The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Molding our future:

Exploring the bridge between adolescence and adulthood

As a child I was constantly immersed in the act of trying to manifest my imagination. The world around me felt so dull and devoid of flavor in comparison to the vibrant untamed musing going on in my own mindscape. As a boy of 8 years old I developed an early penchant for coming up with my own elaborate stories, complete with settings, characters and my own interpretations of how a plot would work. My mother told me I was “Born to perform.”  I often did this through drawing my own little rudimentary comic strips or creating miniature paper figurines at my school desk during class. 


The most prominent instance of this was my fascination with modeling clay. I played constantly with the stuff as if it were a toy for me. This isn’t to say I lacked toys, my parents did their best to give my sister and I everything we needed as children. However, with my mind and imagination always racing and broadening, modeling clay was the best fit for keeping up with whatever I could come up with. It was malleable, formless and could be shaped into whatever I wished it to be at the time.


Back then my interests and way of thinking were thought of as temporary childhood phases, doomed to pass and fade with time and age like the erosion of stone against the shores of a vast ocean. That was the consensus of most of the adults in my life at the time. What they failed to consider, or realize about themselves, is that we are all products of who we once were as children. It’s in our formative years that the blueprint for our adult selves is drawn out and drafted.


  I lacked focus. At least according to my parents and school counselors. More specifically I lacked the kind of focus that could be achieved without the need for near constant external stimuli in order to stay focused on any given task. Fidgeting, shifting in my seat and letting my mind wander came as naturally as breathing. When I picked up a book, the avid reader that I was as a child, my leg was bouncing in place near constantly. It needed to in order for me to focus long enough to finish reading.


 It was as though I needed to be in constant motion in order to find any semblance of focus, no matter how much I enjoyed the task.  I found myself constantly bewildered with other children my age. They seemed so effortlessly able to start a task and stick to it, without straying or getting lost in their own imaginations, or needing to fidget and craft little paper dolls in their desks. I envied them, but at the same time I found them to be boring.


  During recess my imaginative and excessive need to tell a story often became too much for other kids to want to engage with. Childhood imagination games are commonplace, they help children explore their imaginations and develop important socialization skills. They’re a bit different when one child tries to take the reins and starts to designate different roles and character motivations to other children, they tend to stray from established imaginary scripts after all. 


My poor sister Jasmine bore the brunt of my active imagination. Being four years younger and impressionable as she was, I persuaded her to join me in my imaginative adventures in our childhood home in Fletcher North Carolina. These consisted mostly of us “Playing clay,” as she liked to call it. Using the modeling clay, I loved so much, we each constructed characters and scenes to play out whole scripts and plots we created together. 


One such instance involved her having an issue with my storytelling, being a child my stories tended to have some pretty large plot holes. She didn’t like the fact that I gave her character a “lame power” as she put it. I eventually conceded and gave her a much better role in our carefully crafted story. We’d bicker and fuss as children do, until eventually we came to an agreeable way to move the story forward, so we’d be able to continue our fun.


Inspired by my love for anime as a child, the two of us would formulate our own little plot with protagonists, villains, character arcs and plenty of make-believe fight scenes. I vividly remember many instances of us getting into passionate debates on which of our characters had certain abilities, just so that the scenes and plots we made would be accurate.


Jasmine is 4 years younger than I am and has always been remarkably quick witted. Even as a child she had a certain way of cutting to your core with only a few matter-of-fact words. She was mostly a silent child, always wordlessly pondering to herself in rooms full of people. Despite her quietness, she had a certain kind of cerebral curiosity about her. 


She was always observing, taking in details and logging them away for future use. Our parents encouraged that behavior. 


“It’s always good to sit back and observe your surroundings.” I can remember my father telling her all the time.


 It wasn’t until she was a teenager when we discovered what she did with all of those carefully observed details.


My sister kept to herself mostly. Whenever she didn’t have to be actively involved with anything in the house she stayed in her room, presumably doing homework or anything else a teenage girl could be doing to keep to herself. What we later found was that she wasn’t simply hiding away in her room because of teenage angst, she was honing a skill. 


