Reflections on Self Expression

Ever since I stopped working, I took it upon myself to rediscover the creative side I have lost when I was still teaching. It’s not that there is no creativity in being a teacher. There is. Lots of it. Every waking day is a hands-on experience: sprucing up an old concept, making sure keynotes are visually aesthetic, designing (and most often than not, improvising) activities that students would love and learn from, etc. Teaching is definitely not a blackhole of artistry. But there were also countless nights when I felt drained (or at times, even suicidal) right after I clocked out from work.

Maybe it was because of the religious nature of the school that I was in, but teaching eventually became a tedious chore for me. I knew that everyone meant well, but I felt that my being as a teacher was constantly judged from the moment I stepped inside the school grounds down to those random nights when colleagues would politely ask me about the choice of memes I shared. There were weekends when my students would randomly spot me strolling in a mall with my friends, and I would get anxiety attacks about what I just wore or how appropriate my behavior was. It was as if my life became a 24/7 reality show.

It took me some months to realize that as much as I enjoy having others appreciate my craft, I also need an outlet where I can express myself without any need of validation or approval.

Of course, I turned to poetry for recluse. The stories I wanted to share, but felt I would be called out for, made its way into a figurative line or two. What made it fun was the ambiguity and the fact that I could hide behind it. There will always be two or more interpretations to a seemingly indecent line ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°), so it was never brought out into the scrutinizing glare of light. It became a safe space for my other self that only a few people acknowledge.

When I quitted the academe, I vowed to focus my creative energies on poetry. I spent quiet nights in a nearby cafe, customized a notebook to call forth the muses, and even went for a social media detox. I mustered all my mental energy for a provocative imagery.

Alas, there were no ravens nor vultures. No lightning at the tip of my fingers. I didn’t have any words.

It took again a considerable amount of time to unpack that my poems are external manifestations of my internal turmoil, and that I couldn’t write because I am not tensed anymore. I have wrote about my life—one that is peppered by abuse, loneliness, and general sadness. Having cut myself away from all known triggers (a sudden live-in arrangement with ze partner did the trick), I found myself bereft of verses. Just how would I describe this new experience I have right now?

I used to maintain an acquaintanship with peace and joy. I knew how to spot them from the sidelines. They were regulars at this yoga studio I used to frequent in before. I ran at them in quiet coffee shops and other creative spaces. They were a hippy couple—one that has a million or so followers in Instagram. When I started living with them, I found out that I had missed so much.

It is so cliche to say this, but they are all about the small details: waking up without being hurried, having a clear agenda of what I need to do, and being patient with household chores. The day ends in gratitude, resting in the knowledge that I have accomplished everything I had to do, and that my palms would not run out of any basic need. The sleepless nights I sacrifice for achievement seem measly compared to the bliss I get every time I sleep without worrying about tomorrow’s performance.

I find it hard to write about peace and joy because fuck, I’ve been gloomy and anxious for the past x years of my existence. I am not prepared for it. I still have no words to capture the sunlight that radiates into my bedroom. Or the feeling of being safe after a long while. Unlike pain which operates on hiding behind ambiguity, happiness runs on a different language. It is sublime, but it does not rub itself on one’s face. It is bold, but at the same time does not draw attention to itself. It illuminates instead of making a material more sinister than it seems.

This is something I have to learn and get used to yet. Not only as means to channel creativity, but also as a way of conversing with life.

Meanwhile, I turn to other mediums for self-expression. In the absence of familiar structures, we learn to adapt to whatever form that is available. Or even create new ones. Journaling about the mundane helps a lot. Photography is an awesome method too (although I have to borrow ze partner’s camera from time to time). Cooking is my all-time favorite.

I will write about cooking the next time I have the chance to.

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