Looking back over this past year, I realised that allowing myself to be creative has taught me a few more things about life.
This time last year, my hair was shorter, my worries were bigger, my depression was controlling me, and most days I really struggled to get out of bed. It’s hard to admit, but I knew that unless I actively did something about my emotional situation, things were going to get considerably worse.
This time last year, I felt as if I would explode with the culmination of emotion from the previous 4 years. Apart from the 9 surgeries Henry had already gone through, there were the in-between periods of waiting, not knowing, continuous care, medications, my cancer and hoping my husband was a match to donate a kidney to our son.
Prior to this time last year, I kept busy with freelance design jobs. Now, knowing that our departure date was near, I could no longer commit to jobs or projects (I needed to be able to drop everything at a moments notice) and my freelance design work (understandably) dwindled.
It might seem strange, but at this point, I feared quiet moments because it was in those quiet moments that my mind began to process. I struggled incredibly. Apart from my heart breaking watching my son go through everything, I never had a chance to really think about my own illness. Needless to say, those quiet moments began to resemble something like a continuous loud screeching noise in my mind. I continued to spiral inward and down.
At this point, medication was suggested to me as an option but I opted against it. I wanted to be fully aware of what was going on, and there was no guarantee to what degree of lucidness the medications would allow me to be. I knew it was not the ideal option for me and so I decided that my sanity and the ability to cope was solely up to me. My son needed me and I wanted to be there for my husband and the only way I could do that was to take care of myself.
As my quiet moments continued to drown me, I knew I needed a new focus. What was going to help me? I needed to find some sort of coping mechanism, and I turned to my creativity. I started to create small projects – little baskets and fun wall decor. The yarns and threads began to motivate me and one project became two, three and more, inspiring one project after another as well as different designs and new projects. It was in this moment I realised that even the smallest of projects was going to help me and these ‘small projects’ became my lifeline.
So here I am, one year later, with an online shop stocking a cute collection of happy items, and new projects and collaborations I am excited to start working on. Designing and creating the items myself has allowed me to grow and has made me proud of my journey so far.
I have learned a lot, not only from the experiences I have gone through but also from allowing myself to be creative and ultimately giving myself a chance. It seemed damn near impossible, but looking back, I am so glad I pushed myself. I want to share what I learned in hopes that, perhaps it may inspire you to give yourself a chance, or encourage a loved one, even when times seem too difficult to cope with.
1. Creativity Never Dies
In hindsight, I never stopped being creative. Despite having had a formal education in sciences, the need for design, to design and to create was always on my mind. Every so often, I come across a notebook full of ideas and sketches that never came to life, because of, well…. life.
Allow me to throwback a little and rewind to my childhood (ok, maybe it’s more than a ‘little’ rewind). While my friends played with Barbie and hung posters of their favourite bands, I adorned my walls with ads of my favourite designers, I collected magazine clippings of my favourite clothing designs, watched attentively while my mother sewed clothing, home furnishings, got excited when she gave me small jobs to help her, carried around a folder with sketches and eventually started to draft patterns to make clothing for my dolls.
I followed art and design classes in high school but didn’t pursue it at a higher level because I was led to believe that design and anything creative wasn’t a meaningful or lucrative career.
At the age of 17 I wanted to work in the fabric shop my mom so often visited while I was growing up. Despite being so young and against their policy, I was given a part time job. I was exposed to endless fabrics, design, and customers looking for my advice. One year, I was asked by my boss to sew her grand daughters christening dress. I made a beautiful heirloom gown sewn in a luxurious Cream Gold Dupioni Raw Silk. This opened up a whole world of love for children’s fashion and design.
My mother’s influence played the largest role in my inspiration as she sewed everything from toys to clothing to accessories for my siblings and I, but being surrounded by fabrics and limitless designs solidified my love for this area of my creativity. Then, my very small, quiet dream was to have my own brand of children’s items – quiet because I was made to feel that since it was fun, and I enjoyed it – it could not be a career. The dream whispered to me over these years but it was never anything more than a whisper.
