One of the wonderful aspects of high schools as institutions is that they provide for students opportunities for involvement in something that speaks to their creative nature.
As I walk the halls before and after school, I am constantly amazed by the variety of activities I witness – dance, basketball, theater, soccer, band, choir, football, debate, art, swim, creative writing – there are so many. And I’m so encouraged when I witness these types of activities, which engage the mind and spirit in a different way than traditional academics, because they are so essential to the exploration of identity and help move us towards a more complete understanding of ourselves and what it is to be human. I am also pleased to see so many students from so many walks of life participating communally in something, fostering the ties that bind.
But what has been so perplexing and concerning to me lately is the question of what happens to these students after high school in relation to these expressive activities? Where will they find the outlets for creativity that they once enjoyed?
Of course, some will go to four-year universities and they might find organizations that cater to their particular creative passion, but that’s not the large majority of students. But even those who do go to a university, then enter the workforce, will eventually find themselves in the same situation as students who don’t, which is a workaday life that is completely impoverished when it comes to engaging with creativity.
Once a person enters the workforce, no matter the job or level of degree attained, they will generally find that a third of their life is occupied by work, and that another third is occupied by sleep, which leaves only a third for everything else. And that all-important last third is so full, so scheduled, that time for creativity and the exploration of personhood is often left to the wayside like so much rubbish.
Sometimes this is because it has been worked out of us and we are exhausted. Often it is just the furious nature of life which allows no time to simply “be.” It’s the grocery shopping, the cooking, the work we bring home with us, the absurd and relentless drive to provide perceived exceptional opportunities for our children. And there are times when we even bring it onto ourselves, becoming immersed in the magical little boxes that are our phones, and after we put them down, we look at the clock and say, “where did the time go?”
There are, of course, jobs that do foster creativity, that are rich and fulfilling and speak to our authentic selves; jobs that people genuinely love for the job itself is their passion, but that is hardly everybody. In fact, that is not remotely the majority. And so what we end up with is a population parched for creativity, aching for just having time to simply be still, and ultimately both individuals and our society are less for it.
So what is the answer to this? I don’t know. The problem is one part how our society is structured and the expectations we feel we need to fulfill. The other part is that, somehow, I think creativity is ruthlessly driven from us by society. Rather than cultivating it, after high school, we have to go looking for it. Creativity is not a part of life, but rather a pleasant pastime that we see as separate, and society has allowed it to be viewed this way.
So I guess the only option, if society isn’t going to change (even if it did, change comes slowly) is that we must make an effort to find these times of peace to participate in creative activities. Actually, maybe “find” is too passive. Maybe we prioritize our time and make it as essential as any other daily activity, or at least once or twice a week. We prioritize so many other things that are less important.