My journey so far with creativity

When I was a kid, I have a memory of going to an arts and crafts programme every week after school down at Nathan Homestead.

Every week we would create something.

One day, we made stamps out of potatoes and printed them on paper.
I decided to create different pokeballs from pokemon (that was the shizz back then).
I got so excited about my art work, I stole my art piece home to show my mum.
(I had to steal it because the teacher said we can only take them home at the end of term.)

I took my art home proudly and I showed my beloved art to my mum.
She took one look at it and spoke in cantonese;
“What is that? It looks like rubbish.”

When my mum left the room; I remember feeling like I just got punched in the gut.
I slowly ripped up my art, screwing it up and tossing it in the bin;
While promising myself to never be creative again.
Since that day I don’t ever think I ever did anything creative or touched anything arty.

I mean why would I express my creativity just so someone would insult me.

And I wonder how many people have shared this similar experience;
Where a parent destroyed their art,
Or how a friend was mocking their art,
Or maybe a teacher degraded their art.
And out of that people swore to themselves they will never be creative anymore.

And as life goes on; you begin to have little to no confidence in your creativity.
You believe that you are not creative, you turn away from creativity and you master the phrases like:
“I’m not into art” or “I’m not creative”.
Which I have heard from people in many different circles.

I help out with a youth club with young people aged 7-10.
Sometimes we do arts and crafts.
The scary thing is that some of the young people believe that they are not creative.
Or possibly they have had a similar experience like mine;
Where their creativity was crushed.
I hear phrases I resonate with, like:
“I can’t draw” or “It’s going to look ugly”.

Creativity is an expression of who you are.
It takes courage to express yourself especially when there is little or no confidence.

I remember when I was a teenager and I wanted to speak and share my story to the world;
I was so scared picking up a pen and paper to write because deep down I believed that I wasn’t creative.
And the echo from my past proved it.
And what if, I expressed myself, my creativity; and I got punched in the gut again.

When I was struggling with this, a friend said this:
“Who told you that you couldn’t write?”
“How do you know that it’s going to suck, when you haven’t written it?”
“What if, it turns out good?”
“Just keep on practicing to get better.”

I froze as I couldn’t answer those questions or phrases at the time.
But magically these words did something in me;
They were my turning point to try to be creative again.

I started a journey where I found the courage and confidence to write and tell stories.
I picked up from the moment I gave creativity the finger and where my creativity growth and development was stunted;
And I slowly tapped into my creativity and learnt to express myself again.

At youth clubs, the young people we journey with;
I do not want their creativity to be stunted like mine.
For almost 10 years I did not know that I had a gift for speaking and writing; and I almost missed out on my gifts.
(I rate myself above average speakers and writers).
I don’t want people to miss out on their gifts of creativity like me.
I want our youth clubs to become a place where young people discover or rediscover their creativity, their gifts;
And have the courage and confidence to express them.

So when I hear phrases like: “I can’t draw” or “It’s going to look ugly”
I remember my turning points of creativity;
And I start asking them:
“Who told you that you can’t draw?”
“How do you know it’s going to look ugly when you haven’t drawn it?”
“What if, it turns out good?”
“Just keep practicing to get better.”

And just maybe they will find the courage and confidence in their creativity and their gifts to express themselves to our world.

W

Mad Max

A few young people who have been coming to youth club regularly.
As a youth worker, making connections with young people is one of the many things we do.

I’ll be honest;
Some young people are easier to connect with.
And some young people are a lot harder to connect with.

This lot of young people were hard to connect with.
Most conversations went like this; “what did you get up to today?”
And the answer was “nothing”.

Or “how was school?”
They would reply “good”.

And I would stand there awkwardly, while they look at each other wondering when I would leave.

I tried every trick up my sleeve.

The other night; we were on our way to the driving range.
I was driving my van and a young person made a comment;
“The way you shift your gears is like off the movie Mad Max, *sound effects of gears shifting gears are being made*”.

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I was like; “have you watched Mad Max?”

The young people were like “yeah remember that part when…” and then we each shared our favourite parts. The young people and I discussed; what happened in the movie and asked each other what we would do if we were in the movie during the whole ride. And the trip seemed so much more shorter.

During the driving range we had a blast and good laughs (because we weren’t that great).

On the way home; the young people started telling me about their world, at home, school, community and peers.

The next day at school, the young people shook my hand and we had inside jokes.

It was like Mad Max, connected us and created a relationship for us.

I just found it odd, weird and strange that we connected over a movie called ‘Mad Max’.
Odd, that these young people in Randwick Park, South Auckland actually know about a movie like Mad Max.
Weird, that I love a movie like Mad Max (this isn’t something I openly tell people).
Strange, that it took my driving to bring up a movie like Mad Max and started conversation.

