How School Kills Creativity • My First Short Story

I was watching a TED Talk on Why Schools Kill Creativity. A couple of days later, I met up with a high school friend for brunch. We reminisced and somehow ended up on the topic of floss. She exclaimed, "Oh my god, do you remember your floss story, the one you wrote in high school?"

My first reaction was of trembling. You know when we laugh so hard that we can't breath, and our body goes into this pulsating tremble. That, that was all I could remember. 

I knew she was referring to our "Advanced English as a First Language" extracurricular in our French high school. I remember having written a short story that made my peers burst out laughing. It wasn't my intention. I was a relentlessly bullied, smart-shamed, Money Tree teenager who paid for this class with my own birthday money, so I could ensure admittance to the best English university in my city.

Other than the body memory of tremble-laughing, I couldn't remember what I wrote... Trauma messes with memory. 

So I ran home and dug up my external hard drive and found the story I wrote 18 freakin' years ago.

Ellany's First Short Story

There’s nothing worst in the world for a six-year-old child than to receive a toothbrush as a treat on Halloween.  That’s what most people think.  But just let me tell you that nothing could have been worst than being the six-year-old child who had to give out those toothbrushes.  Yup, that was me, Samuel, the kid who wore a white lab coat and had a 4 foot tall toothbrush as a costume.

I guess I slowly came to the conclusion that being different was being special, because 20 years later, on Halloween, I still give out toothbrushes to children.  But now, I actually take pride in doing so.  If I don’t, who will teach the next generation the importance of dental hygiene?  Do they want to end up chasing their grandson who ran away with their dentures? I think not.

When some teenage trick-or-treaters threw eggs at my window and rolls of toilet paper on my front lawn, I sort of got the message.  They were all “sick and tired of my toothbrushes” or so they wrote in a badly spelled death threat.  So I finally opted for, well … dental floss.  They weren’t the cheap ones, might I add.  Minty they were.

It reminded me of the good old days, you know, those days that were the worst days of your life.  You know that commercial that says, “Not everyone has time to brush, so chew chew Trident gum”?  Well, I use the next best thing: dental floss.  Throughout high school, my classmates, the ones who managed to notice my existence, just called me Floss, because I would floss after every meal.  Instead of gum, I would floss.  Instead of breath freshener, I would floss.  Instead of mouth spray, I would floss. Did anyone notice a pattern developing?

So I dedicated my life to preaching dental care to the world.  People ignoring me just strengthened my conviction to make the inside of the mouth a better place.  My teachers at Med school who at first admired my enthusiasm soon just took my behaviour for insanity.  But when has the desire for sane gums become a crime?  That’s what I kept asking the police officer who arrested me.  I was just flossing for goodness’ sake … ok, so they were someone else’s teeth, but a little dental floss can only do good.

My quest often landed me in interesting and new places, but mostly behind bars or in courts.  But the judge, my patient, was always fairly reasonable and dismissed most of my harassment/stalking charges.  I made a pretty good living, and the money people gave me to stay away from them helped a lot in paying the bills.

But I have had enough.  If no one is willing to listen, then I shall take this to the top of the tallest building in the city.  Hoping to revolutionise dental care, I jump in the name of teeeeee… (splat).

When I came to, before I even opened my eyes, I heard the rhythmic beeping of hospital monitors.  I saw a shadow mumble something about jumping off a rooftop.  The respirator saved my life.  I had found my life’s mission: to become an electrical engineer, to save more lives by way of hospital monitors.

First and Last Story

LOL! A little morbid? Perhaps. I was 16 and already a skyholder for 13 years. Give the kid a break.

That was the first and last story I ever wrote between 16 and 33. Even though as a dorky science geek, I wrote a piece of literary work that was entertaining and beloved by my peers (they each asked me for a copy after class), school and society had conditioned me to believed:

  1. your sole duty and purpose in life is to make money for your parents and younger siblings
  2. writing will not fulfill above duty and purpose so shut that down, NOW!
I wish I knew then that being different does NOT equal being inadequate...

Freedom, travel, play!

xo, Ella

(First Published May 18, 2016)



Having navigated 131 countries, 87 emotions, 46.5 traumas, and 16 careers, Ellany Lea inspires and guides phoenixes, overachievers, entrepreneurs and wayshowers to live fierce, fulfilled and free.