Today I’m delighted to welcome my friend Holly Pennington to my blog. Holly is a uniquely gifted writer, blogger from near Seattle, US. She writes about vulnerability, and faith, and has so much wisdom to share. Take it away Holly!
I’ve never tried to be weird. But I have always felt weird. No purple spiky hair, grunge obsessions or gothic dress phases. Not even a single tiny hidden tattoo. Growing up in the 1980’s, I was a predictable Guess jeans-wearing suburban kid.
But I did own a pair of red plaid Doc Martens once. To be exact, I was only part-owner. My sister and I shared them. We simultaneously fell in love with them but Doc Martens weren’t cheap, so we each paid half. When I went away to college, I took them with me just until my next visit home; then, her turn. Being part-time keeper of the boots somehow made my love for them stronger.
Treading across the Wake Forest University quad, an insecure thumb tucked under each backpack strap and self-conscious eyes fixed downward, the surprise of my feet clad in red plaid filled me with a distinct burst of joy. I felt daring in my Doc Martens. My connection to them was made of courage, awe and a tinge of rebellion.
But, what made me feel weird was not my style; it was my interests.
My C.V. of hobbies is a bizarre collection of art classes and museum volunteering, copious notetaking on books read for pleasure, and teaching myself to mix colors and knit.
It all started in college. (I blame the Doc Martens.) As an Exercise Science major, I giddily registered for electives like Beginning Drawing and Piano 101. I possessed no art skills, and my entire music background consisted of playing the clarinet just long enough to satisfy my high school arts credit requirement. I wasn’t brave, or even confident, in those years; I just felt like I might be an artist.
I was curious. I had to explore.
Drawing turned into a glassblowing class at my university town’s community center. A few searching middle-agers, eager elderly women and me, college girl, standing side by side blowing glass bubbles through a pipe. Shouldn’t I have been out partying or holed up in a quiet library cubicle? Weird. (And hard, by the way…blowing glass bubbles that don’t burst requires incomprehensible amounts of calm focus and perfect timing.)
These were also the years of discovering bookstores. I read entire books sitting on their creaky floors, mentally bookmarking my page number before reshelving the book so I could come back to it the next day. A Doc Marten-like feeling of rebellion enveloped me as I filled my journal with notes and favorite passages from Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water before returning it to its proper place. Reading had never been more than a necessary evil to get good grades in school, then, all of the sudden, books were spellbinding. But I was pretty sure that my approach was, well, weird.
Accepting The Weirdness
Post-graduation: a zigzag of artistic phases. Watercolor classes in a converted backyard shed in Boulder, Colorado. Commuting ninety minutes each way to a calligraphy class that thrust me once again into the role of “which one of these doesn’t belong” as I was more than twenty years younger than my co-calligraphers. Weird. A two-year stint as a volunteer art museum docent. Endless hours after work spent tediously mixing tiny amounts of watercolor tube paint based on the book, Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green. (I know, really weird.) And then there was teaching myself to knit hats and scarves during my “Apartment Days,” an eighteen-month period during the Great Recession when nothing in life was certain.
Chasing art without aspiring to be an artist made me feel weird.
I knew I would never become a glassblower or calligrapher. Articulating why I was in those classes was nearly impossible at the time. Being the youngest one, the one with a job (I was building a career as a Physical Therapist during all of this), the one who drove from so far away, was never comfortable.
At home, my shelves overflowed with obscure calligraphy nibs, handspun knitting yarn, and volumes of handwritten transcribed passages from “borrowed” bookstore books.
I knew I spent my spare time in some pretty weird ways. But I also knew I had to. I could never put it into words then, but what I was doing was trusting my cavernous need to create. Being the unqualified misfit in a calligraphy class was uncomfortable, but not following the mysterious path of my own curiosity was unbearable.
Now, I am at peace with my weirdness. I look back and understand that everything I do in life doesn’t need a goal attached to it. While I didn’t know it at the time, carving out my own strange creative path cultivated a relationship with my creativity that was both respectful and playful. I never took it too seriously, but I always made time for it. I honored it with sacrifice and a willingness to feel weird.
But, don’t get me wrong: I fumbled through my creativity journey more like the unsure college girl surprised by her Doc Martens than a fearless risk-taking artist.
And it still worked.
Because it led me to where I am today: a writer who doesn’t feel weird.
So, if you’re feeling just a bit weird about the ways you spend your time or the things you just know you have to do but can’t explain exactly why, take it from me: trust your precious curiosity. Let it lead you. Chase it all the way to freedom. Because in it lies your creativity, waiting for you to name it, own it and wholly embrace it, even the weirdness.
Holly Pennington writes about vulnerability, faith and freedom at www.dreadlocksandgoldilocks.com.
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