I’m sitting by the kitchen window on the morning of my last day at my parents’ house in Gainesville, sipping coffee & reminiscing on the end of another year.
The end of 2021.
I used to love to sit down around the finale of a year and reflect; I don’t think I have looked forward to or enjoyed it the past couple years nearly as much as I used to. I have felt pretty creatively stagnant this past year in many ways, and as I’m becoming more of an adult, confronting where I’m at in any given moment comes with ever exceeding self-imposed expectations and anxiety — it’s normally familiar questions I’m asking, like “am I in a satisfying and meaningful career?” “why can’t I be happy with or proud of what I’m creating?” or “why is it so hard to express myself and tell my story?” “Is that what’s holding me back or would make me feel more creatively satisfied? If not, what is holding me back?”
When I move aside the voices of doubt, expectation and anxiety, I see that I did try new creative things this year, like pottery or laser-cut jewelry making; I drew/wrote out my first zine; I continued writing and editing my memoir draft; I went to my first writing conference. I guess on top of finishing a year as a spiritual care resident and switching jobs, I put a decent amount of time and energy toward my creative passions. Why can’t that feel like enough for this year, or at least like something I can be proud of?
I struggle to understand why social expectations of success are what they are; but I certainly understand how damaging and life-limiting it can be to internalize them as my own expectations of myself — especially when these are passions, hobbies, interests that I’m talking about. Like writing for example; I want to continue to find joy in writing regardless of whether it’s words in a memoir that I’m hoping to get published, words in a private journal entry that no one is ever going to see, or words on this blog, that’s sadly gotten dusty over this past year. That joy I have in writing, crafting a bowl out of clay, sketching some scenes of LA; I don’t want those simple joys to be overshadowed by an expectation that I need to make them successful, marketable or visible, or that I need to make them into a career. Pushing myself in a certain way so that I can have goals, accomplish more, and continue to try more creative ventures is definitely important — and this is myself I’m writing about, not anyone else — certainly some creatives need to hold themselves to industry expectations as they navigate their careers. For me though, the standards are largely coming from my own expectations of how “successful” a creative side-passion “should be,” whatever that even means. As I’m writing it out, it sounds ridiculous, because it is.
I feel like I am living in the shadows of what I really want to accomplish, but that it’s not so much a fear of failure, fear of being vulnerable, or fear in general that is hindering me from my dreams — but my dreams themselves, or rather, my unrealistic expectations of those dreams. They’re holding me back from truly enjoying what it is I’m trying out for fun these days. So maybe the best and most concise way to put it is that I want to do these things for fun and truly find fun in them again. It sounds much easier than it actually will be; as it will require me to deconstruct my own internal career, personal, creative, etc. expectations and get back to the essence of why I actually do things — do anything, for that matter. The purpose of trying new things never used to be so that I could look “cool” or something — they used to be so that I could express myself, navigate dark places of my past or questions of my identity, and eventually put them into the world and share them with others. Put them into the world not because they would make me look better, but because when we share our stories (through any medium), they can deeply inspire others, build bridges, cultivate awareness, and grow a communal human bond.
Creatively, that’s the direction I want to head this year — tangible, specific goals may come later. For now, the vision is to have fun again and get back to the essence of why I ever wanted to try any new creative pursuit. It’s about getting away from harmful or unrealistic expectations of myself, and about getting back to who I am and the things I want to express. We all have those things, and we all have our unique ways of expression. I guess if we can feel good about who we are and what we have to say, that is a good starting place for creativity to flourish. Again, easier said than done, but that’s what 2022 is for, I suppose.