I haven’t written for a really, really long time. Admittedly, I’ve been busy, but since when have I ever not been busy? Mainly, I just felt like I’ve had nothing to say. I felt like, as a person, I brought nothing interesting to the table anymore, and that why would anyone want to hear my ramblings? My new job was hectic, to the point where all I was doing was working, and on weekends, I felt like holing up and staying home. I wasn’t socialising much, since most of my friends had left, and the travelling was nonexistent. In large groups, where previously I’d chat away relentlessly, I felt awkward and like I didn’t belong – like I didn’t fit in.
I don’t know at what point stopped feeling like my authentic self. Maybe working for the red hat airline crushed it out of me, with their stringent rules. Overnight I went from sporting blue nail varnish and a bleach blonde pixie cute, to a grown-out, mousy-brown bob, and nails that could be one of three shades; nude, natural or French.
Despite the fact that I have never judged, or looked down on any of my peers for being crew, I personally was ashamed to be crew sometimes. I didn’t like telling people what I did for a living, because one, I felt like I had done myself a disservice, and two, I felt like a creative failure. I’d often talk to passengers on those ultra-long-haul flights, who’d stare at me in wonder, unashamedly asking me why, if I had a design degree, was I standing behind the bar of an aircraft at 5am? Often, I wondered the same myself.
The airlines need for everyone to be walking, talking carbon copies of one another (and for good reason, to be fair) – stifled me. I felt suffocated – like my personality was being squished out of me. I didn’t want to have pink hair, no – but I wanted the option of being able to. Was it too much to even ask for the freedom to eat what food I wanted, when I wanted, without any airport or capacity restrictions? I longed for that freedom. I’d meet people who were ‘creatives’, aching to be a part of that tribe. They had ‘cool’ jobs on paper, and their careers sounded exciting from the mere introductory title. Frankly I was in awe of them.
I’d visualise my ideal job and it was me, wearing something cool, with cool nails, in an office of likeminded people, travelling around the world enjoying cute cafes, galleries, bars and cool events. But fast forward to now, and even with the opportunity for any shade of nails, and any hair cut I could dream, I still didn’t feel like my best self. There was some kind of hollow. Staring at my reflection in the mirror, the clothes didn’t fit me how I thought they should, and when I tried to write, I couldn’t think of captivating topics and words to put on paper. Was this imposter syndrome? Did I not belong here and if I didn’t, where did I belong?
I started therapy again, and this time I found myself a therapist who is a strong female. Trained in CBT, psychology and life-coaching, for the first time since seeing a therapist ever, I felt comfortable enough to tell her every last detail of my life including the small bits, the big bits, and the ugly bits too. Even the bits I was ashamed to tell the others before.
I told her how I was feeling. I admitted to myself, and she, that I deeply regretted not going to art school – that to be that good at something and not pursue it in the way I dreamed felt like a huge failure. Financially, at the time, I couldn’t afford art school, despite getting a place in an esteemed school. So doing the next best thing, I did a graphic design degree.
But why didn’t I pursue it as a career? In my first real job, the head designer tore my work apart. My youth and naivety, coupled with my fear of failure and a deep desire to move abroad, told myself I wasn’t good at it, and choose another path.
At the airline, I assured myself that maybe the blue nails and pixie hair weren’t really my authentic self – perhaps they were my experimental self, and that such details weren’t important. To most people, they aren’t, but to me, I guess they are.
Working with my therapist has uncovered lots of patterns that I have, and taught me that my reactions according to my life experiences are completely normal. It taught me that I am super introverted, and one of the most rare personality types (INFP), naturally creative, disorganised, and a dreamer. She helped me understand that no-matter how hard I try to be the opposite way, I just cannot – because physically my brain is what it is, and that’s helped me accept parts of myself I was very frustrated about, too.
She also helped me understand that the little things are important, including art. But, the most crucial lesson she has unveiled for me, is that despite our jobs and despite our circumstances, a creative is something I will always be. It’s inherently within me. Just because I am not churning out works of art like fine portraits, or hosting exhibitions, doesn’t mean I am not an artist in some way. Nor do I have to work in a position that is ‘creative’. I am still those things without either, provided I embrace and nurture this side of my personality.
Art can be the way we dress. It can be five-minute small doodles. It can be the way we decorate our homes, or the way we do our hair. Looking at other cultures, Japan is an example of paying homage to art through the body itself, including how a person chooses to dress.
You see, it’s often other peoples perceptions and societal expectations that shape us, and as we absorb the weight of these expectations, they subconsciously weigh heavy on the shoulders if it doesn’t align with our authentic seldf. Social media, workplaces, and cultures are defining what we should look like, and some of us are caught up in it.
On this note, I have decided that I will exercise the Japanese’s artistic perspective on all levels. This includes doing my nails how I want and making more effort with my clothes, which by the way – currently do not look like how I want them to look on me, thanks to lockdown (I know I am not alone). So this in turn impacts being careful with what I am eating and getting back on track with exercise. It means nourishing my body with nutritious food. It means resolving my skin issues so that my canvas is the best canvas I can be. It means reading books instead of scrolling, to get lost in stories and not someones false, but perfectly curated life. It means pushing myself to go to those cute cafes when I feel like staying home. It means pursuing art classes and accepting my current skill set because it’s okay to do something just for fun – and not for perfection. It means accepting that I am a bit chaotic sometimes, but it’s alright, because the best people are!
And for those who feel stifled in their current job, or for anyone who feels like in doing so, they’ve neglected their authentic self; I want to tell you that she’s still there. Lurking under the surface, waiting for you to coax her out. You’re not alone. I see you, and you’re a creative, whether your job description says it or not.
I promised myself I’d try to write ‘for fun’ more. So this is me doing it. I am going to try and be more true to myself. On some days that’s going to look like different things. So far, it’s looked like reading more. It’s looked like getting up earlier to exercise. It’s looked like painting (badly compared to before). It’s looked like doing my nails funky. It’s looked like, wearing bright colours to work!
What’s your art going to look like? I can’t wait to see!