Creating Space for Creativity

For my entire childhood, I was an idealistic, creative, free and happy little human. I indulged myself in whatever I felt like doing, whenever I felt like doing it. And unlike so many kids today, for me, that almost always meant reading, writing, drawing, painting, acting, singing or imagining. In short: creating.

If I felt like sketching house designs and floor plans on grid paper, I did it. If I felt like illustrating my own comic strip, I did it. If I felt like inventing a whole new personality and life story with my sister as we played and imagined outside, I did it. If I felt like writing stories in Notepad on my dad’s ancient old laptop that had only Solitaire, Minesweeper and no internet capability to its name, I did it. And if I felt like plugging in my headphones and listening to Avril Lavigne’s Let Go album on repeat while reading every last word of every last listing in the local Real Estate Book, I did that, too.

I did whatever would fill me with joy and would nourish my wide-open little soul. It did not occur to me to do anything otherwise.

Until, I guess, it eventually did. I don’t know what happened, exactly. I can’t point to a particular instance or event that changed my desire to create or dampened my innate connection with my creative pursuits. I just drifted from it. Lost touch with it. Ran out of time to dedicate to it, or so I believed.

As I grew older and life became busier, it seemed more and more difficult to find free time to create. With middle and high school came more homework and organized activities. I was lucky, though, even in public school – I always opted into art class, participated in school musicals and I studied dance several evenings each week. It wasn’t freely pursued in my leisure, but at least it was built into my schedule.

The same can’t be said for life after graduation, when I moved to the city and started university. My free time then was spent napping, chatting or having a few drinks with friends. I loved my classes and I loved my work. In some way, there was an element of creativity to my work, given my major in history and all of the papers that came along with it. But it wasn’t quite the same. I didn’t make time to make art. I didn’t read for pleasure. I didn’t dance or sing or draw or daydream. I worked hard, but I also fell out of practice for pursuing the things that made me light up.

But I think it was then that I lost my creative spark. I didn’t realize it at the time, and at that point I don’t think I missed it yet. I was too busy learning about friendship, love, life on my own, and the history of royal patronage of art and books in the 16th century Middle East.

It wasn’t until those four years were drawing to a close that I began to feel as though a part of myself was missing – and the scariest part was that I had no idea what it was.

Naturally, I panicked. I needed to find the thing that I had lost track of while I wasn’t paying attention. And over the course of the next three years, I proceeded to look… in all of the wrong places. I moved across the world to teach English in Thailand. I fell in love with a boy back home. I traveled all around southeast Asia. I made some of the best friends I will ever know. I was lonely as hell. I came back home, rented a room from a woman I’d never met, got a job and spent all my free time with my boyfriend. I was disoriented and frantic and trying desperately to fill the void.

So I found a new job and I moved to a new place. But I still spent all my free time with my boyfriend and I hated being alone. I became depressed and it seemed impossible some days to get out of bed, let alone clean my apartment or cook a good meal – things I had always done with energy before. I didn’t care about anything. I was terrified of the person I saw in the mirror who I no longer felt like I knew. How did I get here?

I tried going to therapy. I tried to reconnect with friends. I tried to spend time alone, to be peaceful, to get back in touch with myself. But all I did was distract myself. I bought an iPad so I could scroll through my Facebook feed while also streaming Netflix on my laptop, because one or the other was not enough. I felt more exhausted and uncertain than ever.

But I also felt really sick of it.

So I quit my job, moved halfway across the country and went back to school. The year that ensued was challenging, but out of the challenges I discovered and rediscovered passions, read many life-changing books and jumped head-first back into my love of learning.

Through the challenges I faced, my creative inspiration returned to me. I found a long-forgotten well of creative energy and spirit within myself whose discovery has profoundly shifted the way I approach my life and interact with the world around me. The creativity that I have realized I possess has empowered me to make my own happiness in the way that nothing else ever could. It has shown me all that my life can be and all that I am capable of.

When I lost my creativity, I lost my confidence. I lost everything that connected me to who I was and what I stood for. I lost the belief – the knowledge – that I have the ability to choose and create what I want my life to be. That I have the power to manifest my desires and my dreams and everything that is inside of me and to make it a reality.

So now, I write. I cook. I read. I sing. I practice yoga. I make paintings. I make photographs. I make blog posts. I make plans to learn to garden and start a podcast and to dance again. Because I know now that each and every creative endeavour that I pursue is a path to my highest self.

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