project.
I would write all the scripts for my movies. They had to make sense chronologically, and the dialogue had to seem realistic.
How to use a camera
I learned how to get smooth shots by using tripods and skateboards. I learned about camera angles, lighting, and how to work a camcorder. I also learned that bulky camcorders are usually OK if you drop them on the sidewalk (sorry mom & dad).
By age 11, I gave it all up.
School was the primary focus in my life, as it is for just about everyone from ages 5-22. Not by choice, by obligation.
In school, I spent a majority of my time in a classroom learning things like math, writing, reading and science. These are no doubt important things to learn about, but I wasn’t very excited by them at the time. Instead, I was excited about creating my movies. I was learning more valuable skills by creating amateur movies with my friends than from my school assignments.
It’s not about the content of what you learn – it’s about the context.
Enjoying the process of learning is more important than what you learn.
In school, I was forced to learn certain things regardless of my interest in them. After school, the possibilities were as big as my imagination. There were no rules and no limits, and I could be as creative as I wanted to be. This invigorated me. If I stopped enjoying the filming I was doing, I would stop doing it. I was free to move on to something more exciting. In school, if I didn’t enjoy what I was learning, I had to do it anyways – or else I would get in trouble.
The context of learning in school is forced. The context of learning from my movie-shooting adventures was limitless and free. We thrive when we are free to explore our interests. We are stifled when we are forced against our will.
I gave up my creative endeavors because everyone around me encouraged me to stop ‘playing with my friends’ and focus on my schoolwork. I was an impressionable 10-year-old being trained to think fun = bad and schoolwork = good, regardless of how either thing made me feel. I didn’t think to question what all the adults were telling me. Probably because part of what they were telling me was to not question them.
As I’m writing this, it sounds criminal to do this to a young kid.
I can’t imagine how different my life would be if an adult I trusted had told me, “Simon, I can tell you’re really excited about your movies. Doing creative things you enjoy is more important than your homework. Let me help you edit the movie and put it together into a finished product; maybe we can submit it to a film competition and see if people like it.”
Instead, I listened to my everyone around me. I gave up my dream of being a movie director, and spent the next 9 years drudging my way through school, learning how to cheat on tests, half-ass projects, and skate by with bare-minimum effort in order to please my teachers.
What if I had quit school at age 10? I would know about the same amount of math as I do now.
What if I had kept making movies? I’ve heard 12 years of experience goes a long way in just about anything you do…
Stop getting schooled by school. Embrace your “weird” creative hobbies, dive into what you enjoy, and don’t ever submit to the limits that other people put up for you.
I write this story 12 years later, after realizing the hard way what’s really important when it comes to education. If you feel bored in school, you’re not alone. There is a better way. Reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.