As children we ask questions. 

What does this mean?

Why is the sky blue?

Where are we going?

Are we there yet?

Why are your legs hairy?

Why aren’t your legs hairy?

Why do people die?

And a slew of other zany and uncomfortable inquiries adults around us gawked at or were annoyed by. We’d get half assed answers or too-complex-for-our-derpy-five-year-old-brains-to-comprehend responses.

But we were asking questions.

We were also making magic. We are the Harry Potter generation, after all.

We had imaginary friends, careers, and ideas. But to us they weren’t imaginary. We believed we were doctors because we had stethoscopes around our necks and we were pop singers because we had a working microphone in our hands.

We built forts and played adventurers. Make-believe was all we believed in.

Now we’re adults (ish) and we are the ones blowing off questions and lacking the desire to formulate answers anymore. We are the ones annoyed with the simple curiosities and wonder we once had as kids.

We stopped building forts. We decorate our dorms and rooms, sure, but it’ll never be quite the same. We aren’t pop singers. We aren’t doctors (well some of us are kudos to you all).

We’re just trying to graduate and get a job. We don’t have time for magic and make-believe.

In her doodled, scribbled and beautiful childhood essay, What It Is, Lynda Barry writes about this very phenomenon.

“One by one most kids I knew quit drawing and never drew again. It left behind too much evidence.”

It wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t because we wanted to. It’s because curiosity doesn’t live on college campuses the way it did in the forts we built as children.

Walk into any undergraduate lecture hall and no one, save the maybe lone, brave soul, is asking questions let alone drawing. That’s for art majors. They’re the only ones who can draw.

We bubble in scantron answers we’ve memorized because that’s how you maintain a GPA. We write essays we don’t believe in. We do presentations on subjects we don’t care about.

This is necessary to some degree. We learn how to be a functional student in elementary and grammar school by dipping our toes in different subjects, often finding ones we don’t like and have to discuss anyways.

Somewhere along the way, we were told to become smaller to fit inside the box we’d have to check on our college application forms when selecting a major. We saw the people around us doing the same thing. We all got smaller together so no one seemed to.

It’s funny, though. Isn’t this when the world is supposed to be getting bigger and our dreams wilder?

But why are we still doing this at the college level? Why have we not earned the freedom to explore? Didn’t we prove to an admissions council we were already good students? Why are we still being taught how to be students? Why aren’t we teaching and learning our own versions of magic? Why do I have to leave my curiosity at home?

I started asking these questions when curiosity forced me into a major with no barriers or borders. Curiosity writes words on paper and types it into posts like this one because I never quite know where combinations of 26 letters will take me. Curiosity brought me out of my comfort zone. Over and over again and I found magic there. Curiosity saved this college student.

I can’t create in lecture halls. I can’t ask questions in them. I can’t keep my curiosity safe there, either.

All too often, the instructor is talking at us, not with us. They aren’t asking for our thoughts or ideas. They aren’t finding our passions. Sometimes, they aren’t even sharing theirs. But they still call this teaching. 

And we still call it learning.