Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
No words either. Just another sketch . . .
Well, it’s Friday. Again. And while I am always pleased to see Friday come around (be it Friday the 13th or no) I am not always quite so sure how it got here. This week was a case in point—I am quite certain the last time I looked up it was actually only Tuesday . . .
We have just completed our first week of Term 4 here at the college. I did manage to have a few days break away from the office between last term and this. It wasn’t a long break because although we had no classes running there was still plenty of work to be done but I booked three days leave and with the following weekend and a public holiday thrown in I had a lovely six day respite from students, databases and ringing phones. The girls and I went for long walks, dug holes in the garden, read books and watched old movies. Bliss. Alas, that time passed all too quickly (as it usually does) and I now find myself back in the office and knee deep in paper again.
It is an oft-observed phenomenon that time seemed to pass so much more slowly when we were younger. Each day we had to spend indoors in the classroom seemed interminable as the hours dragged on (and on and on . . . ), the school terms between holidays were excruciatingly drawn out and long-awaited birthdays never seemed to come around often enough.
But then, on the plus side, summer holidays when you finally got to them, stretched out in an endless stream of long hot days spent outside lazing under a shady tree, or boating, or swimming, or at the beach eating ice-lolls and watermelon and (in my case) getting horrific sunburn, occasional heatstroke and sand stuck in places it was never meant to reach . . .
My how things have changed. Nowadays, for me at least, it seems that Christmas and Easter may as well be the same festivity for the space we get between them, holidays are still fun but are over in the blink of an eye—and, well, don’t even get me started on how often those birthdays come around!
If you actually stop and think about it, time is a really weird thing and I am not the only one who has pondered as to why the passage of time seems to pass so differently at various stages of our lives.
One theory is that each unit of time that you live through is only a small portion of your total experience, so for a one year old child, one year is, literally, a lifetime. To a ten year old, a year is one tenth of their total experience, and so their ‘clock’ has only just begun to move. For those who are 70, 80 or 90, one year is nearer to 1% of their total life experience and so the shorter time that is left races ahead and the past stretches out far behind.
Perhaps it has more to do with anticipation and retrospection but, anyway, take it from me—reading up on the psychological, philosophical and physical theories about time can just about do your head in!
So I have decided that I like the Occam’s razor principle the best (the simplest explanation is usually the correct one) and in that vein I reckon Albert Einstein nailed it when he said, ‘The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at once.’
Now that’s a theory I can get my head around . . .
I started a new course at Sketchbook Skool three weeks ago—‘Imagining‘. A couple of days into it and I was already struggling. What I long feared to be the case was actually proving to be true—I have no imagination. Put something in front of me and I can draw it. Give me a topic to research and I can write about it. Put a picture in my head and I can see it. But ask me to come up with something all of my own . . . that’s a whole other story . . .
I have always admired people with vivid imaginations. People who can visualise something in their mind and reproduce it in the real world. William Blake said, “What is now proved was once only imagined” and he was right. All the books, music, movies, art, buildings, science, technology and medical advances we have today—all dreamt up first in someone’s imagination. At only 16 years old Albert Einstein imagined himself riding alongside beam of light to “see” what the effects would be. It’s just as well no-one was relying on me to come up with that notion . . .
Imagine a life without imagination though. That’s not so easy, even for me. What would it be like I wonder, to live without any trace of visual imagination? To be unable to see daydreams. To be unable to conjure up the faces of your friends or family, or visualize scenes and characters in books you are reading? I recently discovered that there are certain people for whom this is the norm. These people have what is known as Aphantasia. They cannot—are physically unable—to summon up mental images—at all. It’s as if their mind’s eye is completely blind. Mmmmm. Perhaps I need to rethink my own self-diagnosis.
As you may have guessed I have never been an airy-fairy, day-dreaming, head-in-the-clouds kind of girl but perhaps that is because I have never really given myself the time or space (or permission) to be so. Maybe I have spent too much time dealing with what is and not enough time thinking about the what could be. I rarely just ‘play’ with my pencils and paints just for the fun of it (it seems a little bit wasteful when there was no end product in sight) and I don’t recall the last time I ever tried to write anything creative like a poem or a short story (possibly not since I was in school—way back in the dark ages.) Perhaps imagination is like a muscle and if it doesn’t get exercised (like a number of my other bits I could name right now, but won’t) it gets flabby and discouraged and refuses to cooperate. Sigh.
Okay then. I have talked about it and thought about it and it doesn’t seem like there is going to be any kind of quick fix (and even I can’t convince myself I suffer from aphantasia—believe me, I’ve tried!) so I guess it is something I am just going to have to work at. So I am going to go back into my SBS classroom now and hunker down and do some of the homework I have been studiously avoiding for the last couple of weeks. (Draw a feeling? How the hell do I draw a feeling? . . . )
I have to start believing that somewhere deep (deep, deep) inside me there must be some little kernel of imagination that I can tap into and begin to draw out little by little.
Wish me luck . . .
I don’t. At least I remember being asked the question but I don’t remember whether I had an answer. Rethinking that question today, some fifty-something years later, it occurred to me that nothing much has changed. I still don’t know what my answer would be.
We often hear people state, with absolute conviction, “I knew when I was 5 years old I wanted to be a fireman / doctor / pilot / soldier / actor / writer (insert preferred career path here)” and that is what they went on to become. They never wavered in their conviction. These people are (rightly) admired for their dedication and passion towards their chosen careers—but where does that leave the rest of us? What about those of us who never really wanted to ‘be’ anything in particular?
I never had any clear picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I am sure when I was younger I entertained the possibility of a number of potential careers. Perhaps I would work with animals . . . or do something with my art . . . or go into journalism . . . but no. There were too many choices and I never seemed able to pick ‘just one’ and stick with it. Which was a problem, because we were always being encouraged to do just that. What are you going to do? What are you going to be? What was once a simple little fun question full of exciting possibilities became a more serious anxiety-inducing question requiring a practical answer.
But I couldn’t do it. And it bothered me—for a long time. I was always so sure (because I was always being told) that flitting from job to job, place to place, interest to interest, was not the way I was supposed to be. I never felt like I quite measured up.
But you know time passes and I eventually came to accept that I was never going to be able to choose just one thing. I’m just not built that way. And that’s okay. Over the last 40 year (yikes—40 years—how did that happen?) I have served in the armed forces and worked in retail, the media, health care, finance, business and education. I may not have specialised in any one thing in particular, but I learned a lot of skills and gained a lot of experience. No regrets.
I also came to realise that, in spite of the pressure to be otherwise, there are millions of people out there just like me—unable—or unwilling—to commit to one single choice, and instead choosing to try many different things. And guess what? There is even a name for people like us (and not a rude one either)—‘Multipotentialites‘. Multi-potential-ite—a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. How cool is that?
If any of what I have said here has struck a chord and you’d like to know more, check out a fabulous Ted Talk by Emilie Wapnick where she outlines the merits . . . and the need . . . for people like us.
My choices and I feel totally vindicated . . .