When I was in high school and college, being unique was so central to me that I always made it a priority. I would always choose the scarf that nobody else has, pay extra for coffee from a different cafe, and differentiate myself through my craft of creative writing. I would seek inspiration everywhere and resist thinking similarly with the rest of my peers.
There came a time when thinking differently and being different started to cost me more. The desire to fit in a certain environment allowed traditional corporate culture to pull, straighten and mold me into a more efficient part of the company. I had a role to play, and it was to be a puzzle piece to the conservative and hierarchical organizational structure I’ve been exposed to since post-graduation.
This also has an effect on my personal life as well. I wanted to act how I perceived people at my age should act, and those in their mid-twenties aspire to be older and successful, so I started dressing the part. I would dress in slacks and trousers even on the weekends. I would look at my peers and think that bright colors, eclectic design and unique cuts are reserved for the young ones. We’re older now, it’s a different league, there are certain things we should have outgrown.
Then, as I thought about my values and priorities and reflect on the impact I want to have in the world, I realize that among all the traits I value, I regard authenticity and adaptability to be among the most important. Fully embracing oneself and all the the skills, strengths, weaknesses that come with it, is the only way we can really add value to the world. It is a disservice to oneself to act in disaccordance with who we truly are, and when you don’t bring out your full self, how can we serve others fully?
We were more creative when we were younger because back then our main concern was ourselves. We were searching for our identities and developing our definitions of ourselves in relation to the world. It is also perhaps a survival mechanism, since if we all wanted the same thing in all areas, resources will run out. Youth allows us to exercise choice– in the products we buy, the clothes we wear, the decisions we make at that age– without much repercussion.
But creativity is not just a trait of the youth. And it needn’t be selfish. It is also not synonymous to being childish, which is what is implied as we grow older. Creativity enriches our lives– it inspires, provokes and expands our thinking. It makes us memorable, and when we’re memorable, others seek us. They notice when we’re not present. They look forward to the next thing we say in discussion.
We all have creativity in us, and each is different from another, depending on what draws us. Our plan should be too maintain that creative spark in us, because it is real, important, and a viable vehicle for positive impact.