What Ceramics Class Taught Me About Life

A Geek in Ceramics Class

When I was in high school, I took two semesters of ceramics.  Yeah, you read that correctly, ceramics!  I really enjoyed it.  I made figurines, pots, mugs, faces, and monsters.  Not only that, but I made some great stuff that probably got thrown away before it ever made it home.  One of my best friends was in the class, which made it all the more fun.  The pottery teacher was an artsy type (go figure) and used to talk about the old house she was fixing up as we sculpted our bowls.  She got to wear the best outfit of all the teachers, a t-shirt, and jeans and because she basically got paid to teach us to mold mud, her clothes were almost always dirty.

One morning the teacher walked into the class a little late while we all sat on our stools perfecting our muddy creations remarking “weren’t the trees simply amazing this morning?”  Now I don’t know if there was a little extra something in her coffee mug to make her extra inquisitive but the statement was so odd to a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds that it made most of us all stop what we were doing and look at her to see what she would say next.  She then quickly went on to list a few other things she had seen on her drive to school.  “I mean wow…not just the trees, but the birds, the clouds, the sun, the sky” she remarked.  I think one of the students made a smart remark back to her like “uhhh nooooo I didn’t see the stupid trees today.”  She seemed perturbed by our lack of interest.  She went on to further explain herself: “you guys have lived almost a quarter of a century, and you don’t notice the things that matter…the beautiful things…the things all around us that go by quickly and if you don’t stop and pay attention to them, you won’t ever notice them” she said.  For some reason, unlike most of the other students, what she was saying made perfect sense to me.  It was a great two-minute rant from a teacher.  It wasn’t great because it was an abstract concept I hadn’t thought about, but because I hadn’t really thought about slowing down and enjoying my surroundings until that point.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone stops and “smells the roses” every now and then, but I took her rant a step further.  Almost literally from that moment on I didn’t take too many things for granted, which sounds silly, but it is true.  You know that scene in Office Space where Peter is hypnotized and is in a state of complete relaxation?  It was almost like that.  I started to see life differently.

Why Enjoying Life Matters

If enjoying life isn’t important, I have to ask…what is the point of life?  No, really…what is the point of life if you don’t enjoy it?  Everyone has bad days, weeks, months.  Heck, I’ve even had a few bad years, but at the end of it all I have really enjoyed life.  I don’t know what the road ahead has in store for me, but I’m finding the older I get, the less focused I am on the destination and the more focused I am on the journey.  There are lots of people who have midlife crises where they suddenly realize they are halfway through life, and they haven’t really gotten out of life what they anticipated.  There are probably even more who on their death beds that have regrets.  They haven’t lived the life they wanted to live.  Even worse, there are some who spend their entire lives living someone else’s life, or a life they didn’t enjoy.  The biggest regret I think I would have in life is regretting living life to its fullest.

I have written about it in the past, but I see loads of zombies.  I see people who live their lives with their heads down.  They don’t notice the sky, the birds, the clouds, or the trees.  They don’t notice the things that matter.  I read this poem a few years ago and kept it around because it said things that made a lot of sense to me.

“Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round?  Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?  Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?  Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?  You better slow down.  Don’t dance so fast.  Time is short.  The music won’t last.  Do you run through each day on the fly?  When you ask: “how are you?” do you hear the reply?  When the day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head?  You’d better slow down.  Don’t dance so fast.  Time is short.  The music won’t last. Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow?  And in your haste not see his sorrow?  Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die because you never had time to call and say “hi”?  You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast.  Time is short.  The music won’t last.  When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.  When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift thrown away.  Life is not a race.  Do take it slower.  Hear the music before the song is over.” – Chain email

10 Things Ceramics Class Taught Me About Life

  1. As my High School teacher recommended, you can enjoy your surroundings while driving into school, but you can’t take your eyes off the road for long before you crash and lose track of where you are going.
  2. You can learn something from any situation you choose, or life chooses for you.  I took ceramics thinking I would create some pots and other useless things…OK I did…but I took away a really important life lesson.  My ceramics teacher probably has no idea the impact she had from a rant she made one day in class.
  3. Making things in life, like ceramics, are better when done with friends.
  4. You can have lots of ideas, but few people will buy your art until it is fully baked from the kiln.
  5. That scene in Ghost where you are Patrick Swayze who comes back from the dead to meet a young Demi Moore at a pottery wheel.  Yeah, no…that won’t happen to you…no…it won’t…ever.  Sorry.  The good news is, a true love will love you when you are there and when you aren’t…like in Ghost.  True loves love forever.
  6. Step outside your comfort zone every now and then.  I’m not usually the artsy type, but when I give new things a chance, I usually tend to enjoy it.
  7. Some of the best things in life take time.  Slow down and don’t be afraid to create something slowly.  Everyone knows the saying that good things come to those who wait.  Often it is true.
  8. My teacher was crazy and probably did have something in her coffee, but man was she cool.
  9. You can make whatever you want in life.
  10. Look around you.  Enjoy life.  Enjoy every bit of it.  Wake up!  Don’t be a zombie.  Do what you want.  If life isn’t giving you what you want…go get it.

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