deserts

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Last year, I went on a trip with some of my best friends to Las Vegas. While we were there, we did some road-tripping and exploring. We got up really early in the morning and drove our way through Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and back again. Something happened to me on that trip that I didn’t expect – I fell in love with the desert. I’m a beach and mountains girl through and through, but I was so smitten with the colors and landscape and aesthetic of the desert.

Over the past year, or really two years, I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump. A creative desert, if you will. And it wasn’t until recently that I started re-discovering who I am creatively and how to bring to the surface without fear the things that I have to offer. I started listening to podcasts by creatives and entrepreneurs on my long commute to work every day, and they have been absolutely BLOWING MY MIND.

I know it sounds dramatic, but I feel like the corporate world has kind of crushed my creative spirit a little bit. Mostly because I let it do so, but also because by being in it, I feel at war with myself. I’ve always thought of myself as a very logical, analytical, left-brained person. But I think the truth is that the right-brained version of me has the loudest voice. She doesn’t appreciate being put in a box and she certainly doesn’t like being told what to do. She looks back at me in the mirror every day as I head to my desk job, shaking her head in disappointment, and says, “This isn’t you.”

As I was thinking about that trip to Las Vegas the other day, I came to the realization that just like I fell in love with the desert – something I didn’t think was beautiful before and frankly, had no interest in – I’ve started to think about my creative drought the same way. I don’t know, maybe the lack of something crucial makes you appreciate it all the more when you finally have it? But I do know that I forgot what it was like to have something keep you up at night. To have an endless reel of ideas running through your brain, feeling inspired and also desperate because the minutes are fading away and you don’t have a lot of time to do the work that makes you feel alive, leaving you with even less time to get the rest you need to survive. But it’s worth it. It’s all worth it, to have something that gives you life and makes you proud to have a tangible manifestation of the dreams inside of you. And I totally forgot about all of it.

I obviously didn’t intend for it to be this way, but 2018 has already turned out to be a tough year and it’s only April. I’ve had to do some hard things and take some risks that I wasn’t planning on taking, and I think maybe eventually I’ll start to like doing difficult things. But in the midst of making big life decisions and planning for the future, I also have to make sure that I don’t lose myself in the process. And that is the most difficult thing of all.

I’m almost three years post-college and I still feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. My skills aren’t developed enough. I don’t have enough experience. I’m scared to do what it is that I really want to do because I don’t want to be rejected. These are the truths and the lies that start swirling around in my brain when I decide to dig deep and really take a look at what’s holding me back. It’s uncomfortable and I don’t like it. And then I think – “What if I never figure it out?”

The truth of the matter is that sometimes I’m hurt and angry and disappointed and scared and doubtful and closed off and so very very tired. My greatest fear is wasting my time on things that don’t matter, yet I feel like that’s what I do most of the time. There’s so much talk about self care and prioritizing your life and getting enough sleep but also DON’T STOP UNTIL YOU’RE PROUD and be ambitious but also be gentle and make your bed and prep your meals and RUN THE WORLD and honestly, I’m just exhausted. And a little pissed off because it feels like too much of a good thing and I don’t even know where to begin.

The unfortunate part about me (and most of the human race, as I’m figuring out) is that I am driven by safety and comfort. Why do we have jobs? So we can take care of ourselves and the ones that come after us. So that we won’t be in need. So that we can afford to do what we want. I know we’re all bent this way even if we don’t realize it, but sometimes I feel like I’m hiding this huge secret of how much I really crave safety.

I know it’s a control thing, I know it’s a trust issue, I know it’s a fear. But it still exists and it refuses to be ignored and it keeps me in the deserted places. It forces me to forget what gives me life and makes me stay in the slump. But part of what I’ve been trying to do this year is give a name to those things and then figure out how to give them nothing more than that. We all have our own version of kryptonite, but maybe there’s a way to outsmart it?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with essentially feeling safe and living comfortably. But I think both of those things can manifest themselves in unhealthy ways if we’re not careful. And that’s what I’m trying to figure out in my own life. I forgot that opening yourself up to what you’re made to do also opens up tender spots for the arrows of fear and self-doubt and disappointment to hit. It’s a historically human pattern, a tale as old as time. But I think maybe the trick to overcoming those arrows is to change your perspective. To look yourself in the face and gather up enough gumption to say, “I’m going to make things anyway.” “I’m going to be me anyway.”

