Return of the Doodles
BEN RICHMAN // OCTOBER 11, 2019
Last issue I discussed the artistry of Terrel’s doodles, focusing on their dialectical nature. It was clear that artists were in conversation with each other, building off of past work. The doodles also served as a window into the student body of the past, revealing their desires, interests, and artistic skill. As I returned to the library I found another trend within Terrel’s most underappreciated art form. Much of the text— etched into study carrels— also carried motivational themes. Oberlin students will do anything to support each other, whether it means bringing a friend some Decafe chili when they’re sick, or forcing them to stop doing work and go to Splitchers when they’re being boring and lame. The doodles of Terrel are no exception. I found that many doodles had messages meant to support future students on the verge of panic or distress. Some messages even had warnings and advice.
These messages, though they mean well, can often be hard to decipher. One, for instance, warned that, “People want you to forget that you’re dying so that you can live the life that they want you to live and buy the shit that they want you to buy.” This ambiguous and mysterious warning to students of the future does not give the reader much context or information. Who is this underlined ‘they’ that the author speaks of. Is it the government? The Illuminati? The good people at Bon Appetit? Either way it is clear that someone is out to get you! Your suspicions were right all along. Those people who called you paranoid just don’t want you to know the truth.
Another supportive, but ominous message reads, “Don’t cry...It will all be over soon.” At first glance, this tiny message in the corner of one second floor carrel seems supportive. It isn’t outlandish to assume that someone in a study carrel might be crying, and this message will hopefully support someone in a trying time. That being said, what exactly will be all over soon? Your troubles? College? Your life? The world? Either way, this doodle reminds us that nothing lasts forever. So why stress? The world will end someday anyway.
The doodles, though meant to console future carrel sitters, often say more about the author than their intended readers. They seem to serve as an anonymous personal diary, of sorts. Like many spaces in Oberlin, the doodles in Terrell can be a place for oversharing. One anonymous writer utilized the carrels as a means of self-expression when they wrote, “I met someone online who is so excited to meet me in person that they are willing to drive three hours.” The author goes on to explain how “We’ve been snapchatting and texting for only about a week now AHHH this is crazy!” This confessional style is common amongst doodles, yet this specific experience was very intriguing. The author is in quite the pickle and decided to express their angst in the void that is the study carrels. This jarring message leaves us wondering, is this person okay? Did they ever meet their online crush? Were they kidnapped? Are they safe? Unfortunately, we'll never know.
In the end, it is unclear how helpful these messages truly are, yet as I continued to search through the carrels of Terrell trying to ignore the faint sound of TGIF right outside, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to the struggles and compassion that emanated from the sloppy handwriting. Though the lure of beer and music hung right outside our gloomy library, I kept searching, until I saw a prophetic doodle that seemed as if it was speaking directly to me. The beginning phrase written in pencil read “We all want to leave our mark.” This apt statement was followed by a powerful response in sharpie, “We all want to leave mudd.”