I have been thinking a lot about my own creativity journey lately. Whenever I think about it, I imagine it as an epic journey, like Cheryl Strayed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (see Wild). Though I am never going to actually hoist a huge pack to my back and set off into the wilderness, I vividly imagine that when I think of my journey. It has been a long one, decades really. And most of it I have spent deep in a jungle, hacking my way forward with no idea where I was, where I was going, and how much longer I would need my machete. A few years ago, I had a dream in which I finally pushed aside the leaves and stepped out into a clearing. The view ahead was obscured by a mist, but in a moment the clouds parted and I saw… nothing but an enormous, snow-topped mountain peak in front of me. I dropped to the ground, still wearing my pack, put my face in my hands and sobbed. I cried myself to sleep and then spent several days swearing at that mountain and cursing the gods until finally one day, I woke up resigned to my fate and I gathered my pack and walked on. (I christened that damn thing “Money Mountain,” by the way.)
Following your bliss should be easy, right? What could be easier than doing what you love and pursuing joy? In my experience, pretty much everything! The jobs that I have done, even the ones with horrible bosses, were certainly easier. Pregnancy and childbirth were easier too because I knew it would eventually be over. But, searching for and trying to hold onto my creativity has been one of the most challenging things that I have done. Each stage of the journey has been filled with challenges, from first convincing myself that I deserved joy and giving myself permission to set out on the path to find it, to conquering Money Mountain. Along the way, there have been so many (so many!) points at which a voice in my head told me that I should give up, that the life I had wasn’t so bad really and that nothing was worth the struggle that I was going through. Still, I keep moving forward because the stakes are so high. I found my authentic self on this journey and nothing can make me leave her behind.
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