I'm four weeks into The Artist's Way, the creativity workshop I'm doing with my good friend Kimberly, and hoo-boy, friends. It turns out unlocking your creativity is a lot of hard work. Sometimes I feel like I'm in therapy with Julia Cameron, the author. Each week, there's a theme and a chapter to read, and then a set of writing-based tasks. This is in addition to the daily journaling ("morning pages") and the weekly artist date (date with myself). It's a lot of introspection.
I look forward to my weekly debriefing with Kimberly, when we go over our work for the week. This week's topic was "Recovering a Sense of Integrity" and there were two exercises that involved writing letters. The first was to describe myself at 80, and then write a letter from my 80-year-old self to my current self. The other was to describe myself at 8, and write a letter from 8-year-old me to now me.
Reading back over these exercises, I'm kind of struck by what I wrote, and I thought I would share. I noticed some striking recurring thoughts that must be pretty important to me if they came up in this way. Clearly I want to see the world, I want to express myself, I want to make and absorb endless amounts of art. It all seems so clear when you put it down on paper in a stream of consciousness that's completely speaking your truth.
What's interesting about looking backward and forward in time like this is that it's laced with equal parts reality and hope, fact and daydream. I'll share both, the 8-year-old me first.
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When I was eight, I liked music more than anything except maybe books. I constantly carried books around and read whenever I had the chance - at school, in the car even though it made me sick, after the lights were out by secret flashlight. I listened to music all the time and loved to sing and make up my own dance routines to my favorite songs. I started taking violin and piano lessons and deepened my interest in the performing arts. I wasn't journaling much yet, but I definitely loved and yearned to write. I was emotional, but resilient. I was too busy enjoying my newfound talents to worry about whether I was actually any good at them, which is how they grew stronger.
Dear 32-year-old me,
Don't ever lose your love of stories. It's the thing you've always come back to, the start and finish of your day. Your life should be bookended with books. Even though it's hard to make time for music and acting and dance, do it. Don't ever cave to caring too much what people think. Dare to take risks, like when you cut off all your hair or moved to a new town and made friends. Stay brave, because you are brave, much braver than you think, and you're also strong. You can hold yourself down, you can steady others. Even now, at eight years old, you rock it. You should be a pro by the time you're 32.
Love, 8-year-old Sarah
* * *
At 80, I still look about 60. Thanks for the great genes, Grandma Viele! I traveled to all 50 states well before I turned 50, so since then I've made it a point to get to South America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Africa. I've been to more than 20 countries and filled more journals than I can count with tales of my adventures. I even lived in Europe for a few years, which was amazing. Meanwhile, I also published several books that were well-recieved, spent time doing music and community theater, got an advanced degree just for the fun of it, and took good care of my family. I never stopped loving fiercely, I kept my friends and family close to me and let them know how much they were loved.
Dear 32-Year-Old Me,
Quit waiting to do the things you want to do. Publish the shit out of your book, even if it scares you to put yourself out there. There will be many books far worse than yours, so just go for it. You have nothing to lose. Love unconditionally. Practice your life lived with intent, but also be in the moment and plan less. Take every single trip you want to take, get every tattoo, and fuck what anyone thinks about it. That's the main thing to remember, young one - fuck what anyone else thinks. Keep working on your body, because you are going to be living in it for a long time and it absolutely deserves the attention you give it. Don't carry your secrets too far by yourself, let people share in not just your joys but also your burdens and your fears. If you love someone, tell them so. Don't wait. Don't hesitate. Believe in yourself, as your intuitions tend to be correct. Above all else, believe.
Love, 80-Year-Old Sarah