Ever since I was a little girl, art was my refuge.
It allowed me the space to breathe in a world that felt like I constantly needed to contort myself to fit into. It was the only place I felt like I could let my guard down and truly be myself.
My parents believed it was important for my sister and I to develop our own creative voices and always made room for our unique expressions. No matter where in the world we were posted, or how upside-down our life became, art was the only constant. It was the one and only place I could let all the pent up energy of myself go. Whatever art form I chose, it was like a valve lifting and bursting open to a rush of creativity.
My Dad taught us a more gregarious form of artistic expression. He liked to turn bedtime stories into theatrical plays. Every now and then, after we had our bath, we’d all head to my sister’s room to act out a story from one of our many books. My Dad would quickly skim through the book and then announce which part my sister and I would play. There was no practice, just improv. This was deliriously fun to my sister and I. We’d dart around the room laughing hysterically, tumbling over each to dramatically overact an insignificant scene. My Dad was amazed by our acting skills and thought we were born to be actors. He enrolled us into acting and we both sat at the back of the class, terrified to say a word. Needless to say, it never progressed. Acting in a room full of strangers wasn’t the same acting in the comfort of your own home, with your dad and your sister as the audience.
My mum had a more gentle approach to art and hers came in many forms. Sometimes before going to bed we’d all sit together in the living room with our sketchbooks. My mum would demonstrate to my sister and I how to draw something which always looked easier than it actually was. “Now you guys try it” she’d say softly. My sister would be so focused with her tongue at the corner of her mouth, perfectly replicating the drawing. I struggled to gain control over my pencil. But anytime I made a mistake I’d turn to my mum and she would pick up my paper and say, “that’s not a mistake honey, you can’t make mistakes. You can take that piece here and turn it into something different.” She’d draw with her finger where else it could go, what else it could be. Unlike Math where if you didn’t get it exactly right you’d fail, art was a wide-open field of possibilities. It made me feel encouraged and confident to try new things. I preferred this world because, to me, it felt like I could do anything.
Another family favorite was creative dance nights. My sister and I used to take gymnastics and always enjoyed showing my parents our amazing new moves after the class was over. Unlike my sister, I was pretty terrible at gymnastics. I didn’t like the discipline involved and whistles being blown with someone yelling, ‘stand here, don’t do that!’ But my sister was a graceful gymnast, capable of perfect well-rounded cartwheels and the splits. After class, we’d be jumping up and down wanting to show our parents every move we learned. So, as a way to showcase our newly acquired gymnastic skills, every Sunday night became dance night. I looked forward to it every week. We would dress up in our leotards and tutus while my parents would put on some classical music and push away the furniture so that we had a little stage. They’d sit together on the sofa and we’d run into the living room doing cartwheels and prancing around like ballerinas. Once our performance was done my parents would clap ecstatically. It warms my heart to reflect on those beautiful times in my childhood.
While I may be a 31 year old adult woman, a big part of me still craves those creative bursts of expression that filled my childhood. The theatrical bedtime stories, creating something quietly beside someone I love, or simply moving my body to dance and sway without caring whether it’s right or wrong. I supposed it’s no surprise then that my path has led me to a course in Art Therapy.
It feels as though I’ve been metaphorically walking in the woods of my own mind. For the past 2 years, I’ve been desperately searching for something more to my existence and feeling suppressed by the dark, damp forest and the predictability of the well-worn path that lay before me. After searching endlessly for a different way, I finally happen upon two doors. I must choose one before proceeding to the next side. One door leads to a similar path to what I’m currently on. It is a typical door, oppressive and boring, dark grey with a brass doorknob. The other door is rainbow-colored, with panes of wood haphazardly nailed across and has weird doorknobs sticking out from everywhere.
As you might have guessed, I’ve chosen the rainbow-colored door. I have no clear vision of where exactly it will go, but as it turns out no one in the world knows. Life is a mystery even to those with detailed plans. So I’m ready to pass through the rainbow and see what’s in store on this wonderfully colorful journey.