creativity

“I believe this passionately: that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” 

I recently began the journey to become a teacher at SDSU and on my fourth day of class our Professor turns off the lights and shows us Ken Robinson’s TED talk about how schools are killing creativity. In a world focused on innovation, creation, and the “next big thing” it is at times concerning that schools place more value in math and literacy, subjects that should be equally as important as creativity. 

I recently finished reading Fareed Zakaria’s In Defense of a Liberal Education and was shocked by many of the facts and statistics I found. It is no surprise that the U.S. is the top nation in the world when it comes to innovation and creation; however it is interesting that this fact is dwindling in support when it comes to universities and schools. The new American Dream is to drop out of college, code in a basement, and maybe create a million dollar start up, or maybe work for a big company like Google or Apple. 

This sounds nice right? Drop out and make it big. I mean you have me convinced, but the question is, how are you going to beat out the best, the competition, the rest of the population who is trying to do the same thing? The answer is two words: get creative. 

As Robinson stated in his talk, creativity is our ability to create something new that has value, something original, something that is the opposite of ordinary. This doesn’t come from one sole thing. It cannot be mass produced, but more importantly no two creative thinkers are alike, meaning the way creative people see, hear, taste, think, and learn is diverse, dynamic, and distinct. 

As the video ended and our class sat in silence, I understood the importance of the video not only as a creative thinker myself, but for our class as a whole. We go to school to learn, to find our passion, to fall in love with something- whether it is calculus, the human body, Chaucer, or a grapes ability to turn into wine- we choose to follow a path. 

Fareed Zakarai interviewed a group of people in Generation Y asking them what it is they want to do when they get older. Hoping to find inspirational answers: A painter? A dancer? A social worker? A firefighter? Our generation’s answer: I want to make money. I was sickened by this response when I read it; however we have been trained to believe money will lead to happiness. Success will lead to happiness. Hard work will lead to happiness. But we are wrong. 

What both Robinson, Zakaria, and my Professor are trying to tell us, is that we are what we believe. If we believe our ability to paint is not seen as a worth profession in our society, then we won’t believe in our talents. If we see wealthy people on reality tv shows and think our only way to be extremely happy is to live like them, then we will in turn believe money can buy happiness. It is our job to change this, this insane idea that happiness is something that can be bought, that creativity is something that should be harnessed a specific way, and that one degree is worth more than another. 

All humans are born creative and happy,and I hope as a I continue this program my fellow classmates and I can learn how to value, respect, and validate what children bring to the table. More people are earning degrees now than ever before, making what was once a unique degree now part of academic inflation. My advice? So stay creative, think outside the box, ask questions, and follow that calling inside because innovation does not come from conformity and the next big thing cannot be found in the answer key of a textbook.  We are always learning (even after we graduate from college) and it’s only when we decide to stop that we grow away from it all. 

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no comfort zones

Be uncomfortable. It’s the one piece of advice I wish I had been given as a freshman, and it’s the greatest lesson I am taking away from college. I’m talking about the feeling you get when you start to doubt your decisions, the times when you feel so unsure you almost back out, and that feeling in your stomach when you wish you were home sitting on your coach rather than where you are right now. That’s the good stuff. That’s the stuff I hate and love at the same time. It’s what makes me understand how a fish out of water feels, how everyone at one time feels, and magically enough, how growing feels. 

 I have learned that the best things in life come after feeling extremely uncomfortable and out of place- doing something without all your friends, swimming in the ocean alone, getting lost in a foreign city, switching your major, trying something new for the first time. our lives really do begin at the end of these comfort zones- those moments when comfort is broken and we are left vulnerable, standing there only able to rely on ourselves and the little we actually know. It’s at these times when we are able to see things for how they are rather than what we thought they were- the seaweed we thought was a shark, the new hobby we realized we love, the fact that we actually hate running, the class we took without any friends turns out to be the best class we have ever taken, the decision to walk away from something we have done our whole life- these are all uncomfortable, yet they are all things that make us realize that comfort is a limiting perspective.

