Growing up, long before the days of Outlook calendars and iPhones, people had day planners. And it wasn’t to be cute or crafty or have a convenient place to keep your vision board. Nope. It was for life. Real life. My dad had one such contraption. It was brown, had a zipper that went all the way around it (the OG of privacy settings) and weighed about 56 pounds (all that weight was, of course, paper torn from innocent and endangered trees that didn’t know a better life of technology would one day save their skins). That planner contained every bit of business savvy that my dad had in him. It even had a place for his contacts, that ironically, had people’s full phone number instead of just a nickname followed by an emoji. Yep, that planner kept him organized and on time. Life was good. Until one day, he opened up the planner to add an appointment, only to find that his youngest daughter also had a similar appreciation for the brown piece of luggage. Her appreciation, however, came from the fact that it provided endless amounts of doodle paper for her to draw people that had arms and legs sprouting out of their heads. A true artist in the making, she was. Those spineless little people covered every available square foot of real estate that the brown planner had to offer. Another 56 pounds of paper later and he had fresh new places for appointments and a whole new appreciation for surfaces that were too high for a five year old’s hands to reach. Ah, the good ole days!
Needless to say, I was the five year old girl and my artistic streak didn’t end simply by putting my creative outlet out of reach. No, no. There was no piece of paper to small, no pencil too thin, no counter too high that my creative energy could not reach! It was a trend that continued as I got older and was only fueled when I discovered that my parents kept every picture that I drew them. Drawing soon got a partner in writing. I could sit for hours on end, entertaining myself with stories and pictures that I created in my own magical world. Given that I was insanely shy growing up, most of my friends were those I created or the stories I imagined when I was in my room. Whenever we took road trips, my traveling companions of choice were a stuffed animal and pad of paper.
Life continued and the years passed by. The hard thing with growing up is that it seems like it gets harder and harder to hold on to creativity. Junior high I still found an outlet in writing and high school introduced me to new creative outlets like calligraphy, photography and pottery. I ate that stuff up! But then college came, and you’re told to start getting serious about a career and not waste money on silly electives. Lucky me, I still was able to sneak in a photography and calligraphy class and count them as part of my generals. But then you get into your major and art is no longer an option. It doesn’t pay and it costs a lot of money. So then you begin justifying why you don’t draw or write or take pictures anymore. “I’m busy”. “I have a job”. “I’m too tired”. And then that small piece of that little girl inside gets buried deeper and deeper under a pile deemed “Responsibility” and “Adulthood”. But that little girl never goes away. No. She’s always waiting for an opportunity where she can sneak her hand up on the counter and grab the brown planner. That opportunity usually comes to me in seasons of big transition. Seasons where I finally feel like I’ve broken free of the monotony of adulthood and have a chance to start fresh and new. That little girl comes flailing to the surface screaming, “I’m free! I’m free!” She wants to do all the things, all the time and never sleep! She wants to cut her hair to show that she’s broken free. She wants to create and draw and write and design and take pictures of everything – just so people can see the world that she sees! The beauty and color and hope that the world has to offer! This is her gift that she wants to give.
But then life sneaks up again and says, “You need to get a job. One that pays real money.” And that little girl hopes that she can find something that will let her stay out and play. But time after time, that little girl has to go live beneath the surface and be told, “I’m too tired”, “I don’t have time” or “Those dreams don’t matter.”
Any of my fellow creatives can attest to the pain that happens when you don’t acknowledge the importance of your creativity. The price you feel like you pay when you go to a job day in and day out that feels like it’s draining the heartbeat right out of you. The hard thing about creativity is that most of the time, it doesn’t hold a monetary value. And since our culture has taught us that money determines our worth, we cast aside our creative selves for a more “worthy” and “responsible” self. But we forget that just because something isn’t valued doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. Just because a price tag isn’t attached doesn’t make it worthless. In fact, it makes it priceless. Creativity gives the world color and depth and meaning and light and love and harmony and so many other things that would take far too long to list! Imagine a world without it. Imagine a God without it. Black and white. No landscape. Everyone looks the same. No clouds shaped like creatures. No music. No joy.
Friends, creative friends, it is time for us to stop casting aside our gifts simply because we don’t associate them with value. Because the truth is that there is value. And whether others choose to see or acknowledge it is not our business. Our business is to create! So what if your job doesn’t pay you to create! We are all out of excuses for not prioritizing our gifts. If you’ve been called to create, create! If you’ve been called to write, write! If you’ve been called to make music or design or build, do those things! And see the beauty that follows. Because somewhere inside, there’s a little girl with her hand up on the counter, just waiting to break free. For me, that little girl is named Punkyshine.