What if Every Day Cost You $250?
Yesterday morning I was supposed to get on a plane to fly across the country. But I woke up at 6am to the most beautiful San Francisco summer sunrise with an indelible urge to create.
When I was a kid, I spent my summers making art. My aunt is an abstract painter, and I spent days on end with her, layering canvases with swirls of acrylic paints. I’d get into such deep flow that I’d forget to eat. When I was 12, I bought my own paint set and became so obsessed with painting that my mother took my brushes away for a day, fearing I was developing an unhealthy obsession.
Fast-forward to age 26 and I can count the number of times I’ve painted in the last year on one hand. I always have excuses. I’m too busy. I have to do my work first. I’ll just get out a few more emails to clear my mind. Or I’ll clean my room. Then, I’ll paint. So days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and my paint tubes lie there in the closet, untouched. That is, until last month when movers put them into boxes.
I’m in-between moves right now so I recently packed up most of my things for storage over the summer. But when the movers came, I just couldn’t part with my paints. I knew it was irrational — I hadn’t touched them in months, but my body tensed up at the thought of separation — what if I want to paint?! What will I do if I have a creative urge and my paints are in storage??? And again, days turned into weeks of me ignoring these paints that I insisted I keep.
Last week, I finished Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In it, she explains that you should only keep things that spark joy and says that when you get rid of everything you don’t love, you’ll discover your life purpose in what remains. I found that sentence profound.
My mind wandered to my recent move and paint closet. I thought, maybe I should paint? But just as quickly my mind wandered back to my sniffly nose, which reminded me that I had a cold, had work in the morning, and was co-leading a workshop for a hundred people on life design the next day. So I went to bed.
As I led that session on life design and discovering your purpose, I asked participants to reflect on when they experience flow. I like to explain flow as when you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time and forget to eat. Even just talking about flow brings me into it, and I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had truly experienced uninterrupted flow. Between working on two start-ups, hosting large events, moving, and nursing a serious injury that has me spending most of my free time in doctors offices in excruciating pain rather than doing things I love, I realized I’d started to lose touch with myself.
The next day, I had another tough schedule: I got up for a meeting that morning with a pounding headache, had two doctors appointments in afternoon and got home just in time for an hour-long dinner date with my boyfriend before he left for the airport. I was set to leave for the airport twelve hours later.
But when I woke up the next day at 6am to the birds and the speckled sunrise, I couldn’t ignore that creative spark any longer. I pulled my orange and red tie-dyed XL painting t-shirt over my head, twirled my hair up into a bun, sprawled a 9’x16’ tarp over the floor and pulled out my paints. I set an alarm for 7:30 when I was supposed to leave for the airport.
When the alarm went off, I didn’t want to hear it. The bells chimed for twenty minutes before I turned them off. I still had time to make it to SFO — but I didn’t want to. As someone who is working on two bootstrapping start-up social enterprises, I know the value of money, and didn’t want to pay $250 to change my flight. But I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
When I got “urgent” text messages and emails throughout the day, I thought, is this worth interrupting my $250 day? The answer was: “No, this can wait until tomorrow.” By the end of the day, I had unintentionally covered my body — in addition to eight canvases — with anything I could get my hands on from paint to paper, flowers, plastic, tape, pastels and wire.
On the plane today, I wondered if yesterday actually happened. Was that day real or a dream? Where did all of those paintings come from inside of me?
What would have happened had I held that creative explosion inside?
After finally landing in Washington, D.C, I met a friend for a gelato dinner and encouraged him to apply to The Hive Global Leaders Program as inspiration to start the book he’s always dreamt of writing. An hour later, as I curled up in bed, about to sleep, a little voice inside said, “No, you can’t go to bed yet. You need to write. You love writing. You’ve wanted to write a blog post for years, but always have excuses.” Thankfully, it didn’t cost me $250 to listen this time.
So, as I finally go to bed at 3:52am, I leave you with a few questions —
What is it that you love so much that you refuse to let it go? What are you doing when you forget to eat and stay up until 3:52am? And what is it that you love doing so much that you’d pay to do it?
Hopefully, it won’t cost you $250 to find out.