After recently coming home from Paris, I realized I have never felt more uncomfortable in my life, and I have been through many uncomfortable situations. Besides the fact that my cousin and I got lost for an hour at 2am the first night, being surrounded by people who are speaking a foreign language, none of which I could understand, is both amazing and extremely isolating at the same time. So many people say that traveling is one of the most educating and humbling experiences, that after coming home you will have bags full of dirty laundry and insights, but after coming home with my bags full of dirty laundry, I was left feeling that my knowledge about the world was sub-par.

That’s the humbling part of traveling, it shows you how little you know about the world. 22 with a college degree in my hands and I felt as if I was learning how to ride a bike for the first time. But why do so many people do it? Why do people love going new places and seeing and experiencing new things? The answer I believe is a secret. It’s a secret we all find for ourselves as we step outside of our comfort zone. It’s small things we find out about ourselves, our limits, our capabilities, and our knowledge. It’s experiences that change what we see and how we see it. The best way I can describe it is that life as we know it begins with blurry vision. If you are born with blurry vision you are unaware that anything is wrong, you believe the world is truly as you see it, and you do not know what it is like to see the world clearly.

But to travel, ah, now that is adding in contacts or glasses, that is helping to sharpen your vision, to make you see things more clearly. Life as you know it is altered. The way you see things is changed forever. Yes, this may sound dramatic and as if you have heard or read this about traveling a thousand times, which you indeed probably have. But the part that pulls us back in, like a fish caught on a line, is these secrets. These small pieces we pick up along the way like souvenirs, these are the things that makes us look in the mirror and notice something different about ourselves- an extra freckle, head held higher, a little madness in our eyes- these are what we come back for again and again.

But here is the biggest secret of them all, the part that no one told me, that part I am glad to have figured out: nothing in life worth having can come within your comfort zone. Nothing. Nothing great comes from being comfortable or with a mind full of 100% certainty. Great people do things before they are ready, and similarly, great things happen when we aren’t ready. If everyone was ready for great things to happen, they wouldn’t be considered great, they wouldn’t be referred to as magic, and we would walk away unaltered, comfortable, without any extra change in our pockets. 

So go somewhere, get lost for an hour or two. GO alone, go with a friend, go with a stranger. But go, because these secrets we bring back, these small truths we learn about the world, are as individual and unique as our own fingerprints. We can’t figure them out for each other, that would be nice though wouldn’t it? No, we must find them out for ourselves, and once we do, life as we knew it, life as we saw it, life as we loved it, is forever changed.

Tower 42 (short story)

I came home with dinosaurs in my pants. Well not dinosaurs really, but small pieces of them, worn down by waves and water. Sand always finds a way of getting into your pants. No matter how you sit or stand, you end up going home with a small pile in your pocket or underwear, an uncomfortable reminder of the previous events.

I liked his beard and the beer he gave me, he liked my perfume. He wore plaid and cut off denim, the kind of shirt you want to hug for comfort. He was here for a week, me, a lifetime. When the group moved, we followed, trying to avoid the magnetic pull of our hands to touch. I pulled away.

We ended up on the beach. We were in San Diego so it was inevitable. We listened to the sound of waves and kept watch over our friends becoming better acquainted on the lifeguard stand.

“Do you want to sit down?” he said starring ahead.

I ran sand between my fingers, feeling it stick in the crevices and palms of my hands, coating my skin.

“Does she do this often?” he asked.

“Do what?”

“You know, this.”

“You mean kiss people? I’m not sure.”

But I was sure. This was the fifth guy she had taken to that stand in the past two weeks. Tower 42.

Here I was again, chatting with the friend. Conversation was always the same- words like napkins on your lap and stories like introductions, polite and empty.

“Young love.” I laughed looking at my friend’s legs knit around a man’s waist.

“It’s a choice you know, to love someone”

“I don’t think of it that way.”

“Everyday we wake up. Everyday we choose.”

We sat there starring ahead, our minds replaying a scenario we wanted to happen, both silent to that pull. Like the waves our chances came and went, so we talked.

Religion. Relationships. Sex and the absence of it. Running. Swimming. Pizza toppings.

“I was saving for a ring.”

“For who?”

“We were coming up on two years. I was ready. We talked about it a lot.”

“What changed?”

“Nothing. She was never ready, never really wanted it. She just forgot to tell me.”

