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“The Elephant in the Room is Holding a Paintbrush” By Jordan Green

I love the idea of secrets. One of my hobbies is reading anonymous confessions online. A woman with a biological daughter in Iowa. Brothers who cut the neighbor’s lawn in the dead of night. Even the funny ones are interesting to read, like the story about a man who thought rattlesnakes could jump six feet straight up into the air. Whenever I am out in the world, I love to look at the passing foreheads of strangers and imagine the thoughts inside their heads. I am not a mind reader but I know that everyone has a secret. My self-love journey is one of mine.

During the pandemic I began to try new things. My brother’s guitar migrated to my room and I learned to strum. The pages of an old notebook started to fill with my drawings: people with wings, yellow roses, cartoons. Sometimes I practiced giving dramatic monologues in the shower. None of these displays of art were particularly good (and I am not saying this in a “humble brag” sort of way.) I know five chords on guitar and I cannot draw lips, noses or ears. I do not think I will ever be able to cry on cue.

All drawings are created by Jordan Green unless specified otherwise.

Before the pandemic, I would have never tried to do any of these things. Why bother playing the guitar when my brother can play any song by ear? What good are my flower doodles? What is even the point of creating a monologue no one will see? In short, I always thought it was silly to create art when I am not particularly good at it, and when so many people are much better at it than me. So how did this journey of pitchy guitar playing and smudged pencil drawings even begin? Again, the answer to all of these questions lies with a single secret: my self-love journey started with an elephant.

I keep this story a secret because I know it sounds ridiculous—“Hello, yes it is true, I changed the way I view the world after one internet video.” I was scrolling through social media when I came across a video of an elephant. Her name was Suda. She was standing in front of an easel and a blank canvas; in her trunk she held a paint brush. Suda dipped the brush into a cup and began to paint. I watched, fascinated, as a tree blossomed on screen. I looked down at my hands. Fingers. Opposable thumbs. Three million years of evolution so humanity could thread needles and perform surgery and flip each other off. I looked back at Suda to see she had painted an elephant next to the tree. In my head popped a question: “If an elephant can paint, then why can’t I?”

The world is full of marble statues, guitar solos and hand-woven rugs. People go to museums and give flower bouquets as gifts because art is something to be celebrated and shared. But what about me? I do not consider myself talented when it comes to art. What would I do with a subpar painting, something only slightly better than what an elephant could do? Art is a gift you give others -- but if you were not born with the gift to create, then why create at all?

Even though this has been my mindset for most of my lifetime, art has always been intertwined with my everyday life. I draw hearts in the fog of the bathroom mirror and sing silly songs while feeding the cats. I may be not creating something I want to keep forever, or anything that will withstand the ever changing tide of time, but moving through life in this way brings me joy. I like to do art, even if I am not good at it. Watching an elephant paint made me wonder why, for even a second, I would deny myself this happiness.

Art, I realized, does not always have to be on display. I can write a hundred poems and burn the composition book. I can play seven silly songs on guitar and forget them all the next morning. I can paint mountains better than elephants and use the back of the painting for a grocery list. Self-love is allowing yourself to be unmemorable. To write beautiful poetry is to write for all of humanity. To write shit poetry is to write for yourself.

Today, the majority of the art I do is by myself in my room. Nothing I do will be hung in a museum or performed in front of a crowd. Yet, as I continue to create, I am constantly practicing the art of joy. Drawing, singing and performing for an audience of none makes me happy. Creating art like this is something that will be forgotten, like a sandcastle on the beach. It’s a flash of expression, a spark of delight that only the universe will remember, a secret love story of beauty and time. And I do love the idea of secrets.

About the Author:

Jordan Green is very much a real person hiding behind a pseudonym. Green enjoys clean shoelaces, dragonflies (from a distance) and when the sun dips below the horizon. Green does not enjoy when people flip books upside down in lieu of bookmarks, socks that don’t stay up, or sharing writing under names that are not “‘Jordan Green” since the real Green has a name so unusual that only one of them exists on all social media platforms. One day Green hopes to be a published author but for now, Green is very happy to win a writing contest. A big thank you to elephants!

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