Monday, November 7, 2011

Cultivate whimsy

When I was younger, in my teens, the way I wanted to live my life was clear: I wanted to be always creating beauty, free from the opinions of other people. I was blessed to have known what my passions were early: I was a writer, I wanted to make beautiful things with words. I filled my head with nuggets I held as beautiful, and it didn't matter that nobody else cared.

And then I grew up, and suddenly, there were important things to be done. Like make money, pay bills, meet deadlines, make other people happy. I wasn't living in my own bubble anymore.

I don't mind living in a bigger bubble and sharing it with many other people. What I do mind is that somehow I've allowed myself to water down my dreams as well.

Last weekend, I was part of the staff for the 151st team of OCCI's Foundations of Leadership Excellence seminar. With me were my sister Kai, who was the chief of staff; her husband Sean; Sean's brother Sam; my brother Ivan; Ivan's girlfriend Dayen; and my younger brother's girlfriend Rechelle. The 60 students we had were mostly young, like in their late teens and early 20s.

What an experience!

I handled three teens, all 17. All artists. Two were into fashion design, one was a magician. As many of the younger artists, they sounded clear about how they wanted to live their lives. They wanted to be always creating beauty.

In one module, I had to share with them my shadow, and they had to share with me their fears for me. One girl said, "My fear for you is that you will lose many more opportunities in your life." It hit me right where I needed to be hit, mainly because it had been said by someone who was 17.

At 17, the opportunities had yet to come my way. At 34, I've definitely missed many, mostly in the name of practicality and my many irrational fears.

I'm on the road to fixing that now, thanks to the weekend. I'm grateful for the gift of teachers.

A few weeks ago, I read Mona Simpson's eulogy for her brother Steve Jobs. One of the lines that struck me was: "Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?"

Steve seemed to have an artist's heart. You can see it in the lovely results he created.

Perhaps cultivating whimsy will wake up the artist in my heart.

As a start, I have a new project: A DIY blackboard!