“She’s stupid.” I whispered before saying “I have never been in love.”

“That’s your choice.”

They were empty phrases really, backed by the fear that comes with new people, new connections, and new feelings. I felt it in his eyes. They were the color of Earth.

I felt the stories he told me, ones of dreams he let slip away like sand. Little pieces left to remind him of their deference.

I saw his hesitation.

“I think you should start dating again.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

I looked in him as I said this. I could hear it.

I do. I do. I do.

I was choosing like he said, but it had happened before it had been conscious. It had happened without me knowing and that is what he didn’t understand. To recognize love, that is a choice. To love and be loved, that was involuntary as a breath.

“Take me.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

It was one arch of a wave and it was one retreat. The water is dragged away from the shore, reaching higher and farther, trying to hold on for a moment longer. It is inevitable though. It is an ebb and flow, and it is continuous. I watched as the waves left their shadow behind.

Georgia 

For my birthday in march one of my friends handed me the book The Alchemist. For those of you who haven’t read it, it is a tale of a boy following his passion and learning to trust that what is to come and what is supposed to happen will happen, because if someone puts their whole heart into something, the universe has a way of helping us achieve it.  Though I finished this book months ago, I recently ran into someone who reminded me of how true this small parable of a story was. As I have continuously written, the past and present never really exist, they are created by our own mind, all we really have is a multitude of presents. That being said, the other day I ran into someone who I will refer to as Georgia, a person who is a few years older than me, following a new path his heart and life have brought him to, road tripping across the U.S..  There is a piece of magic in meeting new people, in seeing their world be turned into words before me, of listening to the way they describe stories and situations they have been in, and of at the same time realizing you may never see this person again. This last statement leaves me distressed at times because I find connections such as the one I had with this person rare, moments where you are so absorbed in a conversation you seem to forget where you are and are disoriented when you stop speaking, but I have come to realize the purpose of this is to remind us to be present.  I love meeting new people, and always have, but I often wonder when and if these small moments will ever turn from singular to sequential, if the universe is setting these people in our path to stay with us and we often walk away, thinking that is the only thing we can do. I feel as though space and time are often excuses we tell ourselves because there is a small amount of fear in telling someone about who you are and how you see the world. But what if we didn’t? What if we are supposed to hold onto these people that come in moments? As I drive home from visiting my grandma who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I am humbled by the thought and reality that today is now, and now is what I have and what she has. we can stress that we don’t have jobs, that we aren’t married, that we aren’t getting a good grade, and that we aren’t living up to our potential, but in the end worrying isn’t stopping things from coming, it is merely stopping us from seeing the good right now in front of us. As I continue to move toward the next chunk of my life, I am constantly reminded by the people around me that life is not a set of coincidences, but rather a set of purposes. As Paulo Coelho wrote: “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them,” it’s not until we step back and see them in such a way that we realize this.

the present

I think the most beautiful advice I have ever been given is to look at life only as a multitude of presents, meaning there are no yesterdays, no tomorrows, no later-ons, no soons, just a whole bunch of nows. For the past week I was in the mountains of Yosemite with my family on vacation, a place I have been going to with my mom’s side of the family since I was born every year. When I was younger I would look forward to going to Yosemite, or how I pronounced it “yo somebody” because it was a giant play ground, and I was hyperactive. The mountains were a place for me to escape from the confinements of a school desk and to play with my cousins. At the age of 22 I am still in love with the mountains, the rivers, and not surprisingly, still hyperactive, but as I grow older I find myself more entranced by the people I am surrounded by on these vacations. I find that nature has a way of helping people open up, of humbling them in a way.

Vividly I can remember staying up till 1 am one night in my cabin talking to my dad. I am blessed to have the relationship I have with my dad, one of smart-ass comments and a love of learning. We were bantering back and forth about the stupidity of characters in Jurassic World, remarking on how many times I had fallen off my bike mountain biking (it was more than once), and then somehow we ended up talking about his family. My dad is the youngest boy and second youngest of six siblings, which is amazing to me because it is just my younger sister and I that make up our family. We started talking about my grandpa, my dad’s dad, and it eventually ended up my dad telling me all these crazy and most of the time dangerous stories of his childhood. My grandpa died when I was in middle school and because he lived in Texas, our relationship never truly developed before he died. I am sad that I was not able to get to know the person who raised my father, whose blood runs through me so to speak, and also who lived a life that went unnoticed by most people, yet none the less was extraordinary.

