I’ve always been a creative person. As a child, I was a child actress, usually in theater productions and I loved the creativity that went into theater; the costuming, the lights, the stories, the sets… I did some pretty big productions. I was in regional tours of shows like Annie, Les Miserables and Runaways. Later, at eighteen, I was in the Broadway revival of Cabaret, which was the most prominent production I ever did. Illness ended my career at twenty-two, but I had a great time, worked very hard and loved every moment of it. Theater encouraged me to be creative in many other areas and in general. I’m the kind of person that wanders through a Home Depot and thinks of 100 ways to make a lampshade into an art project. I am constantly imagining new business ideas, planning out trips around the world, inventing weird things and plotting novels. I write, craft things, sketch and most of all, I imagine quite a lot. I have found that being an expat greatly enhanced my creativity. Suddenly, I was in a completely new place with a different language, new people, new customs and new expectations. What would have been very mundane tasks in the States became unexpected adventures as an expat. It was a whole new way of looking at the world, like being a child again.
Bill Bryson said,
“America is a very seductive place in terms of lifestyle and comfort, but it wasn’t for me.”
I have found that my creativity slows to a crawl in the States. I am sure that is a lack of character on my part, but the result is there- that “abroad” I am using my brain more. I am creating and engaging because the nature of being a stranger in a strange land is that you really must be creative about how you do everything. The act of being creative simply blends into everything you do. The challenge feels good, even when it leads to embarrassment (as it often does) and disappointment. There is a sense of being slightly on edge all the time when living an expat life. It is exciting and the little things become important. In the States, I lose a lot of that creativity because everything is easy. The usual “cookie cutter” design of most of America is stifling. I will quote Bill Bryson again,
“Other countries build civilizations. America builds shopping malls.”
So, upon returning to the States, my creativity dropped to an all time low and depression crept in. Now, just the planning process of ‘going expat’ again is pulling on the strings of my creativity and I am happier, healthier and more active. I miss the days when I was excited by everything around me, intrigued by the simplest of things which are always the most wonderful. I plan to find that person within me again.