Displayed on nearly every wall of her room like installations at the Louvre were pieces of hand drawn art she created over the years. Varying in size, style and shape, but each done with a level of skill neither my parents nor I had expected. Those careful observations she made a habit of taking as a child manifested into artistic vision. She was able to take every face, every scene and every image she could remember and create vivid strikes on canvas and paper to illustrate her own interpretation of the world.


Right now Jasmine has a degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in art and animation. She continued to hone her craft and refine her observational abilities to the point where she’s taken it to another level. That reclusive little girl I grew up with displays her art at multiple public art shows per year and it all started with a quiet child who preferred to sit back and watch people.


Ben Stone was a child whose curiosity and explorative nature as a child often got him in trouble. He was reckless, adventurous and charismatic to boot, so punishing him was often difficult for his parents. This isn’t to say he was a bad child of course, but his tendencies for building and destroying things often led to him having to clean up large messes in the yard, or in some cases extinguishing fires. 


He loved to build, and on that same note, he loved to destroy things and take them apart as well. As a child he spent his free time in the backyard of his home in Arden North Carolina doing all sorts of self-made construction and demolition projects, his parents weren’t too keen on the latter, but they let him do it in a safe space with supervision at the very least. 


One instance of his seemingly reckless play involved building a makeshift trebuchet with his friend Charlie. The boys were both around 11 years old when they had the idea to make a catapulting contraption. Ben’s father worked very heavily with tools being in the mechanic industry himself, so materials were easy to come by. He found wood, nails, screws, bolts and hinges all in the convenient little shopping lot of their garage. He went to work that day building a 4-foot-tall replica of medieval weaponry. 


He, of course, didn’t tell his parents. In most cases when Ben wanted to build something, his parents were already aware and were able to supervise his actions. Though in this case, when he started, both his parents were out for the day, and he was able to keep it a secret until he was finished constructing it over the next few days.


“Honestly I just hid it in my room whenever they were home, I didn’t want them to see it and tell me to take it apart or anything, so I kept it like a messed up little secret project.”


It was days later when his parents actually found out what their child had been building.


“I remember being out in the yard with Charlie, it was Saturday, so I knew my parents weren’t going to be home until at least 4 p.m. So, I had Charlie come over and we finished putting it together and started testing it out with some of the cantaloupe we had in the kitchen, probably should’ve aimed better though, but we weren’t even thinking about that.”


Ben’s mother came home just in time to see the test launch. Her youngest son in the backyard excitedly squealed as a whole watermelon sailed through the air in a large, captivating arc before crashing into the neighbor’s pool over the fence. 


“I Pulled the lever and got a good launch out of it, and I remember seeing it fly through the air before I heard my mom scream behind me. I was so scared I didn’t even see where it landed at first.”


Ben spent that entire afternoon fishing watermelon chunks out of his neighbor’s pool that day, but luckily his parents didn’t make him disassemble his creation. Instead, they redirected his energy and worked with him on choosing a better launch spot for his project.


They had him wheel his trebuchet down the street to the woods nearby where there wasn’t a chance of produce landing in anyone’s pool, though the wildlife nearby got some pretty good snacks out of it.


Ben Stone, a rambunctious child with a knack for crafting destructive constructs never felt like he was unsupported by his parents. They found ways to work with the things he loved to do, rather than stomp out his ambitions altogether. He was encouraged to pursue the things he liked doing in a safe and constructive way.


At 31 years old, He now works for Buchanan Construction as a team lead. That child who always loved to build and take things apart received guidance and discipline from those around him and got to do what his inner child has always wanted to do. That 12-year-old boy gets to create and destroy on a scale he could’ve only fantasized about as a child.


John Hall grew up as a single child with his parents in their home in Fletcher, North Carolina. He was always well taken care of by the two of them and lived comfortably. The only thing he wasn’t provided with of course, was a sibling.


Growing up he was never really alone, he made friends at school and always had them over to hang out and play video games with him in their down time. Though they always needed to go home at the end of the day, he was never really satisfied with that.


