Life advice from a six-year-old

On Sundays, I often find myself in a contemplative mood. I don’t know if you get that too? The blues, the pondering, the longing and anxiety about the coming week. I will tell you the truth, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the number of creative endeavours I want to take on over the only two days of the weekend and what I can actually, materially do. It’s a bit like I have an optimism problem. I think it runs in the family too, because my mom had it.

For her it had to do with life and family admin: the cooking and cleaning, the ordering, the going through paperwork and the budgeting. I remember it used to make her crazy and she would throw her hands up in the air and cry “I can’t do it! How do other people do it!? Tell me! I’m clearly so freaking slow”. So things would pile up and not get done, and we still had every bit a wonderful childhood. But I know that’s something she has only learned to make peace with now, in her fifties, the fact that she wasn’t that kind of woman, the “angel of the house”, the perfect nurturing mother. She was a career woman, and I love that. I learned a lot from her, her ambition and her drive.

Weirdly, and I don’t know if this is a natural thing to counterbalance what one has seen in their parents growing up, but unlike her, I’m very much a planner. I love to research and to find, to prepare, to list. It’s like I need a mapped itinerary to go through life because I always feel pulled into a million different directions. I am fickle and sensitive and I feel happiness and sadness so deeply. I’ve been told that’s how creative people are: they feel feel feel.

There is this tendency in me to go with the flow and I can be over-spontaneous; I have in the past, and I got burnt. So now I weigh the pros and the cons, I try to understand where the pitfalls lie and what I have to do to make something succeed. But the problems with that is that you might not ever feel truly ready. You can sit and plan all you want and not ever jump in and so, it’s a bit of a cop out.

I saw this quote this week by a girl portrayed on Humans of New York and what she said really resonated with me: she talked about how she was an A student in high school and got into great colleges but once she got there she realised that everyone around was smart too, sometimes smarter. Suddenly she didn’t meet expectations anymore and it became completely crippling for her. She went into a free fall because all that external validation that she was used to disappeared, and she realised that’s what she had been working for all along, that was her motivation.

I worry that I’m like that, that I have grown up trying my hand at lots of creative hobbies: dance, photography, music, writing and I wonder if I did it because it made me happy or because I was told I was creative, and so I just took things on, piling them up on top of each of other like jenga and not getting really good at anything. Did I crave the validation, do I still do? What happens when people find out that I am just figuring things out as I go and that there is no grand plan? Sometimes, it feels a little bit like great things happen to me and that I don’t really deserve them, that I’m a fraud. I take on creative projects and there is always this worry in me that it’s not going to be perfect. I get so intimidated, so scared of failure, of not being enough. Of disappointing people.

I want to do things because I’m challenged and excited and inspired, to make peace with potential failure because that’s part of the process and how we grow. But how do you do that? How do you turn your nervousness off?

As I’m having one of these Sunday evening blues, I stumble upon this beautiful and poetic video art by an artist called Bianca Giaever. In “The Scared is scared”, she interviews a six year old for a made up story that she will stage on camera. But it’s about so much more than that, it’s about what lies ahead and the not knowing, the finding out who you are and the fear of figuring it out as you go. I don’t want to spoil it for you but if you watch it, you will see what I mean. And you might just get some great life advice… from a six year old.

Tell me: what do you get scared about? And what do you do with that fear?

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September 13, 2015

"I was scared of a monster and I thought of pizza and juice and some meringues..." I am blown away by the wisdom of this little child. The scared is scared of the things you like. Wow. I so need to take her advice. I am a worrier and an optimistic planner (I totally get what you're saying there) and I let things get to me, although since having kids that last bit has reduced a lot as the love and laughs from them make everything else feel insignificant.

Ever since I saw the post on HONY about that girl you speak of, it's been on my mind as it brought back a lot for me. I was guided (pressured) towards a career as an actuary because I had a head for maths and did well academically, but I was never allowed to pursue anything creative should it have distracted me. University blew up everything I thought I knew about myself and the path of my life. I passed the degree through half hearted effort but I couldn't pursue it further, it simply wasn't me. A decade since graduating, I'm still trying to figure it out. I worked in a creative field for a few years and loved it, but the hours were long and it's impossible to commit to that right now while looking after my babies. I wish I'd been encouraged from a young age to explore creative avenues as now I want to learn so much but not sure where to find the time or resources.

If you have a drive to learn a new creative skill, I say do, put your heart into it, and do it for you. If you find it's not right for you, think of it as an enhancement to your creative skill set, not a failure. All learning is worth something.

Aaanyway, I'll end this essay! I feel a bit sheepish about this rambling now. I just saw a like minded soul when I read this post and got a bit excited. Glad I found your blog (via IG), I look forward to reading more soon :-)

September 14, 2015

Hi Meera, thank you for commenting and also, it's nice to meet you! So glad you found your way here from Instagram - I've been trying to grow that channel this month so it's great to hear. Please don't feel sheepish about your comment, it's not at all rambling and it totally makes sense. I wonder if part of the strange state of mind I'm in is because, like you, during my university years I was on another path and I guess, projecting another future (becoming a teacher, ideally for undergrads but possibly in high school). For me too, graduating was a wake-up call and in fact, because I had spent some time studying abroad perhaps, I gained some perspective. Without knowing exactly what I wanted to do, I knew that I wasn't excited at what I could see in front of me and even though it was a scary choice to leave and do something different in a country where I knew no one, I did it and here I am four years later! The weird thing is that sometimes I feel like I used to be much more bold in those years not that long ago and that now, I am much more careful with the choices I make. Maybe that's just part of getting older? I don't know! ^^

September 14, 2015

It was very brave of you to move to a new country to do something new, and I hope you’re happy with that decision! At least you're not stuck doing something you may not have enjoyed, which could have been soul-draining.

I too was so much bolder in my earlier years: at 19, I came to a foreign country alone (now my home!) without much emotional or financial support and held down a couple of jobs through university to pay for it. Upon graduating, I moved to another town, again alone, to get away from the types of careers I was expected to follow and also to experience life on my terms.

I know I wouldn’t be bold enough to do all that now, so I’m glad I did it then as I’m happy with my life now, even if I haven’t quite figured out what I’m supposed to be doing! That blind bravery is gone, perhaps because now I have a lot more to lose if things go tits-up. Perhaps if I had recognised my creative urges in my younger, braver years, I would’ve figured out my path by now. Growing up is a bit of a trap, lol.

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