I am thinking maybe that our odd, weird and strange things can connect us to others.

And maybe our odd, weird and strange things are actually just awesome creative ways to connect with people.
And there is a possibly our oddness, weirdness, strangeness or ‘creative ways’ could help make those harder connections easier.

So I’m going to start embracing the odd, weird and strange things in my life; because I can imagine the possible connections and relationships I could make with my odd, weird and strange things.

And maybe you could do the same too.

Most youth workers, know that when we can connect with young people; this is a start of creating a relationship.

Maybe this is a start of an amazing relationship and journey with these young people.

And I have Mad Max to thank for this connection with these young people.

W

Autumn

I could easily say I hate autumn.

Just recently, I swept up kilos and bags of leaves.
I cleared paths where autumn leaves and rubbish have been mixed in between;
Which looks untidy and smells the same.
I unblocked drains only to find that it was the autumn leaves causing the problem.
What is worst; when I come back the next day,
I have to repeat raking up autumn leaves again like I never tried to clear them in the first place.

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Because of all the problems, mess and frustrations the leaves cause;
I could easily say I hate autumn.

Often in life we see things as either beautiful or broken.
And often, we see people through this lens too;
Either beautiful or broken.

Just recently, I have been pondering on a thought;
Everything broken has something beautiful in it.

Even with the problems, mess and frustrations autumn leafs cause;
There is also beauty in the colours and the scenery autumn has to offer.

Here’s a photo of my wife in the splendor and beauty of autumn.

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I am starting to see that being human is having both beauty and brokenness within us.

I think the sad thing in life is that we focus too much on brokenness;
That we begin to repress, deny or ignore the beauty within us and the beauty we can offer to the world.
And this is a common story too many people live in.

I am starting to believe that the world is missing out on so much beauty which people can offer;
Simply because people have repressed, denied, or ignore the beauty within themselves.

If I am honest, sometimes I look through my story and I only seem to focus on brokenness and deny the beauty that has emerged.
If I can confess, sometimes I only just pinpoint the brokenness within people and forget the beauty they can offer.

So when I see brokenness; I am learning to see the beauty too, so the world and I don’t miss out.
I am choosing to look for beauty within the brokenness.
I am choosing to speak about the beauty I see in others, even when they can only see brokenness within themselves.
And the hope is that people can see the beauty they can offer within their brokenness.

I say this even as I continue to sweep up these problematic, stupid, beautiful autumn leaves.

W

Bumps along the way

Thursday nights for me have become equal in measure of life, joy, chaos, love and energy. As I leave the local youth club, mostly shattered but with a full heart, feeling so grateful to be able to spend an evening with this group of kids.

Tonight as we were doing a craft activity, one of the girls asked me to draw a flower on her picture. After I drew one she asked me to draw another. As I drew the second flower another girl, sitting on the other side of me, bumped my elbow and my pen skidded across the page creating a long mark on the page.

How often do we try to draw perfect pictures in life only to be bumped along the way.

She softly apologised as the first girl gasped. Trying not to escalate things, I said, “oh no! Nevermind, that can be the stalk of the flower”. I thickened up the line, adding a few leaves. When I was done the girl asked if I could do the same thing on the first flower. The mistake had turned into something else, something useful, something that improved what already existed.

And I thought to myself of how many times I’ve withheld from doing something out of fear of being bumped by someone and making a mistake, or agonised over what I “should have done”. But maybe I’ve been missing something. Maybe I need to embrace being bumped and making mistakes more – they are inevitable after all.

I think sometimes in life our biggest bumps can create something beautiful too. I find pursuing perfection is too difficult anyways.

E

Penises everywhere

The other day I was cleaning up graffiti; not graffiti art you would admire, but more like vandalism on the school’s property. The first piece of graffiti I came across was a penis. I had a bit of a laugh because someone drew a penis on the wall.

Penis

But shortly after started to notice, that most of the graffiti around the school I was scrubbing off; were penises!! There were penises everywhere!! And I could also tell that different people graffitied the penises on; due to their art skills and style of penis. Then I realized this wasn’t the first time I saw penises graffitied; I had seen penises graffitied everywhere, even on the North Shore!!

Someone once told me (I can’t remember who), that graffiti is a personal expression; as a cry for help, trying to seeking affirmation about themselves or a longing to connect to someone. And these are some reasons they graffiti.

As I am scrubbing away the graffiti I’m wondering;
What is a person trying to express when they graffiti a penis?
What is their cry for help?
What are they trying to seek affirmation about?
Who are they longing to connect with?

Is it a cry for help because they lack male presence in their life?
Are they trying to seek affirmation about their own masculinity?
Are they longing to connect with a male role model?

The truth is: I don’t know.

But on the other side of the coin;
Tyler Durden from the movie ‘Fight club’ said something profound;
“We’re a generation of men raised by women.”

