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On your hardest days, I want you to look back and reference yourself. Reach back into your history find a time when you, yes you, found a way to become your own creative superhero in spite of everything. This will be your defining moment. This will be your blueprint. this will be the guidepost for the way forward.
Yes, I’m encouraging you to reference yourself.
Let me tell you a story
I love old photos. I love the ripped edges, the looks on the faces. There’s a snapshot of who that person was, and it’s also an acknowledgment of who they were becoming at that moment. This is how we document history. I’ve been looking at my old photos again.
Honor Your Creative History
I’ve been thinking about how our histories as creatives are being made each and every day. Old photos are no longer black and white images from 100 years ago. They are the photos from my college graduation, the awkward itchy dress from that birthday party. They become personal and professional reference material of who we were and who we are becoming. On my hardest days, I’ve pulled out these photos. I needed to remember the girl I was back then. I needed to remember the creative strength it took to do some of the things that seem so impossible today.
I needed to reference myself.
How Do We Create In the Face Of Devastation?
This week marks my younger brother’s anniversary of his passing. It is also the week of his birthday. He would have been 35 this coming Monday. But he is not here.
I’ve been meditating (and crying) a lot this week. So, as I was meditating and holding my hand on my chest, I started crying. I was remembering the 22-year-old girl who went through so much in her last year of university. The things I learned from the woman I was (and became) during his passing are still there. I had just forgotten them.
- My brother died 3 months before I graduated. I had to finish my 50-page honors thesis and cry my way through all of my classes. I was not a fully functioning human being at the time. How could I be?
- My world blew up. Everything I knew was turned on its head and aI no longer knew who I thought I knew myself to be. This was a devastating time. During my last few months, my mentor, teacher, and friend June Jordan’s cancer came back with a full force and she died within a year.
- As I stood up there on that stage and gave the valedictory address, I laughed and cried at the same time. This was the best and worst day of my life. My mentor was supposed to introduce me, but she was so sick. My brother was supposed to be there, but he was dead.
The Power Of Referencing Your Past Creative Work
As I look back, I think about the sadness of the day and the joy of the day, but there was also the triumph of that day. How was I able to do the impossible. There was also breaking life into what seemed impossible and doing it. There was also my ability to hold my grief and my fear and my sadness and my joy all at the same time. So now, as I sit here meditating, I come back to that young woman. She was only a few years out of girlhood, and she had to find a way to get through that day.
I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she held the best and worst day of her life in both hands. I don’t know how her hands didn’t shake and collapse her to the ground, right there on that stage in front of everyone.
Honor Your Creative Courage
I don’t know why she did not give up. She could have said screw this whole thing and stayed in bed for weeks. She could have chosen to not graduate and take the remaining classes when she could have just left and never seen the walls of a university classroom again.
I would not blame her. Most people would understand.
It is hard to imagine that I am that same woman. I know she is strong and I know she cried in the bathroom while she waited to take the stage at the graduation theater. I know she cried while she was on stage.
Think back to a time when you were own creative superhero. What did it teach you? How did it change you? What lessons can you apply now?
Keep going dear creative. I want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self