Emma’s Dilemma: Get Outside

My siblings and I lie on a blanket in our backyard on a Sunday, chatting as we breathe the fresh air.

Photo provided by Michele Coleman

My siblings and I lie on a blanket in our backyard on a Sunday, chatting as we breathe the fresh air.

Emma Coleman, Editor-in-Chief

My siblings and I spend our Sunday afternoons in the backyard, chatting on a big blanket. On one occasion, my brother and sister left me, taking the blanket inside with them, and I lied in the grass alone.

I stayed there for long time, the sun sprinkling down over me through the pine trees above. The fresh air that I breathed was calming, and my head cleared of stress for a moment. There were no emails to send, no college applications due next week, and no one arguing about sweatpants on Instagram.

It was glorious.

In America today, stress and anxiety are becoming common burdens for many, and often teenagers turn to their phones for relief. According to a survey released in February 2015 by the American Psychological Association, “Millennials appear to rely on more sedentary stress management techniques than other generations, such as listening to music,” “watching television for more than two hours per day,” and “surfing the Internet/going online.”

But why do we turn to our phones? There’s nothing comforting about staring into a screen. I’m staring at my computer right now as I type this, and I’m getting a headache. I really should get some fresh air.

Nature has the strange ability to wipe everything away, yet invade your imagination at the same time. The longer I lied there that day under the pine trees, the more creative I felt. Stories entered my head, and I wanted to write.

Write? For fun?

Well, yes. That’s how I express my ideas and feelings. But I don’t blame you for thinking that’s weird.

The English curriculum has shifted in recent years from lessons in artistic writing to solely informative and technical writing. The change, intended to teach nonfiction writing and prepare students for the workplace, has had unintentional negative consequences.

English teacher Michelle Stachura sees this shift affecting students. “I think we’ve trained our current students to expect rubrics and not know what to do without one,” she said. “Life doesn’t come with a rubric, and I’m afraid that they are afraid to experiment. They are becoming a little bit less intellectually curious.”

In this fast-paced world where we are constantly aware of what others expect – in school, at home, on social media – we are losing our creativity
Nature, I think, can help bring creativity back.

Art teacher Joann Bare explained that graphic designers often find inspiration for their work in nature. “Parts of anything, really, from nature, could become a pattern for sheets, clothing, wallpaper,” she said. Art seems to exhibit aspects of biomimicry – the study of nature to find and develop engineering solutions.

Now, I’m aware that technology can also be a source for creativity. Minecraft, Pinterest, and even Instagram encourage us to use our imaginations. Especially Pinterest. Thousands of recipes and crafts are always at our fingertips.

But are we being creative when all our ideas are being given to us? Shouldn’t our ideas be our own?

Get your nose out of your phone. See what you’ve been missing. I’m sure you heard about the super moon in the news this past November, but did you actually go outside and look at it? And I don’t just mean glancing at it at the bus stop one morning. Did you take time to see how it lit up the night? Did you bask in its glow?

It was beautiful. I’m sorry if you missed it. I challenge you this winter to put on your snow boots and get outside. There’s much more to see out there than there is on your phone.

If you did see the super moon, and it inspired you, I’m glad. You and I are living proof that Romantics still exist.