There was a power in it, in those words on paper.
When I finally started to share my writing, it made me feel like I was doing something good, that I was on the right track. I received many accolades, as well as my fair share of criticisms, but in the end it really all just made me try harder.
All my life, taking in books and writing and movies (pop culture in general) was how I escaped.
I grew up in a small town where I was a typical kid trying to fit in, but never really fit. Richard Wagamese said it best when he described being a square peg being forced into a round hole. That’s what it felt like being me, except my edges were already removed so to speak as a third-generation survivor of the Indian residential school system. I still don’t really fit..
As I was saying, books and writing and movies were my escape. Words were my escape. I got away from my reality, and I let my imagination run free. When things got bad, like if I encountered racism or bullying at school, I would turn to movies, and books. I would turn to writing.
But I would never share anything.
I was embarrassed about my writing and I didn’t think I was any good at it. I guess because writing was such a visceral and important thing for me that the thought of being criticized and losing faith in my words scared me.
Thinking back to myself as a young teenager I had suicidal thoughts. I didn’t have an identity. I was an outcast, and I often felt alone. Those thoughts crept in, but I was always too scared to really do anything about it. I didn’t really want to hurt myself, but I was hurting. Naturally I wrote about these things. One time, something I had written about suicide on a computer was discovered by a family member, and reported to my parents.
Let’s just say I learned a lesson that day; nobody is perfect and parents don’t always react the way you’d expect them to when faced with an issue. I was told my suicidal thoughts would just further burden our struggling family because we would have to pay for therapy.
Probably one of the top things you should never say to a hurt suicidal kid calling for help.
I kept writing in secret. I kept expressing those feelings, any feeling actually. It was a good release. Even if nobody read those words, just getting them out was helpful.
Art was also helpful. I just loved creating things. It made me feel like I had a purpose, like I was going to “be someone” someday. I had learned I was more creative than the majority of my classmates, that what I was gifted with wasn’t gifted to everyone so it definitely helped keep my self-esteem high enough to not want to hurt myself anymore.
Maybe those bad feelings were just a part of growing up, especially for young girls, but it was how you expressed them that made a difference. I think about the way I was and the way some of my friends were, and I was quite tame in comparison. I didn’t want to do anything illegal, I didn’t want to get into trouble, really. Sometimes I was laughed at for being “such a square,” but hey, square peg remember?
I’m glad I was that way, though. I could have made some very bad decisions that would have brought me to a much different place now.
So it’s important to find your gift, I guess, to find what you love to do because that really helps. There is a power in realizing your potential in life, and chasing what it is that you want.
I think everyone needs an outlet, no matter your age, and it’s only best to express what it is that is bothering you. In my case, I express myself through words. I express myself on paper.
I get my strength from that act, and I try to use my words and anything I put out there for good. Words are very powerful. I haven’t always used them wisely but again no body is perfect. I learn from my mistakes, most of the time anyway.
This past year, I finished a job where I wasn’t writing anything. I wasn’t really creating anything with words. I wasn’t helping in the way I am used to. It was a challenge, for sure, and I did learn a lot though especially about helping others who need you. I also learned the importance of expressing yourself and keeping your stress levels low. I think I almost sank into a depression after all of life’s pressures.
I just didn’t have the drive I once did when it came to words. I hadn’t written anything in months and to be honest, I didn’t feel like it.
There was a crafty side of my job with which I got to create a lot of interesting things, though. The one craft I actually liked a lot was x-ray art done with paper. I found the activity on a website, and it was inspired by Woodland Art and Norval Morrisseau. It seemed easy enough: instead of painting, you use paper to create a picture.
I made a copy of the fish that they had as an example, and it looked pretty cool. I bought canvases and painted those and then glued different paper shapes on top of it to make a bear, sealing it in with Mod Podge. It was fun, and the kids liked it. Their work turned out really great too, especially for second graders. It was fun to share Norval Morrisseau’s story with them, and have them learn about the art style at an early age.
One day out of boredom, I wound up trying something for fun and made a Marvel character done up in the Woodland Art style – and it kind of just grew from there.
Eventually I was cutting paper shapes to create several different pictures, again mostly Marvel-superheroes done up in the Woodland Art-inspired style. I even made a Link and Ganon piece from the Legend of Zelda.
Suddenly all this creativity was pulling me out of my funk, and it felt good to be able to create something on paper again.
I call it Woodland Pop Art. It’s definitely a learning process as well, and a lot of experimenting with different types of glue and paper, etc. I probably won’t go commercial with it, but it’s fun. It’s fun to make stuff for people, too.
It’s since become another hobby, another outlet for me, to be able to deal with issues. It’s fulfilling to be able to create something that people seem to enjoy and that showcases something I am really into (all that geeky stuff). Being the square peg, pop culture was always an escape for me. It’s good to find another way to express myself and to keep my hands busy.
I think it’s essential that people of all ages know the importance of expressing yourself, of finding that one thing that makes you happy.
Once you realize the power in your gift, in your happiness, it makes every day challenges that much easier to deal with.