Just wanted to share this charming New York Times ‘Celebrations’ announcement of the marriage of a costume designer and a choreographer. (click the blog title to view). If you subscribe to the “meant to be” school–or even if you don’t–you’ll love the part about the key.
Yesterday was Patrick’s and my five-year “dating” anniversary. It’s not something we really celebrate per se, but every year we do like to offer a little tip o’ the hat to the day. Five years isn’t a very long time, relatively, but I found myself reflecting on what a different place I’m in now than I was then–mentally at least.
That became even more apparant in the afternoon when I had my first meeting with the volunteer coordinator for the Girl Scouts, with whom I’ve signed up. Because of my past work with the Atlanta Workshop Players summer camp (which was in the forefront of my mind yesterday since our dating anniversary originated there), combined with a year and a half doing kids’ parties and classes at Imagym and three+ years teaching dance all over the place, volunteering with the GS seemed like a good fit.
When I say past work, I’m talking two, no more than two and a half years ago tops. It was about that time I started working a big girl job, and it was about that time, looking back, that my creative muscle started to atrophy. It was probably strongest while I was still in school. I know that not only intrinsically, but also by the excitement that lit up my volunteer leader’s face when I told her I had a degree in theatre–I could just see her brain whirring, thinking of all the clever ideas she just KNEW I’d have.
It was still getting regular workouts the first couple years out of school and during most of my two year engagement. At Imagym especially, I constantly had to think up ideas to keep 30 kids with a pea-sized attention span entertained and non-destructive. I used some of those same ideas in dance.
But as soon as I entered the workforce of the masses, a slow decline began whose full effects I didn’t feel, or at least fully acknowledge, until yesterday. It’s not totally out of commission–as this blog’s existence proves. It just evolved inwardly a bit. For instance, I did a lot of writing, including a frenzied period of working on my latent novel (it’s not dead, just resting I promise), and I created the individual roles in shows I did. I continued to dance, but once again, it was more about nurturing my inner life than pushing out newness into the world. Muscle-maintenence, rather than muscle-building, if you will.
And just like how, one day, you go to bench the 185 that used to be easy and nearly crush your sternum, yesterday I got knocked over the head with my weakness. The project I’m going to be working on with the Girl Scouts isn’t leading a troop, at least not yet (they like to try and make the parents lead troops. Evidently enrollment is better when that’s the case). Instead, I’m going to be helping plan and implement a monthly event for middle-school girls whose troops have disbanded or who haven’t ever been a scout, which is meant to get them involved again. My job, among other things, is to think up ideas for these events. (Sound vague? Imagine how I felt). As an example she told me about the last one they did before the school year ended, which was a fashion show kind of deal. She threw out some ideas for general themes (sports? animals?) and showed me some of the materials from the fashion show. The ideas were so adorable. God, would I even have thought of it, had I been in charge then? I think I started sweating at that point.
The real coup came when she was explaining a name game she did as an intro with the girls, and used my name as an example, “my name is Janie and I like…” I was supposed to fill in the blank with something starting with J. And I totally blanked. I’m pretty sure a fly flew in and out of my open mouth right then. The only thing I could think of was jujubes, and at that moment I wasn’t even sure if that was a real item or if I’d just made it up. She ended up supplying me with “jumping.” AGH! JUMPING?? COME ON JANIE!!!!
The kicker is that we used to play that game at the gym at practically every birthday party.
When I left all I could think of was running home and asking Patrick what kind of stuff he does with his improv kids. Then I gave myself a swift mental kick to the rear. This is why I volunteered. Somehow I knew, whether conciously or on some deeper level, that a part of my life, my personality even, was dormant. This is about more than getting experience for my grad school entrance essay. This is about flexing the creative muscle.
Creativity has one very important difference from a bicep, however. It feeds off others. No, not like a vampire (True Blood’s not till Sunday people). Rather than draining one thing to nourish the other, creativity lives in symbyosis with its source. In a word, inspiration. For instance, my initial impulse to pick Patrick’s brain–it needn’t be to copy his ideas. Perhaps one thing he says will spark an idea in my own brain that I can develop into something bigger, and ultimately, useful. Perhaps Patrick might even be inspired by the idea I have. At my big girl job they call it collaborative brainstorming. I sometimes worry creativity is a use-it-or-lose-it deal, but it’s really not true. As long as one cares to come up with good ideas, one has the ability to do so. I just need to hit the gym.
By the way, I’ve never benched 185.