I’ve never really thought of myself as an artist. In part, this is because I was completely overshadowed by my sister Rachel who was a very gifted artist in a number of mediums (clay, drawing, painting, you name it!). I vividly remember being in art class with Mr. Levang at Maillard Junior Secondary School and looking up at one of the only pictures that he had hanging on his wall above his desk (a distinct honour)… it was one of my sister’s sketches. I must admit that was rather intimidating. Despite being in my sister’s shadow, I was pretty good at doing portraits of people. With just a pencil, a piece of paper, and some time to focus, I could draw a pretty impressive and recognizable portrait.
SKETCHING, CLASSIC NOVELS, KARATE, AND DUTCH
After my second year of law school, I took a year off to play on a Division 1 professional indoor volleyball team in the Netherlands. I trained and competed between 3-5 hours per day so I had lots of free time to do things that I loved. So…
- I read English Literature classics (hearkening back to my BA in Honours English)
- I took karate for the first time (I had always wanted to do this and I loved it!);
- I taught myself elementary Dutch by listening to cassette tapes (if you don’t know what a cassette tape is…google it!);
- and I sketched in my sketchbook daily.
During my time in the Netherlands, I sketched more portraits than I’ve ever sketched in my life and I started to develop more of a personal style in doing so. I even sketched a portrait of my Russian teammate for her birthday and a portrait of another friend’s favourite Dutch rockstar as a gift! The next year I returned to law school and put my sketchbook on a shelf to collect dust.
DUSTING OFF MY PENCILS…
Fast forward a decade and a half…I started a new job recently working alongside a wonderful colleague who is a gifted Indigenous artist. My colleague was telling me how since her kids were little, they have painted alongside her. Now, at age twelve, her daughter is a phenomenal painter. So a couple of weekends ago, instead of just drawing my usual colourful rainbows (I love rainbows) while my daughter was drawing, I decided to try out my friend’s strategy of creating alongside my daughter. I dusted off my art pencils and sat down to do a sketch of my daughter.
Here’s what I came up with…
SKETCHING AGAIN WAS SO RELAXING
For the hour and a bit that it took me to do this sketch, I was totally immersed in it; I thought about nothing else and when I looked up at the end of it all, I felt amazing. The most important reminder for me was that it is the process of sketching – of engaging in a task that requires deep concentration and that takes me away from my everyday worries – that is the most valuable.
In addition, immersing myself in sketching was a wonderful way to really be in the moment with my daughter as she immersed herself in her drawing as well.
Right after she saw my sketch of her, my daughter asked me to teach her how to draw a flower. I showed her and she focused intently for 45 minutes on filling a whole page with little flowers. You should have seen her face light up when she said: “Mommy, I can draw a flower all by myself!” I asked her: “How does that make you feel?” She said: “Happy! Happy! HAPPY!”
IDENTIFY AND REIGNITE YOUR PASSIONS
Sketching again reminded me of how important it is to remember the things I once enjoyed and deliberately incorporate these things back into my life. Exercise is actually one of the things I really enjoyed and used to relieve my stress. Unfortunately, it’s one of the things I am currently unable to do. So I have had to reach back farther to think of other things that I once was passionate about. Sketching is one of them and so is reading fiction. Now that all of my reading time isn’t focused on my PhD, I can pick up a novel and it transports me to a different world! The great thing is that I can just throw a book in my bag and read it at moments when I find myself with extra time – like when I am waiting in a line-up.
As adults, we sometimes lose touch with the things we were once passionate about. We also lose touch with the idea of playing for the sake of playing. So close your eyes and think about what you used to love doing when you were a kid, when you were in your teens, and before you became a full-fledged adult (with too many responsibilities and the weight of financial stress). (Okay…seriously close your eyes… no, I mean it… really close your eyes and try to remember… okay well, just do it later, alright? … Promise?)
If you can’t remember what you loved as a kid, ask your parents or a sibling, they may remember! (And if you are a parent, keep track of what your kids really enjoy doing when they are little – they may just need you to remind them later of what they were passionate about as kids!) Once you identify something you once loved, deliberately carve out time to enjoy it again.
My aim for this five-part series on how to move from surviving to thriving has been to provide some practical tips on things you can incorporate into your life without adding too much more to your plate or taking time away from all the other things you need to do (because I know you have a lot of things you are trying to get done, my high achieving friend!).
Post a comment below to let me know if any of these ideas help you move from surviving to thriving!