Hello friendly followers!
Isn’t it great how spring-like it’s becoming? That only took a few months struggling through the bitter cold… there really is something about greater enjoyment following hardship though. If it had simply stopped snowing in January/early February, and gotten a bit warmer in February and March, this lovely sunshine-y day would not feel nearly as good. There are benefits to a bit of struggle – a lesson I’ve been continuing to learn.
Over my time abroad, I mainly relayed all of the scenic places and exciting activities, but the trip also involved its fair share of struggle. I missed home, friends, my familiar comforts. I grappled with culture differences. I often became frustrated, sad, and felt alone. I share my experience with others by saying “It was hard, but that’s what made it good,” because I had ways to cope, and as you can see through all those past blog posts, there were lots of really amazing things happening too! But if it were only a list of those awesome times, what would I have truly gotten from it? However, because of those struggles, I learned so much more than I could have possibly learned without them.
I learned what it’s like to be alone, both literally and figuratively, how I tend to deal with that, and other, more beneficial, ways of dealing with it. When grasping at straws that weren’t there, I gained perspective. I learned how things are different, and how that’s okay. It was also a huge test of my faith, which I credit as the principle guiding force through the entire trip.
Struggle is also intertwined with fear, a subject that has intrigued me for a very long time. In fact, I even wrote my college admissions essay about it! I have oft wondered what causes fear, how it is maintained, how one moves past it, why some have more fears than others, or appear that way. Are fears relative? What purpose do they serve? Often when we are struggling, we are fighting with some fear, either consciously, or buried underneath.
On Thursday, Lafayette held a Creativity Panel with professors from a wide range of topics – visiting artists in residence, professors from psychology, engineering, math, and music [I know this seems unrelated, but stick with me]. Each professor briefly spoke first from their own field about how they viewed creativity. The discussion evolved and toward the end incorporated questions from the attendees, but overall it was simply an integrative, interdisciplinary “chat”, if you will, swapping ideas about what creativity really is, how it develops, what comes out of it. It was engaging and attention-captivating to listen to the views from all these different fields, all talking of the same basic phenomenon of creativity.
The fact that this panel occurred actually made me love Lafayette a little bit more too; just the opportunity to have such a discussion, and in such a healthy, relaxed nature, I thought it was really awesome.
Anyway, to make the connection – a few times, fear and struggle were brought up in the discussion. How often we are faced with this “barrier” that we do not want to move past…except that we do. We’d been moving in one direction, only to hit this barrier that says “nope! You should definitely not go any further. You don’t want to go in there”, but the thing is, you actually do want to, but you are afraid. That barrier is self-made out of fears – of being mocked, of failing; there are a whole host of options. It’s at that point that most people stop, they stay on their side of the wall, and continue there.
What the panelists said, though, was that in order to truly be creative, you must go past that wall. On the other side is where creativity lives. Otherwise, you may only be reproducing, or slightly altering, what has been done in the past; there isn’t much new about it. But yes, that place, beyond the wall, over the cliff, whatever metaphor you’d like to use, is bound to be scary, uncomfortable, and awkward even. But the potentials and possibilities? That makes it worth it.
Do you see? The struggle, the fear, good things can come when they are faced, or better yet, embraced. I had a book once called “Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway”, and I think that’s a great way to put it. You don’t want to ignore your fears, or not feel them, but the goodness comes from acknowledging them and being able to go into that area anyway.
On another quick side note related to creativity, we had another guest artist come to Lafayette on Wednesday – Rafael Xavier. My overall quick description of him would honestly be that he was a “cool dude”, but there was certainly so much more to him beyond that. He, like the creativity panel, is multi-disciplinary. Break dancing is his main thing, but he is also a musician, photographer, and comedian. To connect to the previous section, his artist’s statement on his website says “I…break through barriers to find possibility. … Where others see a boundary, I see a structure, something to be played with or broken, something to be mapped.”
He, beyond his cool-dude persona, had such wonderful stories and a great deal of wisdom. At one point, after working with us on the dance floor for a bit, he posed the question “how many numbers are there?”. A little confused as to where he was going, we all answered with the textbook answer: “infinite”. After getting this same response from nearly everyone, he responded quite movingly that we were all wrong, that there are only 9 numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. All the rest are simply combinations of those numbers, but there are infinite combinations. It is the same with letters. There is a finite basis, but the possibilities are endless.
Wow, I find this inspiring, and a comforting notion to reference when in that place of fear, especially that of the “unknown”. Perhaps all that needs to be done is to take a moment and count to ten (or, 0–9). Remember that the wall is something we have constructed, but when moved past, the possibilities of creation are endless.