The most prominent thing I learned that still floats like a ghost in my mind is something my dad told me that night in the cabin. My grandpa was a doctor, more specifically a pathologist. He worked long hours and weekends to support his family, but when he wasn’t working, he was an unsung hero. Now I was raised Catholic and no longer practice my faith, but my grandpa never missed a day of church. My dad told me that the Catholic church gave my grandpa the right to bless the bodies of unborn babies or fetus’s of aborted babies. With a clear face my dad told me he had asked his father when he was younger why he did this, why he took the time to bless these small beings before they were cremated, and he said simply and stably, “because I think someone should look after them, I think someone should care.”

It amazes me how many things I do not know about my grandpa still, but more amazingly, how little I know about the world and the people around me. So often I walk around with two eyes and hands glued to my phone, waiting for the next text message, while at the same time walking past individual’s carrying stories potentially like the one about my grandpa, and they are not heard. Now I am not saying texting people is not important, but after not having service for a week, it was refreshing to speak and listen, rather than type and read. The stories weren’t abbreviated, emojied, or shortened, they were raw, real, and full of emotion. They were present.

My past week was filled to the brim with advice on how to follow my dream, how to have stability in my life, how to sneak out of the house, and more importantly, how to be happy. Day by day we walk around afraid to reach out and talk to those around us, it is like a social stigma has arisen around conversations between two people who do not know each other and this makes me crazy! As human beings we are naturally curious, yet how are we supposed to learn if we are only surrounding ourselves by the same people, by the same conversations, and by the same perspectives. The answer is we can’t learn this way. It took me 22 years to hear these stories about my grandpa and the special mark he left in the world, and I know he is not the only one who lived a humble life. As I said earlier life is a series of presents, and in order to fully be in the present, you must simply be there fully at the moment in what you are doing.

So turn off your phone, leave it at home, because the texts can wait, or better yet the call can wait. Listen to the people around you when they talk and make sure you listen to you when you are talking, because after graduating from college I know for a fact most of us are not as skilled as we think we are in multitasking. Stay focused and sharp to the conversations. Talk to strangers. Ask how the cashier at the grocery store is doing. Ask how the lady making your coffee is doing. At the end of the day the connections we have with those around us, the ones we love and enjoy being around, those are all formed because we share with one another- our thoughts, perspectives, memories, food, money, etc. So what is more important than sharing the present, these small moments that make up our lives? 7 billion people all saw today in a different way, lets talk about it.

An open letter to my parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

I look back onto the last four years of my life, and I can’t help but feel a sense of guilt and gratitude for all the things you have helped me succeed in. The morning swim practices, the hour phone calls, the surgeries, the major changes, the moves. These are things I take for granted sometimes, things that I forget are the reason I am where I am today, things that have caused you both to sacrifice for me, things I fail to realize their importance in my life and career, and these are things I know I may never be able to repay you for, but these are also the things that have made me realize the importance of doing what you love, of chasing the dream, and of listening to that calling.

From when I was still a little kid till now as a 22 year old, I cannot remember a day when either of you complained about going to work. This is something I thought was normal in our society, but coming to college I realized it was a rarity. Many of my friends were raised in homes where their parents lived to work, where their job and career left no time to do anything they loved, where they were raised to realize money brings happiness. I knew this was wrong. I was raised to chase what makes me happy and to know that success will come later. I was raised to stay determined and fight for what I believed in and was passionate about, even if that meant standing alone. I was raised to understand that success is not a solo climb, but a web of connections with likeminded individuals. I strive to be like that, to lead a life where I feel like I am making a difference, where my job, career, and calling are all one, where what I do is what I am. I feel as though it would be an injustice to you both for me to follow something half-heartedly, to do something merely for the money and financial stability, to do something because it will give me an easy comfortable life.

