Earned, not Given

by Helena R., 16

In a diner that smells of butter and coffee,
I silently sketch a woman’s posing figure on a jam-stained paper placemat.
My mother looks across the table.
“I wish I was born able to draw, like you,” she says through a mouthful of pancake.
I can’t thank her for her “compliment,”
For the concept of aptitude at birth
Is a myth created by those too lazy to learn.

Talent is not bestowed in the womb,
But formed through years of fingers calloused from merciless pencils
And loose leaf drowning in dollar store watercolors
And being scolded by teachers for sketching in class
Talent is made through eraser shavings clinging to clothes like lint
And glue-covered hands from magazine collages
And feeling like no matter what you change, nothing ever looks right, damn it.

So I don’t thank my mother for her “compliment.”
Instead I tell her,
“I was not born able to draw.
All my skill was earned,
not given.”

Downingtown, Pennsylvania