national arts in education week

I Was A Shy Kid. No, really!

by JANELLE L. Bristol

I was a shy kid. Most who know the adult me would balk at this declaration but it’s true. Three year old me was most comfortable either behind my mother’s skirt or sitting high above on my granddaddy’s shoulders. I could sit in a room surrounded by family and friends and disappear into my land of make believe with a book, my Barbie village, or paper and crayons. My mother, being a bit of a wallflower herself wanted me to have more, do more, experience…more, all in an effort to bring me out of my shell. Taking me to my first Broadway show at the age of 3 (Annie), she witnessed first-hand how I would light up like the brightest light on Broadway. She saw how enamored I was with the entire production - the costumes, the sets, the songs, the choreography - the thrill of it all was painted on my tiny face. And so, as many loving mothers would do she made sure I was exposed to all facets of the arts - music, dance, theater, visual art. The schools I attended had rich music and art education classes. My afterschool program had a theater department where we had full productions of The King and I (I played Anna) and The Wiz (guess who was Dorothy) to name a few. This was not by accident. My mother saw a light in me and she nurtured it the best way she knew how – by choosing environments where her wallflower child could blossom. And blossom I did. I found my voice. I discovered my confidence. These environments unlocked who I was truly meant to be. My world of make believe became my reality - I was surrounded by stories and how they were told. I loved ever second of it. I still do today. 

Today, I may not work in the arts. However, I thrive because of the influence of the arts. I doubt I'd still be stuck behind my mom's skirt at this age but without art education, I'd definitely be stuck. 



Janelle L. Bristol is a native of Harlem, New York. She currently works as technology instructor/instructional designer  for a major New York City cultural institution.  An avid life enthusiast, you'll never find her without a good book, her journal, her phone, and her passport.