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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Lee

Nothing You Do is Ever a Waste of Time: You Either Find Out What You Want or What You Don't Want

I could not have gotten to where I am today without my share of mentors and advisors. So many years ago, as an undergraduate at Scripps College, I was a science major, then a math major, an economics major, before finally zeroing in onto studio art major. I remember sharing with my advisor, Professor Patricia Dillon that I wasted so much time taking all these classes, to which she replied, "nothing you do is ever a waste of time, you either find out what you want or what you don't want.

This mentality stayed with me all my life, as I became a teacher, an art student, then a teacher once again. Traveling back in time to high school, one of my favorite memories is swimming on the team. I was terrible in all the other strokes, except for breaststroke. For some reason, I could swim really fast in the breaststroke which got me on varsity. Coach Marshall encouraged me, "you can't do everything. But whatever you are good at, do your very best job in it!" Whatever I do since then, I always try to do my best job in the one thing that I'm most excellent at.

I think what I am most excellent at is being kind to others, being generous with my time and the resources that I have. More recently, as a teacher's assistant at the university, I had a chance to work with students from different majors. One day, a student shared with me that she was overwhelmed. There were so many projects that she had to deliver in each class that she just didn't know how to complete all the assignments. I offered to help with my time out of class, holding extra work sessions so I could assist her team with the project at hand. One day, she was really excited coming up to me. She got a present for me. It was a miniature pig, one of those really cute ones that I'm always so tempted to purchase on the way to the counter at Blick's. She wanted me to have it, because it was her way of saying thank you!

Fast forward to now as an art teacher at a dance charter school in Los Angeles. I had no idea how much influence or impact I have on the students until one day, a second grader came up to me. My principal was observing me at the time. It was as though I paid my student to say this, but I didn't.

Marilyn handed her artwork to me as I placed it above the cabinet unit for storage, "I'm going to be an artist when I grow up." She later shared her sketchbook with me, which is a thick leather bounded sketchbook like the ones students have at ArtCenter. she kept it at all time in her kid size backpack. The book took up all the space in her backpack and I know she has been hauling it back and forth everyday to and from school. Inside were pages and pages of cats that she drew from life, a Bart Simpson that her dad had drawn. I was happy that her family encouraged her love for art and took an extra step to buy a sketchbook for her to practice.

A big chunk of my life was teaching 1st grade at an elementary school at the heart of Los Angeles. Even though I was a teacher, the students taught me so much in life, that I am forever grateful to them. In conjunction with teaching, I was also one of the marathon coaches for Student Run Los Angeles. I was honored to be a coach, because I got to step in the shoes of Coach Marshall and help students in the way he had helped me in swimming. Each year, my co-workers and I trained the junior high students to run the LA marathon. The practice got me into running and training for triathlons as well. I wouldn't have done it, had it not been helping the students to run and train on the streets of Downtown LA.

It seemed as though I made a big roundabout from art to teaching, then to art again. But remembering what Patrica Dillon said so many years ago that nothing I do is ever a waste of time, I couldn't agree with her more. I hope that one day I could become an advisor/mentor to others so that they could be bold in their own journeys of life, guiding them with my life experience.

Below are some of the posts that I have written over the years when I made a bold decision to take a break from teaching and go back to school.

Half of Your Life You're Broken Hearted and That's Great

Sightings of God

If You Get Lost in the Details You Might Find Yourself in a Cul De Sac

Interpretation of a Bitter melon

Never Know Where Life Takes You

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