13 Feb Life purpose and creativity
In my thirties, and even into my forties, I kept thinking that I needed to find my life purpose, and decide what I wanted to do when I “grew up”. This wasn’t because I had had no education or training, but because for all those years I had only been doing what other people wanted, and they never felt “right”.
I always loved music, coming from a strong choral music and church music background on both sides of the family. My desire to study music was met with the cry of, “but you will never get a good job as a musician!” So, I was persuaded to study to be a teacher and take music as my specialist subject. Reluctantly I agreed to this plan, even though I knew it wasn’t really what I wanted. At first all was well and I dove into music lessons very happily, but because I also wanted to get a degree – knowing this education wasn’t going to be my final destination – I was moved into a different group. Of one. Here there was was no option to study music as a specialization, but I could study English literature instead… The kindly music staff allowed me to continue to take multiple private music lessons each week and sing in the choir, but it was yet another step away from where I really wanted to be.
I stayed with the program and graduated, amongst a slew of other students – except they all wanted to be teachers. I applied for several teaching jobs and worked in a number of schools teaching music at different levels, but at the end of the day I was teaching music, not making music. As it became clear I was off track, I got my parents’ agreement to support me through a Masters degree. One stipulation was that I accepted a three year waiting period before I returned to school, but by that time much in my life had changed and grad school was no longer an option.
In the meantime I married, had children, and was introduced to computers. I had no idea back in the early 1980s that I would develop an affinity for them, but worked on learning how to code and this early computer. By 1990 I was living in another country and had finally come to the conclusion that I wanted to become a psychologist. I was accepted into a psychology counseling program and enjoyed a lot of what I learned. When we moved to another state a year or so later, I found the credits wouldn’t transfer and being new in this state, had to let the dream of being a counselor fade away.
An old dream was reactivated however. A huge choral music program existed at a nearby church, and I dived in with both feet! I was thrilled to be able to sing again, took voice lessons, got happily caught up in the running of the program and for the first time in many years felt I was on the path I wanted to follow. As I got further into the program I taught, arranged tours, and created publicity materials for concerts. I found that I loved the design element and that I wanted to learn more. I took some practical courses at a local college, but they only addressed the “hows” of the software, not the “whys” of design that I craved to learn.
This path ended with the leaving of the director for academia, the end of my marriage, and the move setting up home alone in another new state. I saw an advert in a paper for a graduate degree in Liberal Arts, and as I looked into this, found I could take courses in design, music – and pretty much anything else I could think of! If this didn’t help my find my way, then nothing would.
Sure enough a couple of courses in I took a digital design class. I loved it, and was surprised when the professor said I had an eye for design and should pursue it. I was able to take a graphic design course on top of my degree, and simply blossomed in this supportive, academic environment. What I hadn’t realized was that I was going to be 50 when I graduated. And that graphic designers are usually 20-ish. And I was far from that ideal.
I felt I could make a living as a freelance designer, and set up my own studio when company after company loved my qualifications, but hesitated to hire someone so “old”. In time I was drawn back into part time work to help pay the bills, but I quickly learned that working in a cubicle was most definitely not part of my life purpose. It inspired a series of blog posts, which became a book, Midlife Rediscovery, and helped me to realize that I needed to make time and space for being creative. For several years I have tried to embrace regular jobs, but the mismatch between who I am and who I was having to be made me increasingly stressed and anxious. A recent series of unexpected events have helped me realize that life is too short to live like this. I realize it is my life purpose to create and be true to who I really am – and also to help others find their own paths away from stress and anxiety and back to rediscovering their creativity too.