Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been inclined to express my creativity in many ways. Watching my older sister practice her music, I started to sing as a little kid. Watching my cousin at dance performances got me excited to learn Bharatnatyam, a South Indian classical dance form. A keyboard that my brother got on one of his trips back home from the US fascinated me endlessly. I found acting through my time at a summer children’s club my dad signed me up for. My childhood friend, S was my art role model, always encouraging me to draw and paint never comparing my sub-par efforts to her gorgeous creations. Despite this wonderful start in my childhood, I lost my way. It didn’t happen suddenly. In fact, I continued to be actively involved in theatre all the way until the end of college. My creativity was like a house plant. Somedays the plant received water and sunshine and on some days the drapes were shut and the water was nowhere in sight. When I started to work in 2006 after graduation, I was all set. I had to make money, build a career and a life for myself. I was an adult and creativity had no place in my life.
Why did my creativity wither away over all those years? This has been a painful question to ask myself. It has been a long and arduous process to go back down the road and see when and where I began to distance myself from my creative gifts, a little at a time. I last explored this question when I was doing the Gifts of Imperfection eCourse during the chapter on Creativity. It was titled “Healing your art scars.” The lesson involved identifying your “art scars” – the things you’ve been told or the things you told yourself that made you want to abandon your art. Once we identified our scars we were told to write them down and tape a bandaid on the line and write down a statement to “heal the scar.” I remember going through the process but not being completely invested. But like all introspective exercises, it kicked off a thought process that would change the way I thought about my creativity.
Ever since I moved to the US in 2008 for graduate school, I accepted that I was no longer the “creator.” I would consume the products of other people’s creativity and not much more. My job was to build a successful career. I could always interface with creativity in my free time but only as a consumer. No time for tomfoolery – This was real life, dammit. I never gave a second thought to it. My body however, could not betray what I felt about the situation. Every trip to the theatre, every live music show, every movie that touched my heart would elicit a wide array of emotions ranging from elation to excitement to envy and sometimes even a deep sadness. Don’t get me wrong, inspiration is wonderful and we have so much to learn from each other’s creativity. But when we start to believe we have nothing to offer, we are killing a part of our soul. That was what was happening to me.
In September of 2015, we watched Indian violin maestro, Dr. L. Subramaniam at Millennium Park for the Chicago World Music Festival. I’ve grown up listening to and practicing Carnatic music (South Indian classical) so his brand of music was not new to me in any way. I expected an entertaining show, I didn’t expect a life changing event. Somewhere in the middle of the show, I heard myself think – “Your life’s purpose will be born out of creativity.” I experienced a jolt of emotion so powerful that tears started to stream down my face. I looked away so my husband could’t see my tears. I managed to retain my composure through the rest of the show and once we made it back home the floodgates opened once again. I was not upset. I felt relieved and unburdened. Like the universe had helped me express something that I had carried around in my heart for years.
Fast forward to today – I continue to have realization after realization about my creative journey. What fueled it, what sabotaged it and what revived it. These thoughts are critical because they help me shift focus from blaming myself for denying my creative gifts. Today I am back on the path to reviving my creativity. Small steps to a day when perhaps I can truly feel like the creative soul I was born to be. It’s not an easy path to take – There are days when I am convinced I am a fraud and do not have anything of value to contribute. It’s a small price to pay for the days when I do get past my fears to create something because when I create I am truly alive.
For the month of March I am issuing myself a challenge to tap into my creativity/self-expression at least once a day. Follow me on Instagram to check out how I’ve been doing!