School, Creativity, and Work: Using all three for Life’s Balance

It took me until I was in my 40’s to discover (or rediscover) my creative side. In school, I was a serious student, striving for straight A’s (usually getting them), and leaving little to chance through unpreparedness or lack of completing the assigned work. From high school, I carried this work ethic through college and grad school for nursing. It became even more important for me to excel at graduate school again, recently, in my 50’s because I knew I was legitimizing the conglomeration of my knowledge in several fields.

Early in my life, I lived and breathed my career. Without kids, my husband and I worked hard in the world of health care. This was a serious business for me – caring for critically ill and premature infants. It often caused me to cry at home from sadness or grief. The world of work was not much different for my husband, as he learned his professional role in the medical sphere.

Neither of us had creative hobbies at the time.  We went to flea markets, read books, went cross country skiing in county parks, and restored an old house (circa 1912) in the early days of our marriage during our youth.  I occasionally sewed or tried my hand at embroidery.

Many years later, about twenty years to be exact, I discovered I needed to use my creative side to feel balanced.  I had tried exercise – pilates and even running, but neither struck a chord.  I briefly tried music – but had lost “my lip.” My children started to arrive and being a mom kept me busy, gave me joy, and allowed me to dip my toe in crafting.

When my youngest was born, I felt the need to get out of the house and the need to have space in my house for myself – a space not cluttered by toys or the supplies needed to care for my young family. So, two things happened. 1) I started making beaded jewelry in our walk-in closet, and 2) I volunteered to host a craft time at our local Children’s Museum. Craft Time with Carol, as it was named, lasted a little over three years being held once a week. I found a following of young moms and preschoolers. I enjoyed creating lesson plans and finding the craft materials in the donation closet at the museum. Today, I am still making beaded jewelry.  I had found one of my creative outlets.

As time progressed, I immersed myself in the world of education. I was honored by being allowed to found a garden club for elementary students in our resident school district in 2004. For the next thirteen years, I created. I also researched content, outlined lesson plans, and crafted posters to use for my lessons.  I was creating educational materials.  Text, hand-drawn graphics, and examples were made for my students. Since I was disseminating this information, I needed to be sure of its accuracy.  Weekly, many hours were spent on these lessons – for free. I was a volunteer. I was an educator. I was creating. And, I was loving it!

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During the last five years of garden club, I created math problems related to the lessons. This was very fulfilling as well as a challenge for me. Although I wrote test questions at the graduate level for nursing courses I taught, writing math questions with clarity and solvability required creativity.  I was proud of my efforts and wrote five sets of questions that I shared with the whole student body as an optional enrichment exercise.

Eventually, I incorporated writing in my creative endeavors. I’ve always loved to write and when the opportunity arose to write with children I jumped at it. So, a third-grade writer’s circle was born. But, soon, that was not enough either, so I began blogging for my garden club website pages. Eventually, in 2017, I started daily blogging as part of the Slice of Life Challenge. I’ve been at it daily since, rarely missing a day for illness or being too busy, but never for not knowing what to write. Writing is one of the most creative hobbies I can imagine. Teaching writing to elementary children when I was not held to standards or benchmarks (because it was an enrichment group and I was a volunteer) was fun and fulfilling. I miss this activity.

Through all this making beaded jewelry continued. I ran an Etsy shop which opened in 2009. This entailed making the pieces, writing the descriptions and photographing the creations for posting online. Did you know that photographing jewelry is one of the hardest skills to master? It is…..The lighting has to be just right, and it is hard to escape the glare of the crystals and gemstones which I prefer to use. In early June I decided to close my Etsy shop due to taking a new job. I thought (erroneously) that I did not have time for it.

And, maybe I don’t. But the pull of being creative has tugged at my heartstrings. I reopened my shop last week.  I found that not only do I have the time to make jewelry and write my blog, I actually crave doing these activities. Both of them support my other creative habit of photography. My creative ventures give my brain something else to think about. I need the “something else.”

My life experience tells me that school is and can be fulfilling – especially for someone like myself. I love to learn and am good at learning. Unfortunately, I think this makes me somewhat unrelatable to other people for what goes in my brain wants to get out and be used but never seems to disappear. My husband routinely comments on my expansive memory – wondering how and why I remember the things I do. But, I do.

However, the caveat with my memory is that I have to learn the information first. This means taking it in and processing it in a way that works for me – which usually includes some type of writing and reflecting on the facts, which is known as interpretation.  My memory, I am sure, is also kept elastic by my creative endeavors. You see, I believe as sentient beings, we humans actually need creative outlets. I know. I tried to live without them. For years, I tried to be a serious nurse, without many outlets. Being creative is much healthier and keeps me balanced. Creating is something I will never give up. I do it for myself first, and others, second. I know I need to be creative. So, I will continue to be.

 

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