Recently I’ve been feeling like there are disparately different sides of myself. Like time has moved me further and further from myself, yet not in actuality. As I’ve mentioned, my creativity has taken a beating in recent years, to the point where I sometimes struggle to see myself as a creative. The problem seems to manifest often (lately) around how I see my college (or just previous) self as different and divorced from my current self.
There vs Here
In college I had drive; I was young and vibrantly alive. I had purpose and joy in a great deal of what I did day to day. I became a practical graphic designer and loved every minute.
What happened?! Is often the refrain in my head. How did I ever get here from there?
Here is where I am scared to be, here and now, afraid to move forward and terrified to fall backwards. Thoroughly anchoring myself in constant ambiguity and indecision. I don’t feel vibrant or alive...but I want to. I just am not sure how. But I am trying.
So, What Went Wrong?
Looking back I see that my transition from student to adult took a unexpected turn. The change wasn't sudden, and it was definitely not planned. I just followed, to the best of my ability, the path laid out for me: become a real adult, do all the work, make all the money. No reason to be happy doing it. Somehow, part of the subtext of that became: creativity is not part of being an adult. As I have written previously, I felt I couldn't be a real designer because the imposter syndrome was strong and insidious. It used becoming an adult as a seemingly valid method to undermine my creative side.
I've always had trouble making solid decisions for myself. Sure, I'm opinionated, but I often feel I need to soften my opinions or shove them aside if someone else feels differently. I've spent a long time expecting to make everyone else happy, and often it's best if it's at my expense. Kinda terrible, right?! I'm working on it, but I think that this plays a part in the dampening of my creativity. Spending time on myself and my creativity was time spent making only myself happy, which could also make certain others in my life unhappy. See where I'm going with this? The equation was: Everyone else > Me.
My whole life I've lived with this fear that everyone I loved would leave me...and, the real kicker, it would all be MY fault. I was only recently able to articulate this fear to myself, but it's put a lot of things into perspective. Why do I need everyone else to be happy at my own expense? I'm afraid they'll leave if I don't. Having any agency to do things for myself brought this fear that I would do something that would cause my abandonment. It's no wonder that I would feel a need to do the things "expected" of me. And I'm sure they were, probably, things I imagined that others wanted/needed me to do.
I’ve been thinking that, maybe, I need to reacquaint myself with myself, comfort myself with the knowledge I once was on my way to where I wanted my creativity to be. I can be again, it just takes time and dedication. Drive. Purpose. Unfortunately, it's also infuriatingly slow.
I've spent the last few days looking through some of my projects from college. I feel inspired to create again, to find what I once enjoyed. I also take heart in that feeling of "oh, I could do that better now!" It means that my skills and sharp eye are still there, still strong. Taking the time to reminisce has been a great joy, I've seen myself in a previous but, also, new light. I have hope.
It's a huge victory that I am allowing myself permission to spend time with myself. The fear is still there but now that it's spoken, it has language. It cannot control me to the same degree. If you want to read the book that took me on the wild ride to my deepest darkest fear, look no further than It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn. It's really good stuff, I just could have done without some of the more "touchy-feely" aspects. But maybe that's why it worked. Who knows?
Taking the time to analyze how thing went so wrong has also been cathartic. Writing it, even more so. I find that writing this blog is keeping me honest with myself and finding clarity I never thought I'd find in writing for public consumption.
Any healing or change takes time. You'll find yourself back to square one more times that you'd like, but there is a path forward. Time and effort. As always, slack is needed and a kind self dialogue is a must. Always use a support system; you don't have to go this alone. We don't do well alone, but we also don't do well if we are trying to make everyone else happy. It's all about balance. Make time for yourself, reintroduce yourself to yourself, you are important too!