Would it be a cliché to say that I always wanted to be a writer?
I guess it would be, and it would also be a lie. I didn’t always, no. I thought about being a teacher, a professor, a business woman, an au pair, a housewife with a dozen kids.
But somewhere, in the background, I also imagined owning my shop where I’d sell hand made blankets and toys, crocheted relentlessly and with abandon. I dreamed of seeing my name in print in a magazine, or on the cover of a book, while also being scared of being known.
It’s hard to imagine having a job where you have to make a name for yourself, while being hopelessly introverted. Being scared of recognition and attention while craving acknowledgement.
But I do believe that there are opportunities to be creative, even at work, without requiring the recognition from others. Indeed, at times creativity might well need to be hidden for it to work its magic.
Besides the obvious, I do think that there is space for ordinary creativity in the mundane. Working with people suffering from a variety of mental disorders, I have been proud to come up with ideas to placate an anxious person, things to say to redirect someone during a panic attack, refocus a full blown paranoid episode. Talking about random stuff I could see, something I noticed on their jacket, or their favourite artist does work. Coming up with an activity in the middle of an incident that takes their mind off their upset can be helpful. Other times, all it takes is to listen. To be there. Sure, maybe it’s not textbook, maybe I should have said this, reacted differently, or ignored the comment and turned the discussion to something else. But sometimes, I felt they needed an outlet, and I was willing to be there. Sometimes, I should have been more assertive. Sometimes, walking down the street with an extremely anxious and confused girl, I kept her going by asking about her nephews, knowing that if I stopped being upbeat and bubbly, she’d snap, and I’d end up being slapped in the middle of the road. Other times, things slipped out of my hand and I did get slapped, twice, because the green man took too long to come at the pedestrian crossing.
Working with people who may not have the attention span and patience that most people are used to, I had to be innovative, patient, and go with the flow. Being asked the same question a hundred times and hour may sound like a thing from the movies, but it is the thing of reality, and if the answer comes different than it did a minute ago, I might have just set myself up for dealing with an anxiety attack. If you are out in the community with someone who doesn’t understand the concept of ‘wait’, it becomes imperative that you can come up with things to say and do in the doctor’s waiting room.
It may not be the same creativity as Michelangelo’s David required, but it does need a certain street wise attitude, a quick thinking on your feet skill and a huge amount of confidence to pull it off. Many times I thought, shit, I have never been here before, I don’t know these streets, I don’t know which way to go. At the same time, I kept going, my voice strong, my feet unfaltering, knowing that if I started to doubt myself, so would person in my charge, and I was there be their rock, not to add further confusion. Maybe there’s a shorter way, but hey, I just discovered a new route to the pharmacy – surely that’s a cool thing!
Creativity comes in countless shapes and forms, and should be celebrated in its variety. Being able to recognise the many little nuances and opportunities for creative self expression, even if only in retrospect, can give huge sense of achievement and fulfilment. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.