So to you both I say I have a dream, I have a passion, I have a calling, but I do not have a clear path of what it will take to get there, what will come my way, and what it is I need to do to attain my dreams. I am unsure what tomorrow or a week, or a month, or a year will bring me, but I am excited and I am hungry. I want you to think back to when you were 22, when the whole world was open to your ideas, dreams, passions, and musts, and to think about what your calling was. What was it that made you become a teacher? What was it that made you quit your first job because you hated it? What was it that made you realize being happy was more important than pay? I am there right now. I am at the crossroads of deciding between a life of stability, okayness, wheat toast, and a life of possibilities, color, and cinnamon raisin bread. Of course I am not really talking about toast, but the blandness that I will be having, the loss of taste due to a pre-conceived life. I do not want that, you did not want that, and you raised me to want more, to be more, to make more of myself. To you both, this may seem childish, irresponsible, and illogical for a college graduate, someone who has an education and all the tools to succeed to be at a place in my life where I don’t know what to do next, where I am vulnerable, but let me reassure you, at least I know what I want. At least I know at this age what I would sacrifice for, what I would do regardless of pay, what I want to do for the rest of my life. I believe this in itself is also a rarity.

It may be scary for you both to try and understand that I am okay with failing, that becoming a writer will not be an easy route, that I don’t have all the answers right now, but then again part of growing up is figuring things out for myself. Part of growing up is learning from mistakes, reaching rock bottom and picking yourself up again, going after what you want at full speed. You may both think I am going into this with my head in the clouds and no feet on the ground, but if I have learned anything from watching you two as I grow up, it is that success revolves around happiness, not the other way around.

There was an exercise I did recently this year, and though it may sound morbid, it put my life into perspective, and it made it easier for me to tell you both why I wanted to try going after what I love. I sat down and wrote two obituaries, the first of the life I knew I was headed towards- becoming a teacher, teaching for my whole life, traveling on breaks, writing for fun, raising a family, and being remembered as a loving, caring, person. Now this is a respectable life, one that I would not be embarrassed to live, one that no one should be embarrassed to live, but it would not be one I want to be remembered for. I do not want to be remembered as not following what I write about, not walking in the footsteps of what I knew I was capable of, not living up to my full potential, and because of this I wrote my second one. The second was the life I wanted to live, the life I wanted to be remembered for, the life I knew I must have, and that was a life full of traveling, writing, being published, speaking to people about my ideas, living abroad, raising a family, and ultimately living a life where I was unable to summarize it because I was unsure where it would take me. This is being uncomfortable with being comfortable. This was taking advantage of that “must” inside me, that calling that I would do regardless of pay, that passion I was born with and want to, need to, go after. This was the life you raised me to chase.

As I said before I do not have all the answers, finances, or knowledge to attain my dream instantly, and I may never have all the answers or knowledge, but at least I have the will and determination to try. I do have the assurance that failure will come, that this road will not be easy, and that stability may take a while, but who am I, if I don’t try, if I settle, if I don’t put my head below the water and fight to touch the wall. If I have learned anything from coming into this family, from being surrounded by your brothers and sisters, it is that life is too short to wait for what you want to come to you, that nothing will come easily, and that not having to reassure yourself every morning what you are doing is what you actually like/maybe love to do is success within itself. I recently read that sequoia trees can grow to be 310 feet tall, yet only have a root system that is about 10 feet deep. Their roots stretch from tree to tree, using each other’s interconnectedness to help stabilize themselves above ground, and in the same sense, I too am coming to understand that it is through connections that ideas become reality and dreams become a way of life. Just as you have watched me grow my whole life, I need you to watch me now, to help support me, and to remind me why you chose to do what you do, because no one achieves his or her dreams alone, yes no one. By choosing to be happy, to make a change, and to follow your calling, you in turn inspired me to do the same. You may be unsure as to what I am doing, you may have fears that I will fail, and you may question my path at times, but it is my own and know throughout it all I am carrying parts of you both with me. Remember that I am young, remember who you were at 22, and remember that I am just beginning. Just as you watched me a few years ago in swim, I am still training and my race has yet to begin, but what is anyone without fans to support them along the way, to cheer them on, and ultimately to share in the small bouts of success along the way?