So far this year, my gumption has been manifesting itself in different ways. I’ve been ever so slowly ungripping my fist and letting God have another inch of what is already His, praying that the inch will turn into a foot, then a mile, and finally a lightyear. Some days it feels like I’m finally getting somewhere and then some days it feels like I slid backward about 10,000 steps. And let me tell you something. I am terrified. But I am also optimistic and hopeful because I know in my heart it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes gumption is just getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it’s hitting publish on a blog post. Sometimes it’s submitting a job application.

I’ve discovered that figuring out where my priorities lie and letting the holy tension be the fuel to do better, to be better, has been so good in the hard days. Even if, at times, that just looks like treading water. I’ve also started to think that maybe there’s a correlation between realigning my life with what is good and the overflow of my creativity. It almost feels like moving from one brand of tension to another. Once I started getting my crap together and putting my priorities back in order, the inspiration came to me so much easier, almost overwhelmingly so. But when I started using my creative muscle and sent pieces of my heart out into the void, my 9-to-5 suddenly looked very very bleak.

The cost of my creativity turned out to be frustration and I let it out on everyone I know. I complained and aired my disappointment and exasperation with where I was at in my life and they just listened and reminded me of what was true, like they always do. My dad said, “Morgan, of all the people I know, you’re the one who has the most potential to do anything she wants.” And I hope I’ll always remember that.

There have only been 113 days in this year so far and I already feel like I’ve been stretched to capacity, both creatively and in my everyday life. But the good thing is that the shape of my thinking about what I have to offer the world, who I am, and what I have been given to work with has expanded from a linear view to a multi-dimensional one. I think one of the tricks to working hand in hand with your creativity is acknowledging that it’s a tool and a craft and puzzle that we’ve been blessed to figure out. Some people are all creativity and some people have a hard time letting it do its thing – I am one of those people.

It’s like I never realized what creativity really was or that I was capable of harnessing that power. By exposing myself to the reality of creativity and the lessons that other people have learned on their own creative journeys through the desert, I’ve become brutally and starkly aware of the magnitude of impact that creative work has, both on my life and countless others. The daily grind, the falling down and getting back up, the triumphs and the mediocre all lead to somewhere. And that somewhere looks uniquely different for every single person that’s ever been or ever will be. And that is a mind-blowingly incredible thought.

It’s not something I talk about very often – this weight and pull of something I have to say and do without knowing exactly how it’s going to manifest itself. And by reading these books and listening to these stories and seeing inspiring work, I’ve come to realize that other people feel the creative pull too. Sometimes it seems just out of reach and it can’t be defined and it’s rebelling against the cage I stuffed it into a long time ago when I thought that my life was supposed to occur in a straight line.

I am so inspired by other people – and not in a desire to copy their work or have the success that they have – but to collaboratively celebrate being human. I’ve found a tribe of people that have the same crazy as I do. That feeling of desperation at the thought of not being able to create something that embodies who WE are as people, as souls, as the creation of a loving being. Sometimes it feels like the world could explode from the weight of what I am and what I have to say, and sometimes it feels like I have nothing to contribute at all. But I feel like the greatest act of worship is picking up the tools we were handed at creation and doing with them what they were made to do. Not living from a place of fear, not leaving them on the table to just stare at and say, “I don’t know how to use this. I’m not even sure exactly what it is.”

I have to believe that by faithfully putting my head down and letting myself out a little at a time, everything will start to make sense because I’m seeing it through the correct light. I’m looking through His lens of potential and not my lens of perfection. And maybe one day I will explode, but the result of that will be the knowledge that I didn’t leave one tool untouched and one blessing on the table. And yeah, I know that the deserts will come, but they also hold a surprising beauty that I never expected. Perspective shifts are healthy and uncomfortable and ground-breaking and earth-shattering, but wow do they do something to your heart.

At the end of my life, one of my greatest disappointments will probably be that I was so focused on being stuck in a foreign, uncomfortable place that I didn’t have the decency or the wherewithal to look around and appreciate where I was. It’s the eternal dilemma. But I would rather learn how to shift my perspective now while I’m young and figuring out what I want my future to look like, lest I continue to forget that there is beauty in the desert. I can travel through and appreciate the beauty in the discomfort, but I don’t have to set up camp there. That’s a choice that’s entirely up to me.

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