Lately I’ve been reviewing (in my head) the nature of creativity and imagination and the ways in which our society supports and/or controls it. In our world of tick boxes, targets and constant exams to measure your worth against rigid criteria, it is no surprise that true creativity is not always encouraged and it is certainly not widely understood. To make life easier for those who shepherd us through the educational system we have to conform to a range that, I’m guessing, is deemed to be ‘normal’. I have many friends who are teachers and they are just as disillusioned with a system that does not allow too much quality interaction and creative activities are often put on the backburner while ‘improving results’ becomes the focus of their valuable time with their students. I know this is a HUGE generalisation and not everyone fits into the box (thank goodness!). There are many sides and stories to this debate, but I’ll just share a few thoughts with you if I may ..
When I was at school theatre and drama were not subjects to study, they were after school activities. I did everything I could in that respect. I was in the choir, every show the school ever put on, every revue, in fact everything that involved a stage! You name it – I was in it. When I came to do English Literature O Level (as they were then) I knew every single word of Romeo and Juliet, having just played Juliet in the school production and being one of those annoying people who knew everyone else’s lines as well. Quotations littered my exam paper – I could have written the entire play down. But, when I came to make decisions about my next step I found my enthusiasm for art and theatre thrown out the window by the school and college it was assumed I would attend next. No, I certainly could not do art and drama – or even English! Why? My best results were in Maths and Science (actually, English as well, but this was conveniently ignored). Does this sound familiar?
I tried a few things – Computer Studies at college was first (I might find it more interesting to study now but as it was my brain fell out on day 2 and I had trouble concentrating through the mind numbing tediousness of it all). Then, after a few weeks I could no longer bear it so I went to 6th form college to study the only subjects they would allow me to study – pure and applied maths and biology. I never made a maths class. I got to the door of the room and froze. Beyond that door lay unfathomable boringness and I really did not want to go down the maths pathway – it felt so wrong. I had completely lost my earlier love of hard sums (I did like it once) and now I just wanted to embrace art! But the answer was ‘NO’ from the college. So, after 2 weeks of failing to turn up for classes I left and got a job in a bank (yes, I know, more sums. But at least I got paid).
Years later in my early twenties, I found myself in a new town with a new life and on my own. I studied English A Level at night school and then went to University to study Theatre & Drama. I think I have always followed my instincts but it has often felt like a fight – the support wasn’t there while I was younger and in full time education and I don’t doubt that that situation is still true for many people. What would have happened had I allowed myself to be pushed down this pathway of hard sums? To stop my creative side from being eaten up by logarithms it would have hidden in a corner of my mind and poked away at me as I made my logical and reasonable way through life. It would have become a hobby, one of those activities we do in our ‘spare time’ – that would be the time we have left over after our working/domestic responsibilities. Nothing wrong with that maybe, but if it was always your dream to do more then you’ve sold yourself short. Luckily my tolerance for being told what to do is virtually zero, so I broke away and created my pathway through life without too many restrictions. I’ve done many things in my life – not just theatre (although that is a huge part of it). I’ve weaved my way through life, changing my direction whenever it felt right to do so.
These are a few things I believe in:
Your true path in life is under your feet.
You’re already treading your pathway through life from the moment you are born. If you’re wondering where it goes next look inside yourself, that’s where your pathway originates and where you can touch base and figure out the next step. Some people spend loads of time and energy trying to find their ‘true path’ through life and consult all manner of ‘experts’ in this respect. What they are really doing is trying to find out what it is they really want to do, what it is they have hidden away so they can live more honestly and expressively. As a society we seem to believe that other people have the answers about our lives… but
No one else can tell you what you should be doing.
How can they? They aren’t you. They don’t know what your hopes and dreams are. Yes, they can offer advice and support, but, ultimately, it’s up to you. If you consult someone about your life/pathway/career just bear in mind that their opinion or thoughts on the matter are subject to whatever knowledge/discipline/training/experience they have had and the beliefs and philosophies they invest in. No one is completely objective and no one is inside your head or your heart.
Be brave – this is your life ..
This isn’t morbid – but just imagine that you have reached the end of your life. What do you regret? (It gets easier to do this as you get older!) That should give you a clue to the nature of the dreams you are squashing and leaving unrealised. Most people don’t consider that life is finite – they just don’t go there. But it IS, so don’t waste it – make it all count. Live your life well – be creative – be brave. Follow your dreams.
And, finally .. if you’ve never seen this TED talk by Ken Robinson and the idea of creativity in education is one that concerns you, please have a look now! Apart from being inspirational and informative, it’s very funny!