Picasso said that the first stroke on the canvas is always a mistake and the rest of the work on the canvas is to fix that mistake. That constant stream of adjustment and correction reminds me of adulthood. After many years of attempting to colour inside the lines, I learned to paint outside them and create my own masterpiece.
There was once a time when my fear of the blank canvas was so intimidating that the monster known as perfectionism lurked behind everything I did. From my high school assignments to my lack of creativity, I tried to fit myself into the cookie cutter of Successful Person. In this act of contortion, I felt constant guilt and an inherent unease in my own skin and its amazing abilities. How was I supposed to celebrate myself when I was occupied trying to twist my leg over my shoulder to fit in?
There was no one light bulb moment for me.
I realized that once the paint touched the white background I was entirely responsible for the outcome. It was more of a slow glow.
After a series of unsatisfying choices such as my university major, I was left disappointed. I chose safety over wild vulnerability. I was very much Punchinello, the puppet in Max Lucado’s You Are Special. I tagged myself with ordinary dots.
Deaf, intelligent, well read and ‘fit the boxes’.
After a lifetime of ignoring people’s assurances that I was good and feeding the perfectionist monster, I had had enough. I changed my major, sought emotional and mental support, and left reminders everywhere to myself that time would reverse my perfectionist habits.
And it did.
Time eventually allowed me to refuse the dots. Time gave me a more curious and creative version of myself. My first stroke outside the lines on the canvas was terrifying. But now I know I can paint over it again.
And this time it is with passion, not fear.