As a child, videogames were John’s favorite activity, being able to escape into a world and spend hours ambitiously accomplishing goals sparked a certain drive in him, though what he enjoyed most of all were cooperative games. 


“Super Smash Bros. was my favorite game growing up because it always involved other people, I couldn’t have as much fun playing it by myself. Sometimes I’d just have my friends come over so we could spend hours together doing that, I loved it.”


Though he was always encouraged to do what he loved by his parents, John didn’t have an idea of what he wanted to do in the future as a child. His love of videogames wasn’t exactly a lucrative career option at the time, and he didn’t have much of a passion for anything else.


That changed thankfully during his time in college. He finally decided to pursue a business degree, if nothing else it would provide him with some sort of stability, but during his second year in school he discovered something he wanted to put his entire effort into. It was video games again.


Shortly after he graduated, the website became popular with people streaming their gameplay to their fans across the internet. John fell in love with the idea immediately.


“Something about it just appealed to me, I already loved playing games with my friends anyway, and even with the business degree I wasn’t super stoked about finding a career path with it, but making money and playing games just sounded great to me so I went for it.”


He moved to Virginia with his wife shortly after and during their time there we worked for a card shop while beginning his Twitch career on the side. At first there wasn’t any income from it, he was streaming for the pure enthusiasm it brought to him, but after a few months of it he finally found a semblance of a fan base.


“I was really happy when I started getting my first group of repeat watchers, it was like all the effort I was putting into it was finally paying off, but I didn’t think my content would get so popular.”


John’s channel became even more popular when he stopped playing single player games, and focused more on streaming games with his friends, that’s when his personality shone best after all. His channel became monetized and began to make a stable income from streaming his games to his audience.


Years later, John Hall lives with his wife in a cozy home in Fletcher, North Carolina. They welcomed a baby boy into their home and are a truly happy family. He still streams for Twitch, though full-time now. That kid inside him who didn’t have any brothers or sisters to play games with, now has a whole world to play along with him.


Looking back now, it’s clear to me that those instances of my rampant creativity and unbridled imagination were the early signs of the ADHD I dealt with growing up and as an adult. Though the methods of dealing with it have changed over the years, many of the symptoms remain the same. I still can’t sit still for too long without my mind wandering, my leg bounces while I read in order to keep myself engaged and focused and I still have a love for creating things to keep my hands busy. The key difference between my childhood and adult selves, lies in the creative outlet I discovered early on as an adult.


I found absolute creative freedom in the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a wonder I didn’t stumble across it sooner. My love for storytelling and creating elaborate plots found a strong foothold in the creative and imaginative sandbox that is D&D. With it, I could fully explore and exercise the creative muscles I had been honing for so many years. Whether writing various plot hooks in a cohesive narrative or coming up with different characters for my players to engage with that had depth, progression and a deeper meaning behind them, I finally got to fully flesh out ideas that I had in my head for many years prior. 


The game lent itself well to being able to do something with my hands as well. The art of playing with clay that I had abandoned in my teenage years became relevant once again as I reignited that skill to use for D&D, crafting miniature models of characters, settings and various monsters for my players to overcome through their adventures. It was as if this game became the perfect outlet for all the things that made me feel strange and bothersome as a child. 


I could express my ideas and imagination to the fullest extent of my capabilities and perform like I was born to. We grow and change all throughout our lives, that’s human nature. In growing up, we find meaning, and discover who we really are as people. We learn new skills and develop new ways to express ourselves in the world around us but deep down at our core, we’re all simply an extension of that child we used to be.


Whether a child has great ambitions from the beginning, or they find their passions later in life, their curiosity and drive should be supported as best as possible. Those childhood experiences could turn out to lead to a lifetime of fulfillment, with only some guidance and patience.


I was lucky to have parents and an environment that encouraged my interests and my way of thinking. As an adult I realized I could find a proper outlet for all of those strange, creative things I wanted to do as a child.


That brought a smile to my 8-year-old self.

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