Something I have been trying to let myself do more lately is Art. Real art. Not just writing, or poetry, or fiction. Not just creative output, but art. Trying to give my words the space to become more than they already are. For some people, this is the only way, but for me, the inclination has been quashed, and I am having to regain it.
A long time ago, I told myself that to pursue art was selfish. That science was the way to contribute my talents to the world. That I couldn’t waste myself on things I enjoyed – I had to put my intellect to good use.
Now, I actually love science – I love discovery, I love learning, I love exploring and hypothesising and designing ways to test things. Within science can be art. But the foundation I’d built was all wrong. And that’s why my efforts inevitably fell flat. At the end of every project I gave up. Burned out. Because I wasn’t doing it for myself, I was doing it for the perception of others’ opinions.
For most of my childhood, the feedback I received was that I was special. More advanced than all my peers. Deserving of unique opportunities. Teachers offered to tutor me privately after hours; I got asked to move up year groups (which is not really a thing that happens in the UK generally); I marked the work of students two years older than me; I was privy to information none of my classmates received; I was immune to rules that others had to follow. It felt a little bit like stardom. Big fish. Small pond.
But no-one ever taught me how to get out. So I tried, and failed pathetically – no concept of the world outside my comfortable microcosm, where my reputation preceded me and everything was held out on a platter. There were snippets of wisdom, but never enough to build a bridge. No-one ever taught me how to try, and nothing in the pond meant I had to. I thought all my failures; all my faceplants trying to climb out of the damned thing, meant I was destined to remain there. That I wasn’t good enough for better.
I’ve been guiltily underachieving ever since. Inviting in situations that proved my lack of worthiness, and crumbling even further under the weight of what I should have been. Even when I’ve excelled by others’ standards, I’ve known I was barely scratching the surface of my capacity.
I don’t know who I could have been if I’d had someone to show me the way up, but I am who I am now, and its high time I scooped out all this potential and turned it into something else. I still don’t know how, really. But it starts with art. It starts with the intention to create a thing the best I can make it.