When I was in college, I went to a Coldplay concert with a group of friends. I can still feel the electricity of that night, and I still get chills when I hear certain songs. At the end of the night, after releasing a cloud of butterflies, Coldplay passed out CDs with the title LeftRightLeftRight. I didn’t understand the title at the time; after all, the album was a recording of one evening on the Viva La Vida Tour, which is what I had just paid to see. Over the past week, however, I started to wonder if the title could be a nod to creativity, and to the importance of stepping out of the boxes in which we put ourselves, in order to look for something more.
I have to give my friend Mary credit for providing the impetus for me to explore creativity this week. I don’t consider myself a creative personal at all. I’ve always wanted to be, but I am (regrettably) a perfectionist in much of what I do. In terms of the IB Learner Profile, I am not much of a risk taker. Call it a personality flaw.
School on the brain at all times, right?
Anyway, I reached out to Mary and another friend, Ally, earlier this week to share with them how alone and afraid I’ve been feeling. I’ve written about it before – the difficulty of finding a new job, the challenges of moving, and just trying to do as much as I can before I leave here. I’ve been feeling quite lost in the choices that I’ve made and continue to make, both in terms of employment and my personal life. Like many women in doubt, especially across oceans, I reached out to my girlfriends. I’ve known Ally since the first day of high school, which is still one of the most frightening experiences I’ve had. I went from a K-8 school of 120 kids in one town to a high school with 1,000 kids in another town. A couple weeks late, I met Mary and she introduced me to rest of the people who became my core group for the duration of my high school career. The rest, as they say, is history.
In their remarkably quick replies to a very long, rambling, I-am-crying-out-for-help-please-help-me email, both women were thoughtful, caring, supportive, and compassionate in everything they wrote and in the subsequent actions that they took. It is no surprise that I was sleeping better towards the end of this week than I have in the past month.
In the course of her response, Mary shared an interesting activity that she came across, presumably online. To paraphrase, Mary told me to ask myself an open-ended question and write the answer with my dominant hand and then my other hand. She had used ,”What animal best describes me?” in her example (quite possibly from this blog) and the two animals that she came up with beautifully capture two very different aspects of her personality. Seeing this, I gave it a try with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My dominant hand told me teacher, which I expected. As I picked up the pen in my other hand, I felt a huge smile on my face because I knew exactly what I was going to write. In the awkward letters of one who is not ambidextrous but trying to be, the word writer appeared.
And I knew it would.
The second my pen left my dominant hand, which is really the only place it ever spends any time (and quite a lot of time as I work on grading the 51 grade nine essays I got on Wednesday), I literally felt a different part of my brain activate. As a teacher of psychology, I was not entirely that this happened but I was fascinated. I found this interview with a researcher also mentioned in this article to simply explain how to activate cognitive processing in a different hemisphere than normal. Have a quick read if you’re interested, or ask the different hemispheres of your brain a question.
So I wonder if that’s what Coldplay meant with that album title. I wonder if they were reflecting on their own creativity or encouraging others to literally try another hand.
I generally have a lot of questions and, “Now what?” is a question that I ask myself every time I send out another cover letter or resume or file another “thank you for your submission” email. It’s a question I ask myself whenever I read position descriptions for jobs I should be qualified for when, in the back of my mind, I know I’m not who schools want (to be explored in another blog post at a later date). It’s something I wonder when people ask me if I’m excited to move to NYC or if I’m sorry to leave Singapore.
The difficulty is that I am not patient, I am not comfortable with uncertainty, and I am trying very hard to be both. My dominant hand says “keep trying” and I am afraid to ask my other hand.