“Is this one of those things that’s supposed to be therapeutic?” I asked.
“Yes it is,” my coworker replied.
I knew the answer before I asked the question. After all, I hadn’t looked at my phone the entire evening, and I wasn’t interested in checking my texts or social media. As far as I was concerned, everything I needed was right there in front of me. I sat there and continued to paint my plaster dinosaur, making sure every detail was the way it should be. Everyone else around me opted for something like a coffee mug or a plate, and while I considered a new coffee mug for my desk, the inner child in me knew what I really wanted: a T-Rex.
I picked him up and placed him down on the table, knowing that I wanted him to be funky. He was going to be orange, this much I knew, but the rest was undecided. After painting his exterior orange, I painted his undercarriage yellow, his arms blue, and his eyes some sort of teal or greenish blue. I gave him some horizontal blue stripes on his back as well. I don’t have any explanation for why I painted him like I did. The inner child in me took over, and adult Adam was powerless to stop him. When I was done, he looked exactly the way I’d imagined he would, and I was pleased. I’ve never been much of a painter, but once upon a time, I was creative.
I used to draw. Holding my number two pencil incorrectly, despite my teacher’s countless protests, I’d look at pictures of things, and draw each detail with precision. I loved it, and I’m pretty sure that was how I communicated to the world until I was roughly 3-4. I didn’t have any concept of time when I was that young. I sat and drew at school, and then I’d come home and draw some more, or I’d build with Legos. This was Adam pre-anxiety, and there’s a part of me that would love to go back there. When you’re a child, you don’t try to be creative, you just are. Your mind is constantly flowing from one thing to another. I was constantly flexing my creative muscle, and I’d cut out the world whenever I sat down with my sketchpad. Nothing around me mattered. My concentration was only interrupted by a bathroom break or a call for dinner.
It’s heartbreaking to think about, but at some point I stopped. I don’t remember when it happened, and although I haven’t stopped with little doodles and the occasional sketch, I don’t have nearly the same commitment. I used to sit and draw for hours. Sometimes I’d draw while looking at a picture, but sometimes I’d make up my own people and creatures. Despite my ADD, and the many afternoons I spent running around the backyard making up scenarios and games, when it was time to draw I was focused and committed to the task at hand. The pencil touched the page, and I didn’t have a need for television, or anything else.
At some point, we all grow up. Eventually, my anxiety kicked in, and I couldn’t just sit there and lose a few hours. I couldn’t get comfortable with all of the time and patience that drawing required, and I stopped, placing the pencil down on the desk, and putting my sketchbooks away. For years afterwards I found different ways of being creative, but none of them lasted very long. I played three different instruments, and I don’t play any of them now. Somewhere, my Dad’s silver trumpet is collecting dust. The piano was never my thing. I even chose my own instrument, the guitar, and my interest in it faded as I transitioned into college. I could have been that guy playing music in the quad, much to the annoyance of everyone else.
“The only time you sit still now is when you write,” my former roommate said.
I’m always moving, but when I write, I’m off in my own world, in my own thoughts, and while some days it’s a challenge, I really do love it. It’s allows me to inhabit the world inside of my head, and to feel more like myself. Maybe that’s why I’m doing better these days. For so long, I’d stopped doing anything creative, and when you shut off a part of yourself completely, it can make you feel like you’re holding something back, or you’re not fully expressing yourself. It can make you feel frustrated. Maybe the frustration I’d been feeling was a part of me that was begging to be used. I’d assumed all these years that it just vanished, that it was something I didn’t need anymore, like an appendix.
Maybe that’s why I was so in to painting this T-Rex. My creative side was being put to use, and it was bringing me a sense of fulfillment I’d been lacking. I sat there painting, periodically drying the paint on my T-Rex with a hairdryer, and even though I sat at a table surrounded by my coworkers, I wasn’t aware of anything else. My mind was so focused on the task at hand, and it was amazing to be able to focus like that once again, to be so engaged. It’s a feeling I’ve missed all these years, and it makes me think that I’ll need to tap back into that mindset moving forward if I’m going to find true happiness.
Drawing was the first thing that captured my attention when I was young, and it’s something I lost touch with. Maybe I’ll never be that person again, but for that one night of painting clay figurines, I was able to go back in time, and maybe that’s why I chose the dinosaur. It reminded me of a time before it got so difficult to be creative. It reminded me of a time when there were no set routines, and I just did whatever it was I felt like doing. It reminded me of a time when I could lose myself in my head, and it wasn’t such a bad place to be. Thanks for reading.
**The dinosaur’s name is Ernest. He guards my desk at work, and also reminds me to expand my mind. He doesn’t talk a lot, but he’s an amazing listener. **