I’ve been wondering why I even want to create anyway. Aside from the fact, it won’t leave me alone at night and it consumes me. Why else? I love it. It’s fun. It’s interesting. But why else? What’s beneath the surface?
Over the years, I’ve learned I keep setting goals and cresting the mountaintop of those goals only to find I haven’t reached my goal at all. Instead, there’s a dense jungle with jangled footing and a hazy mist. Why am I here? What am I looking for? I was in the office kitchen staring blankly at the teas when it struck me that creativity is so important to me because I want to see the world in a different way. A better way.
I don’t want to see it full of thick unease, glazed expression, lack of fulfillment, void of color, and strewn with pain. I want to see vivid, sparkling evidence that we’re all in control of our own destinies. That we can design our life any way we want.
Without creativity, there’s none of that. Without creativity, we just reach out to the first thing that comes our way that can offer some kind of answer. Whether that answer is comfort or stability or fulfillment.
We usually end up using our creativity on all the wrong things. By forcing the proverbial square peg in the round hole. We’re using our creativity to make that first thing that comes our way into something it’s really not. Like an ill-advised career path. Or living situation. Or relationship. Or self-destructive behaviors.
About 7 years ago, I took a 4-week freelance job as a video editor and knew from the moment I walked in it was the wrong fit. I knew it was wrong when I spoke to the post-producer. And knew it was wrong when I spoke to the editor. And I knew it was wrong when I left that day with the job in hand. But I took it anyway because I wanted the cushion of the steady money it would provide for the month, the free food they fed us at lunch, the overtime check, and my friend being on the same floor.
Even now, it felt like the 4 longest weeks of my life. I was given a job with no instructions, then abandoned to navigate its diseased mess. When I raised red flags that I didn’t understand what was entailed, and cutting some 4 commercials in one day was impossible; I was told by the producer that was a huge problem if I couldn’t handle it. That was the end of the conversation.
Meaning me. I was the problem. I didn’t have the confidence then to say, “Right, it is a problem.” And walk out. I thought it would damage my work reputation. Or mean I was a quitter. Or not a good person for leaving others in a lurch. So I kept working and the project turned into a huge mess and ultimately I felt so small and insignificant. That they were right, I wasn’t that good. That I didn’t deserve to have a proper gig but keep scraping together piecemeal projects.
I kept on, and it kept getting worse. Which is what happens when you put your energy into something so significantly wrong for you. You drag yourself down and everyone around you. It’s deliberate and frustrating. It creates a huge disservice that creates a domino effect of catastrophe. The client was rude and called me out on aspects of the project that were never explained to me in front of her colleagues. I was chastised by the editor.
I worked late every night. Deadlines were impossible. I made a lot of mistakes. I was humiliated on a regular basis by my own ridicule, my editor’s, and the client. And I dreaded each moment, even during weekends when I wasn’t working. Like all things in life, it finally ended and it felt like liberation. And it was only a 4-week job. I felt a heaviness in my heart when I think about that gig, and not just because of my experience. But because of what happened to the producer who told me my inability to figure it out was a problem.
I’ve never really discussed this very often because it’s so difficult to write out and process. Even 7 years later. Shortly after my working there, the producer put in a notice. Everyone was thrilled for him, even me, I didn’t harbor ill-will against him or our experience together. That wasn’t him as a person, that was his own impossible role he had to fill at work. The company was notorious for late nights, grueling schedules, and long weekends.
In part, it was because they were so successful. But the producer was obviously unhappy. I could see that for myself, and my friend who worked there confirmed as much. I often wondered if he took the job thinking it would be a creative outlet. Or a means to be a part of an electric current of creativity being funneled in and out of those AVIDs and Final Cut Pro stations. I wonder what he was looking for and where he was headed.
On his last day, he left happily. Excited for his future. Later that night he was in a car accident and broke a leg. About a week later a clot in his leg broke loose, went to his brain, and he instantly died. He was 34 years old. It was completely shocking and devastating. And like an electrocution to your core. Like a worst nightmare realized. Will I really have time? Or was I kidding myself thinking a life of work, a detestable office environment, and putting off dreams was worth a paycheck?
He never got to take that holiday. He never got to see his beloved niece again. He never got to realize his dreams that were waiting for him after years of stuffing it all down and waiting for it to be the right time. I like to think the promise of knowing he was moving on and taking time to travel and go West to see his family was enough. That he had a full heart knowing he had made actionable choices. That he had a whole new outlook on what the world looked like from a freshly colored lens.
Life is too damn short to languish away in situations that are whole-heartedly not a good fit for you, that make your heart heavy and your spirit filled with dread.
When I think of him, I’m sad. But also uncomfortable. Because I can’t say I’m totally living what I would want my last day to be. And I can’t answer my own question on what I would want to create if it was my last day. But I have a feeling it wouldn’t be sitting in an office behind a computer.
But outside in the warm sun with an electrical current of inspiration running through me. And I also know deep down what I really want to create is more satisfying, long-lasting, and meaningful relationships. I don’t need to edit more videos or tinker with a new project.
I need to create a connection. And I need to stop pretending that I can sustain on creative work alone. Creativity isn’t just action and a medium. It’s a point-of-view. It’s how you see the world and how you build the life you want. So build wisely. And know time isn’t always going to be plentiful. We’re only promised today.