Comfortable with being comfortable

As I sit here in my room, moved back in with my parents, and having left college a week ago, I have never felt so, as Google definitions says: “open to injury” in my entire life. For most people there is a deep seated fear in the term vulnerability, this type of natural instinct that sets in, like we are zebras grazing the grasslands waiting for danger to approach us. I mean Google did define it was the ability to be open to injury, and the idea of being injured is not palatable to most people. We could all look at vulnerability this way, we could see it as something dangerous, a feeling that should be avoided, a sensation we want to toss out the window and then go sit back down on that large couch of comfortability, but it is this idea of being open, fully open, and the potential to be injured that most people overlook. The more I sit here, my friends many miles away, moved into the guest room of my house, the more I realize I have never felt so happily unsure in my entire life.

As a twenty-two year old, my path was planned for me the past four years of my life, summarized by athletics, classes, and the much needed squeezing in of social activities. I knew exactly what my next day, week, month, and year would look like, and I became comfortable with that. I began to see things before they happened to me, tests that would come, books that would be read, mojito night acquaintances that I would run into. Now don’t get me wrong, this sense of patterns and reliability was nice, and it allowed me to not have to think about what was to come next, because what was to come next is the question every single person asked me my last month of college, and to have a plan was easier than saying “I don’t know” and getting practiced responses from people who did have a plan. But now, looking ahead and knowing that nothing is mapped out, that plans are not set in stone, that there are no more mojito nights (not too sad about this actually), and that I don’t even know what tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year will bring, I for once feel the power of choice.

So often in life we are drawn to the idea of stability- financial, marital, etc- but with this idea of stability, we fall into a pattern, a comfortability, a pre-conceived idea of someone else. I have watched friend after friend apply and receive jobs for things that I know they will not wake up for every morning excited to jump out of bed for. Most of you may think this is unrealistic, the ability to be excited to go to work every morning, but it is, and maybe then it is not longer considered work. Now I did not say you won’t be tired, that my friends would be a lie, but to be passionate, to be excited, to be driven, that is within reach. I have seen it everyday with my parents, and because of that, I am a believer. We are all guilty of at least one time in our lives doing something because someone else wanted us to, because of fear of disappointment, fear of failure, or just plain fear. But why? Is fear that bad? Is failure really the end of it all? The answer, I can honestly tell you, because I have failed many times and I have faced fears, is NO. Fear in itself when met, opens our eyes to what we have not seen before, the perspective we have not viewed the world in, or as Robin Williams showed us, the desk we have not stood on. To jump out of that plane, to ask that person out, to tell someone you love them, to tell your parents you don’t want to do what you have been doing, and to even touch a spider, these are all fears, and if face, WHEN faced, show you things about yourself you didn’t know before. And to be honest, failure is inevitable, so why were we taught it was something to be looked down upon? We will fail, we will fail a lot, and maybe after failing a lot we will fail some more, but at least we tried. At least we learned something about ourselves. At least we put ourselves out there.

At this age, the world is open to us, fully open, and it will be our choice of what we want to do with this open space. Do we want to follow the path that we have seen, that we know every step to, that we often times think about and question, OR do we want to walk and follow what we all have inside us, that yearning to make a change, to play that music, to write that book, to ask that person out, to take that class, to try out for that team, to start over. I say, take the road less traveled. I have often times noticed that when you come to that time in your life where you are stuck with that internal and external pull, the pull between choosing what others want and think you should do and the pull to do what you must do, the universe will help you do what you must do. This may sound cheesy, and many of you may stop reading after this or roll or eyes or believe me to want to convert you to something, but in reality, this is true. When you step outside your comfort zone, when you put yourself out there, when you follow whatever it is- the passion to paint that picture, write that letter, quit that job, change your major- you will meet people, you will talk to people, you will read about ideas, you will think of ideas, you will do new things, you will fail, you will succeed, and in about a month you will look back and wonder why you were ever comfortable with being comfortable.

As I said before, we are so young, and we must stay hungry. The world is ours to take and we all have the potential to make a change, be someone, and do something, but it is our decision to follow that. As we choose day by day to do what we love, we are in turn inspiring others to do the same. It is a large network of connections we are making, actions that are inspiring, words that are encouraging, and possibly writing that is making a difference. The world is open, now its up to you.