Yesterday I went to a creative journaling course, one of the community college courses that I signed up to help me adjust better.
It wasn’t anything new but I really enjoyed turning up and seeing the other people who were also there. You always meet interesting people at these things and while I only spent a day with them, it has reinvigorated my interest in people. I would never meet these people randomly and it was reinvigorating to share knowledge and experiences with them. It has the same benefits as the practical psychology class and as I write this I hear my best friend’s voice telling me that I need this different type of social contact. I’m in my ivory tower all day (and nights if they had their way) with the same types of people who only represent a certain type of society.
Anyway on with the review and the learnings I attained.
I found the teacher a little robotic and dead pan without expression – something very different to what I would expect of a creative writing teacher. She spoke in such a monotone way that its hard to imagine her having an emotional register outside of just ‘balanced’. She would occasionally smile but she more or less invoked an image of a stroke patient; awkward and slow movements, minimal facial expressions and a very deliberate way of talking. Even when she was talking about her passion for all things water eg kayaking etc, there wasn’t a hint of that passion. Maybe I’m expecting too much?
Anyway as expected it’s pretty wishy washy but what I got from it was the interaction between the attendees. There was an older kiwi lady who wore a scowl on her face, an older gentleman who ended up writing a film noir short story to project his need to protect people around him, his wife a life coach who wrote about what good little girls should be, a Pakistani recent immigrant who has a small child, me the chatty self-identified millennial, and an occupational therapist from country NSW who is a vegetarian because she can’t stomach killing animals or handling their meat. Quite a varied bunch no?
The lost art of letter writing
We did a letter writing exercise which I found very fun. I wrote to my future self and my past self and both letters were imbued with enthusiasm and positivity. It seems I can get away from melancholia if I change the medium in which I write. For example, journaling always ends up being melancholic because of the bottom less self reflection that must be done. But with letter writing even though I know what has happened as I write to my past self, I’m writing to encourage my past self to persevere and inevitably got rather excited about what I had done since I was in my 20s. When I was writing to my 40+ year old self, future me, I was also positive and full of curiosity to see what I will have done. It was like writing to a friend across the world that I haven’t seen for a while. I asked all the hard hitting questions but in a much positive light than if I had to envision it in a journaling context.
I quite enjoyed writing the letters. Although they’ll never be sent and I might never come across them again, its quite a good exercise to change it up a bit. It gives a different perspective and this is welcomed when you are, as I call it, journaling yourself into a corner. Sometimes with journaling you’re just chasing your tail round and round writing about the same thing with no resolution or next baby steps. You end up just yelling at yourself or into an empty room that extends infinitely. Your screams no longer audible as it travels through the length of this room.
Third person narratives
The third exercise we did was third person narrative. So using metaphors and symbols to write a story to explore the situation you’re in or the thing that you’re thinking about.
This one unlocked so much for me. I had an epiphany while doing this one exercise. I chose the metaphor of a ship heading towards a destination. The captain was my free will and spirit, believing in the mystical and trusting his gut to guide the trip. I removed myself from the decision making by being a passenger observing the others. There was a merchant on the ship heading to the same place as we were and he represents my golden cage, money, career and all the things society has told me that I should need and want. Then it came down to the question of ‘what other characters are on this ship and what are they doing to help or hinder the journey?’ The characters are meant to be from your life or in the situation you’re trying to work out. I added more supportive casts such as the man who believed wholeheartedly in the captain and his wisdom (yes I realise that all my characters are male, which might be something to explore later but not right now), but when I started to think of a character to hinder my journey I couldn’t find one. I couldn’t find a bigger villain than the merchant and the way that I was writing about the merchant made the merchant sound like a really nice guy anyway. I didn’t finish the story. I didn’t need to. I concluded that there was absolutely nothing standing in my way to make the decision that I need to make. I have only supportive people around me encouraging me to do what I feel most comfortable with. They are only ever telling me to be happy and to choose that happiness. No one is telling me to stay and keep on the unhappy course. At least I haven’t met them yet and I haven’t found anyone in my life doing that.
Few things that stood out to me:
- The concept of a retirement coach
- What it means to be ‘productive’ and why are we so wired to be?
- Being a mediator
So the film noir gentleman is probably in his 60s or more, hard to tell, time is so unkind to white people, and he’s a retirement coach. He basically coaches (from what I gather, businessmen) how to transition into retirement. I found this quite fascinating because its something that is quite necessary.
When people spend their lives working and then reach retirement age, they just seem to drop off. They end up with so much time on their hands they don’t know what to do with themselves. There’s no help for this or a manual for this. I didn’t get to talk to him about his work but I imagine he helps them find ways to fill their time productively.
It reminded me of that conversation with my best friend’s husband who’s father was made redundant and due to his age, its been difficult to find work. So instead of going out and doing leisure activities, he formed a think tank. He needed to feel productive and valued. He felt he had a wealth of experience and knowledge that could be passed on but no one was willing to take him on due to his age and probably his salary expectations.
The occupational therapist chimed in to affirm the view that if people do not feel productive, they’ll fall into that deep depression and eventually die off. She cited suicide as a main result but I’m not too sure how accurate that is.
We had a good conversation about being productive or why we always felt the need to be productive which then morphed into a conversation about meaningful work. She trained as a lawyer when she was younger and now she’s an occupational therapist part time and teaches the other time. She also has a garden that she takes immense pride in that serves as a hobby side gig that keeps her happy. She’s watching her kids go through that decision now, selecting their careers for the rest of their lives and I told her about my tough decision to make. I want a more meaningful existence and more and more I feel like what I’m doing now is not meaningful to me or to anyone. The alternative, if you think about it, may not be more meaningful to the world but it certainly contributes to my happiness levels and what I want out of life.
I had a brief thought about re-training and being a mediator. This might be something I could explore. I want to be able to communicate better and I think if I am able to help others communicate better, this will provide me with job satisfaction?
I think mediation also combines the psychological aspects of human interaction that I would enjoy using and I would be working with people too.
I’ll be a facilitator. Tempting.