I went to a coloring bar at the Strand on July 21 as part of my journey of self-development. Alone.
It felt somewhat awkward. I experienced some zen throughout the hour, but in the end, the zen may have been forced.
There were a good number of young folks (under 25) at the coloring session. My mind immediately pegged them as NYU baby freshmen. Of course, I could be completely wrong. Maybe they’re NYU juniors and seniors. Maybe they’re folks from Parson’s School of Design (aka the New School). Undergrads. We’ll just go with undergrads.
Everyone looked chipper. Relaxed. Not sweaty or red from exerting themselves in the heat. I just biked over the Williamsburg Bridge and was conscious of my appearance.
The things we do for the bike life. 🚴
After the Strand staff got all the tables, coloring tools and sheets set up, I made my way around the back room. I picked one that looked like a collage of mandalas. The organic shapes looked complex, but I like my coloring that way. The abstract structures with its organic lines appear relaxing.
“That just looks too stressful.”
That’s what this girl next to me said as I was grabbing my coloring sheet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I scanned the room to figure out where to sit. The socially anxious introvert in me came out. What am I doing here?
I found a table with a fellow introvert-looking young lady. (That sounds horrible…) She was there alone, too. She was there to color. She even had her own gallon Ziploc bag of coloring tools! She kept to herself. I kept to myself.
I don’t know much about art therapy, and its benefits. Intuitively (maybe?) though, I know that art can be a mood booster. It’s a great outlet for releasing energy that can often manifest as anger or something else. Everything else around you melts way as you focus on the colors you want to use.
I was so focused on my sheet that I didn’t notice the art therapist. There were about four of them going around the room. When I noticed they were trying to make conversation, I felt awkward. Uneasy, even. They were intruding, I thought.
I felt myself forcing to find therapy in the coloring session.
After a few minutes, the awkward feeling grew. Two young women—friends—bombarded our quiet space. And they just kept talking and talking and talking about nothing in particular.
What is happening right now?
I felt trapped. I could have left before the hour was up. When my focus shifted from my coloring to the girls’ words, the zen was noticeably forced.
It was annoying, but I was content with their uninteresting jabber. My thinking shifted to whether I should leave early. If I pack up my stuff, will they know I’m leaving because of them? They’ll probably do an eye-roll of some kind. Does it really matter?
I ended up staying for the full hour. I walked around the store after coloring, hoping to use the gift card I got for participating. But nothing stood out to me. Without buying anything I hurried out the door to my lonesome bike.
The city really is a ball of stress. Despite the incessant hustle and bustle, though, are pockets of tranquility. You just have to know where to look for them and decide whether you’ll go back or not.
I consider it a personal win that I went to this event alone, but it became too awkward for me. I like art but I doubt I’ll go to any more pop-up coloring bars.
Photo: Luis Llerna/Negativespace