And as I look around this is becoming a common story.
I see a lack of male presence in a young person’s life; whether physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
I see young males constantly trying to find ways to seek affirmation about their own masculinity.
I see young males longing to connect with a male role model.

Maybe Tyler Durden is right.

As I cleaned my last graffitied penis on the wall,
A young person came along with the music on his phone blasting Tupac’s song; keep ya head up.
And ironically just as he walked past, the lyrics went;
“Will the real men get up?”

And maybe Tupac is right;
Maybe this is the answer to fix the lack of male presence in a young person’s life, guide and affirm young males’ masculinity and to quench the longing to have a male role model.

Maybe we will have a lot less penises graffitied everywhere.

So the next time I see a penis graffitied on the wall;
I am going to treat this like the Bat sign, when Batman gets called for help;
Like a person’s call for help; a call for male role models or figures in their life.

W

Ask a person.

Less than a week ago, my husband and I arrived back from our honeymoon. Only a day or two into our 9 day stay in the Coromandel we realised we had no connection with the outside world. No internet at the bach and both of us had run out of data on our phones.

We were aware that the whole idea of going away on honeymoon is to get away from normal life and spend intentional time together as a couple and we were ok with the social isolation, but we weren’t expecting the inconvenience of other things no longer at our fingertips. Things like the weather, a tv guide, recipes.

I know it may sound a bit lame (although I’m also sure you know the feeling of suddenly being without the internet for a decent amount of time) but it came as a bit of a shock at how limited we felt without the internet at our fingertips.

Suddenly, a thought came to me… why don’t I text a family member and ask them to check the weather for us?! Why don’t I text my flatmate what time that TV show’s on?! Why don’t I text my friend for a pikelet recipe?!

What I felt inside as I had this “lightbulb moment” made me stop and think for a second as I realised what I was feeling.

We always Google stuff these days. Every question you could ever thing of can be typed into Google’s search bar and an answer will come back to you. The best bit is, we don’t need to wait for our answers from Google, it’s instant. How natural it has become to ask Google before asking anyone else.

While Google can be extremely helpful at times, I get this icky feeling as I consider,
since when did asking a person become a ‘great second option’?
And how unnatural that really is.

E.

Kids say the darndest things

In the last few months, I have been part of a team running a couple of youth clubs in the neighbourhood. Most of the kids who attend the youth clubs also attend the local primary school; which just recently, I work as the caretaker.

Bill Cosby used to host a show called ‘Kids say the darndest things’. The premise of the show goes like this; Bill Cosby would ask a question to a child who would usually respond in a ‘cute’ way and he would create some humour out of it.

I see most of the kids from the youth clubs working at the school and man kids really do say the darndest things.
Let me quote some of our interactions and conversations.

A kid from youth club with his mates approach me.
“Sup Wilson, *shakes my hand* do you work here?” (Kid)
“Yeah, I’m the new caretaker. I gotta run now” (me)
As I walk away the kid goes to his mates “He’s the only chinese guy I know.”

I walked into a youth club kid’s class.
“Hey Wilson, what are you doing here?” (lil miss sass)
“I work here now” (me)
I leave to fix a light her friend goes “who’s that?”
Lil miss sass replies “that’s none of your bussiness!”

A kid from youth club tells other 2 kids from youth club that I am the new caretaker.
They all come into my shed and say hi.
Then the kid who told the other kids goes “You girls owe me 5 bucks”
One of the other kids “I thought you were lying so I could get 5 bucks”
And the second kid goes “Nahh..I’ll buy you a pie at lunch instead”

A random kid comes up to me asking if I know this kid from youth club.
And I reply “yes”
That youth club kid jumps out of no where and goes “Wilson I see you everywhere now; youth club, church and now school. Where am I going to see you next?”

A youth club kid goes straight up to me and grabs my hand.
“Wilson I thought you got married? Where is your ring? I don’t see it.” (kid)
“I’ll wear it to youth club” (me)
“You better” (kid)

My favourite was:
“Wilson, is there youth club tonight” (kid)
“Yup, are you coming” (me)
“Yes! Is Esther coming?” (kid)
“Yup, she sure is.” (me)
Jumping with excitement “YAY, I can’t wait for youth club” (kid)

The interactions and conversations with the kids have put a little humour into my days.

Jesus says in Matthew 19 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Maybe Jesus was right about the kingdom of heaven belonging to the kids. Not only have they added a little humour to my days; the interactions and conversations with the kids has created a warmth which has made me feel very welcome, pleasant and comfortable to work as their school caretaker. Much like what I imagine the kingdom of heaven is like.

I guess these kids now have made me think about; how do I create warmth as I interact and conversate with people.

Maybe I’ll just start by saying the darnest things.

W