When I was a little girl, I remember how much fun I had with creative expression. Whether it was painting, drawing, singing or dancing, I loved it all. When I reflect back to when I was five or six, I felt so free and playful within my expression. Now at the tender age of 38, I find that these are still beautiful parts of my expression, but they have been through a lot over the years.
These natural and playful expressions became something else entirely when I attended secondary school. My natural abilities and talents for painting and drawing became tools to be seen. I craved attention and recognition for my abilities as a means of acquiring accolades and connection with others. I found it so easy to paint and draw and I wanted to pursue it as a career path, but the pressure to succeed and to keep creating all the time took it’s toll physically and emotionally.
I had a wonderful art teacher who I really loved named Mrs. Palmer. She herself was an accomplished landscape painter, with a very gentle nature and lovely long elegant fingers. I loved colour and soft pastel tones but realised that if I was to go anywhere with my final portfolio for a place in a top university or tafe, I was going to have to go on an emotional rollercoaster. I observed and poured over a lot of successful student portfolio’s. Most of the folios had very heavy emotional themes and they used a lot of black or really dark colours to portray heavy emotions. There weren’t any soft pink or mint green in sight, much to my dismay.
I found a theme to work with which was going to tick all of the right boxes. Topic of choice, children in war torn countries and my medium was to be charcoal. So my year twelve portfolio theme and medium were chosen and off to feverishly work I went. I worked countless hours, researching, drawing, painting and writing for weeks to provide a massive folio with every aspect covered to the minute detail, but the one thing I was not considering within all of this striving was the effects this endless workload would have on my body.
Not only was I completing a folio for art, but I also had a folio for graphics, a main part in a musical production and four other subjects with more of the same workloads. I ate lots of carbs to overcome my tiredness. I was constantly anxious with stomach upsets and extremely shaky hands. This level of stress and anxiety not only plagued me in Year 12, it was how I went about my entire high school life. So you can imagine how unsettled my body was and how unhealthy these patterns were for my wellbeing. I found that many of my friends had similar or larger workloads, depending on what they were planning to achieve.
So to paint the picture so to speak, I finished Year 12 with an A++ folio for Art and was offered the opportunity to show my work at the Top Cats exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria and I was accepted into every university and tafe I had applied to.
Looking back, I question whether the results were the stress and anxiety I put myself through. What if we looked at high school or university as an opportunity. An opportunity to bring true health and wellbeing to the forefront of our core responsibilities. To choose purpose, play and connection as our subjects of choice. Or maybe I am giving away a little for my next instalment.
To be continued……..