I never had children. The choice was deliberate. I am too needy.
I need long periods of deep introspection. I need to rebel. I need to meditate for an hour a day. I need to quit my job for idealistic reasons with nothing else lined up (yep, I’ve done it twice). I need to jump heart first into a new relationship with reckless abandon. I need to think. I need to donate half my belongings because being “minimalist” suddenly appeals to me. I need to sleep 10 hours a night because I’m exhausted to the point of illness. I need to rent Cessnas and learn aerial photography on a whim. I need to attend personal transformation workshops and ancient alien conferences. I need to break from my family’s religion and politics in favor of philosophies that are closer to my truth. I need solitary road trips to the beach. I need to paint, draw, write, hear live music.
Need is stronger than want.
When everyday life requires it, I am stable. Dependable. Someone who gets things done. But mostly I’m a seeker and a traveler. That requires a willingness to fail that is not conducive to raising mentally healthy human children. I know, I know …people do it all the time but I always knew I wouldn’t.
I wasn’t a little girl who played with baby dolls. I made stuff and organized things. Obsessively. Legos, Spirograph, Loom Loopers, Lincoln Logs, needle point, macrame, doll house furniture kits, Easy Bake Oven, paint-by-numbers, and on and on. My mom taught me to sew and I made clothes for my Barbies. Even playing with Barbies was always about creating stories, not about the dolls themselves.
As a young teen my girlfriends babysat. I never did much of that. They fantasized about their wedding day. I never did much of that either. They played sports. I never did any of that. I preferred sitting in my room listening to the latest record album over and over again while consuming every part of the sleeve until it became a part of me. I played the piano and wrote songs and lyrics. My dad taught me photography, and from as early as I can remember, I had a camera in my hand everywhere I went. I drew things and made up stories (and sometimes lies) and listened and read and observed. I questioned authority. And I thought about life …a lot.
I doubt whether there is much my parents could have done to change me.
When I imagined my future life, it always seemed less clear than the imaginings my friends relayed to me. It didn’t fall into line with the expectations of my parents and society. I knew that art, writing and music would always be an important part of it. I didn’t realize how important.
Creative projects are my children. Like human children, we do not create them. We set the intention and perform the action to bring them into existence but the instant of creation supersedes our understanding. We are simply conduits.
We cannot control our children. We can only guide them and help them reach their potential. Many great musicians will tell you the best songs write themselves. The musician must set the intention to write but they are in touch with a creative force we do not fully understand in the same way that we don’t fully understand how life is created. We can define the science behind it but the spark that creates consciousness and personality remains a mystery. We understand the artists’ tools, the paints, brushes, techniques, color theory, etc. But give two artists the same tools and training and they will produce completely different works of art. Try to define the intangible aspect of creation and we come up blank.
Like many people today, I put off having my “children” until later in life. I tried in my early 20s when entertaining the idea of attending design school. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t adequately nurture my creative abilities. I gave them up for adoption, in a way. If I’m really being honest here (and that is the whole reason I started this blog), I aborted them. I did it in favor of a stable and secure career that is, I now realize, only an illusion of safety.
Like many people who wait until later in life, the longer I waited, the harder it became. My creative side had become sterile. But the NEED to create was still so strong that I sought the help of professionals: a career coach, biofeedback coach, diet coach, hypnotherapist, meditation group, etc. All to help me get “unblocked.” The holding back of expression was making me physically ill.
A family member asked me once, “How many coaches do you need?”
My reply? “As many as it takes.”
Another loved one recently told me, “Don’t think so much.”
But that is who I am. Ignoring it for all these years had made me feel incomplete.
It’s interesting that no one questions spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments, but try explaining to someone that you’re paying for coaching because you feel like you have unexpressed creations trapped inside you and they look at you like you have two heads.
So now, finally unblocked but still full of uncertainty, I am bringing forth my “children.” They may not become famous. They may not stand out from the crowd or be beautiful or noteworthy but they will bring me immeasurable joy. I have wisdom to impart to them because I have experienced love and pain, success and failure. I will teach them it’s okay to explore their dark side as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, although inevitably, sometimes it will.
I have a vision of how I want them to be. Sometimes they will disappoint me. Sometimes they will be unruly and rebellious. Sometimes they will adorn themselves in ways I don’t like. But I will nurture them and love them unconditionally for who they are. I will try not to contaminate their innocence.
I imagine making art is a lot like having kids. You can send them to the best schools, dress them in the finest clothes and love them like there is no tomorrow. Some of that will matter but a lot of it won’t. They’re going to be who they are largely in spite of your influence because you didn’t create them, they just came through you and lived in your house for a while.
My children will remind me who I was before the world got its hooks in me.
When I am old I will look back on my life and, knowing I’ve left the best parts of myself behind, my children will comfort me.
I hope my children will be treated with respect. I hope they will be loved.
And like every parent, my deepest hope for my children is that in some small way, they will make the world a better place.