I continued to study sciences (which, thankfully, gave me a good understanding of biology that I needed so much these past few years) but my love for design never faded.
In 2010, my husband and I opened our own creative advertising and design studio and a big part of my need for design was fulfilled. Unfortunately this came crashing down after I had my son and fell ill myself.
As I started to create small projects last year, I felt an immediate connection with myself again. As I began to bring things to life (not just sketches or ideas written on paper), I could feel my soul smile. The ideas continued to flow, each leading to or inspiring a new design or project.
2. Work with What You Have
When I initially thought of things to do to help me cope, I wanted to turn to my sewing, but I knew just how messy it could get and I needed something I could easily clear up and pack away, especially in a small apartment.
A ball of yarn, crochet hook and scissors took up little to no space and whether it was a basket, wall decor or pom pom, it was easy to take out and put away whenever I needed. It helped that I didn’t need a lot of supplies or equipment to work on my projects, and more-so because it helped me get it done without worrying about clutter.
3. The More You Harness Your Creativity The Stronger it Becomes
Every small project I completed was an accomplishment and the more I did, the more I wanted to do. The screeching in my head started to quiet down and was now replaced by thoughts of colour schemes, textures, threads, and new design ideas.
I had found my coping mechanism and when my mind drifted I would steer it into a creative direction. As I designed and created, I started to feel better each day and the more I did the more confident I felt again. I knew that there was no better a time to embrace this new path I put myself on.
4. You Don’t Need Approval, But it’s Nice to Be Supported By Family & Friends
As I brought my projects to life, I shared them with my family and friends in person and through social media. Needless to say I was delighted by the response and I realised that not only did these projects fill me with a sense of happiness, but they brought smiles to others as well. My designs were being made from the heart and I didn’t feel the need for approval, but it was nice to know they were liked.
I was encouraged to make more and was elated when people began placing orders. I had set out to create items for me, because it was helping me, little did I know that the things I created from dark moments would return with saving me and bring happiness to others.
5. Don’t Over Think Things Too Much
If the past five years have taught me nothing, I have learned not to over think things, take nothing for granted and you always need to take a chance. In the past I would think and plan and second guess everything and the result would be nothing more than another sheet of paper with another project or idea. The beginning is always difficult no matter what you are working toward but sometimes you just need to dive in with both feet and work with what you have for what you want instead of waiting to get what you need to work on what you want, do you get what I mean? I really believe that the only risk you take is not trying or starting because without the risk the answer will always be no. When you try, there is always a 50% chance the answer could be yes.
7. Creativity Takes You to Different Places
It felt great when I stopped questioning myself and my abilities, and just created things. Owning and being proud of my skill and talent helped me create my items from a happy place. Allowing myself to be creative has led me to the new opportunities. Unless others are aware of your skill, they cannot know the countless possibilities you are capable of. By making my creative items visible, my creativity has also led me to meet interesting people, form new friendships and delightful collaborations.
8. Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes, Give Yourself Room to Learn & Grow
There are times things don’t always work out as planned and as I have come to accept that there are many things I am not able to change, but through my creativity, I have the opportunity to think of ways to solve little things that can be fixed. Sometimes things don’t turn out as I expected and that’s ok, so I let it go and try an alternative method/design or move on. While you navigate through projects that don’t turn out as expected, you often get new ideas that can spark other projects, ultimately providing you with growth and improvement.
As I celebrate this year of creativity, I am also celebrating the steps I have made on this path so far and looking forward to all the new adventures and exploring my creativity further.
Knowing that I my creativity has helped my sanity, and has helped me return happiness into the world from otherwise sad and ugly experiences, gives me every reason to continue. So, if you’ve been with me on this journey, thank you, and if you’re just visiting now, I sure do hope you’ll stick around, for me to inspire you, teach you from my experiences and most of all make you smile.