When I was 17, I made the decision to study Criminology at university rather than Theatre. That was the last time I spent any amount of time thinking about art - until recently.
When I was younger, I spent countless hours sketching, doodling and singing. When I was in high school, I played the saxophone in a jazz band and performed in our high school’s first-ever theatre play. Oddly enough, as an adult, I didn’t consider myself very artistic or creative.
See, when I was seventeen, I had to choose a field of study. I was torn between my dream of being an actor on Broadway and my deep curiosity about what makes people tick and sometimes snap. Teachers, guidance counsellors, family members and even my parents were conditioned to recommend areas with a high likelihood of employment over simple areas of interest. A university education was expensive and not to be squandered on something that wouldn’t yield a return on the investment. I’ll always remember my Dad saying that there would always be criminals so, that would be a safer bet for a financially-stable future. (Note: My Dad did make it up to me by taking me to New York a few times to see shows on Broadway.)
So off I went to study Criminology and work in the field of federal corrections for 15+ years. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that career. The dull moments were very few and far between. It wasn’t the topic itself that made me revamp my life in my forties to become a yoga teacher and jewelry maker. Rather, it was the logistics attached to my job such as the long commute, a somewhat inflexible work schedule and a feeling that my work really wasn’t meaningful. I suspect many government employees feel that way at one point, but I digress.
From the moment I started my studies, I pretty much stopped creating. My time was spent on things that were much more important or worthy. Without knowing it, art had taken a tumble down my list of acceptable activities. I was task-driven both at home and at work.
Looking back, I now realize that my creativity was desperately trying to peak through. In my early 20’s, I took an evening sewing class and ended up making part of my wedding outfit and some of my bridesmaid’s dresses. A few years later, I took singing lessons. Then, about five years ago, I saw an art kit that came with various paints and pencils in a flyer and asked my husband for it for Christmas. I knew nothing of painting techniques but I had a powerful urge to have it. Most things I made ended up in the recycling bin but those moments of pure creativity left me feeling energized and whole. Despite enjoying sewing and painting, I rarely carved time out for those activities.
This past February, my older daughter broke her tibia and needed surgery to repair her leg and reset her knee. Needless to say, she had a lot of time sitting around. She’s always been a creative child. She draws really well and is excellent at acrylic painting and creative writing. I’ve been really mindful not to quash that or make her feel as though art is less important than other pursuits. She took advantage of her downtime and taught herself how to knit and crochet. It seemed like every day, she was coming up with a new painting design or a new crochet pattern. She’d join me while I worked from home and pretty soon, I was drawn into what she was doing. She was creating new things, beautiful things and pouring her heart into each of them. I took out my watercolour paints and started to enjoy myself tremendously. We spent time creating together. Last week, I took an online beginner’s course in watercolours and I’m hooked. Every spare moment is now spent with brush in hand.
Because I tend to overthink most things, I’ve been wondering why I’ve typically assigned more importance to cleaning bathroom floors than to creating art. Why do I insist on having a squeaky clean house but don’t make time to do what makes me feel happy? I firmly believe that part of growing older is unlearning behaviours that we have adopted that just aren’t suited to us or that don’t enhance our lives. I also believe that each generation learns and builds upon the lessons of the previous generation. Maybe I didn’t stay in the same work field my entire life like the boomers. Maybe it was alright for me to take almost fifteen years to realize that I want to work more closely with people and experience connections rather than work through a governmental infrastructure. Maybe it took a very long time for me to connect with the creativity that I’ve stifled all these years. The bottom line is that I continue to learn about myself and what makes me tick. I may still, to this day, make more of my Dad’s hair fall out but hey, my life is my own. Besides, I have two kids who will undoubtedly repay me in kind.
This recent lesson though is that my creativity needs to be nurtured. Wasn’t that what sparked the launch of In Balance Jewelry? I craved those connections with people and wanted to make something beautiful that would also be helpful. Those connections - that creation - are at the heart of my love of teaching yoga and creating jewelry with meaning.
It’s very unlikely that I’ll become a famous painter but I owe it to myself, to those I love and to the world to nurture my creativity and channel it into art. Why? Because it makes me happy and makes me feel calm and centered. I can then, in turn, be a happier wife and mom, a more relaxed yoga teacher and friend and be more attuned when recommending stones to my jewelry clients.
Changing one’s perspective can take time and a bit of repetition. I will no doubt slip up and decide to clean something rather than paint at some point, but I now know just how important art is. It is everywhere around us. It makes this world interesting and beautiful. I’ve accepted that I may need to live with a bit more dust and more paw prints on my floor if it means that I can feed my soul and create something that makes me happy. Art is worthwhile and I am worthy.