“Poindexters aren’t creative.”
I don’t know when I heard that, but I know who said it. I even know why she said it.
My mother, a gracious, intelligent woman who could not — or chose not to — knit, paint, or otherwise express herself artistically, handed down that edict as a way of protecting me. In her own loving yet ultimately misguided way, she told me that “truth” because she did not want me to suffer. She was giving me an out, a permission slip to excuse me from creativity.
It does not matter when she said it. Or that she said it only once. I heard it, loud and clear. I accepted the permission slip, and carried it deep in my heart for the rest of my young life. Any glimmers of creativity that bubbled up from down below I chalked up to mysterious anomalies, unrepeatable burps that served only to distract me from my true, real purpose: to follow the rules, perfectly.
Which I did. I followed the rules. All of them. I got good grades; I wrote thank-you notes; I wore sensible shoes. I didn’t drink. I was safe, “successful,” and well-liked. I didn’t make waves.
I also didn’t take chances. Until one day…
It was college-application time. I had slaved over my application statements, editing, re-working them, attempting to achieve that perfect balance of “who, me?” humility and blatant horn-tooting. And in so doing, I watered myself down to a personality-less page of hollow verbiage. Not that I saw it that way. I was just being a good applicant, following the rules.
But then along came my Stanford application. I had left that one until the very last minute. It scared me, I think, because it was not like all the others. No safe question that I could bend to serve all the applications, no pat answers could be given here: “What three items would you take with you if your house were on fire?” And it had to be postmarked by the end of the day.
I seriously considered not applying. No one would know or care; I had requested the application on a whim anyway, having never even set foot in California. Better to stick with the familiar Midwest and East Coast. I stood with the half-finished application, poised to drop it in the trash. I shook my hand, but my fingers would not let go. Oh, all right, I thought. It’s such a long shot. I’ll just write the first things that come to mind.
And that’s exactly what I did. I wrote, in pen, directly onto the application. I wrote what came to my mind, honestly, without revision.
Before I sealed the envelope, I showed what I had written to my parents. “You would save your Winnie-the-Pooh books?” they said. “Oh, well. You didn’t really want to go there, anyway.”
Months later, when the fat white envelope from Stanford arrived, we were all stunned. I was certain there had to have been some mistake. After all, I had been rejected by my number one choice, the application that I had spent weeks rewriting. How could this be?
Years later, it all makes sense. Who we are, who we really are, exists in the moment. As soon as we ponder, plot, and plan, we are censoring ourselves. We are trying to create something that fits with what we believe the world expects from us, rather than allowing our own perfectly imperfect selves to meet the world with impunity.
We are all, every single one of us, pure creativity. Even Poindexters.
So today, I ask you: who are you, really? Today, let us see the you that doesn’t look or think or talk or act like anyone else. Get out of your own way and tell the censor to go take a hike.
Because you are what we’ve all been waiting for.