Hi, I’m Simona, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. I’m a unicorn (shhh, mum’s the word!), working undercover as an English trainer on a mission to change the world. I’m also a seeker and keen believer in human potential.
“Tsk! It’s no good!” she said, with brazen glee in her eyes. “You haven’t got it!” my Romanian highschool teacher’s voice rapped with some sort of wicked relish. She had assigned a spontaneous creative exercise and I’d fallen short dismally.
“I hadn’t got what?” My chest throbbed with angst, my face aflame with the heat of the glaring truth: she had uncovered and was going to reveal my deepest secret.
Had she just X-rayed my ribcage with her piercing blue eyes and, under forensic examination, had found my poetic talent missing?
Many 15-year old’s usually was!
I’m sure it also loomed large on my X-ray that my self-confidence and self-esteem were abnormally small, close to non-existent (congenital disease?) and my desperate need for connection and validation were abnormally large. After all, unbeknownst, I had been wearing the invisibility cloak all my life. I knew how heavy it weighed down on one’s shoulders. Surely, it couldn’t have escaped her scrutiny, but somehow it had.
She pretended not to notice that there was too much of her in me.
Earlier in the lesson, when she had blurted out endless blurbs about my classmates’ poems and sang the praises of their early talents, drawing parallels to literary prodigies that we studied in our black and white coursebooks, I’d hoped she would save some for me.
But there wasn’t enough to go around. I wasn’t worthy. My words sang a different melody, out of tune and too pedestrian.
Her words kept hammering down and, like a skillful doctor, she turned the classroom into an operating theatre and then proceeded to perform open-heart surgery on me, stat.
“Constructive feedback,” she called it.
Was this going to make me better? Was this the way she was going to inject me with a shot of creativity and thus cure me of my prosaic intelligence? And if that was indeed what it took, was a plenary dissection the best way?
What I know now, but had not the vaguest clue back then, was that my teacher herself had failed a test that day; the test of basic humanity, compassion, and good sense.
But that day, my spirit was too battered to know any better than to accept her truth as my own and wear it like a millstone around my neck all through my teenhood and the better part of my adult life.
20-odd years later, as sunny and vibrant as a spring day, Laura is looking at me with a different kind of blue eyes and a different sort of piercing, all smiles.
“Nonesense! There’s no such thing, my lovely!” she rebuts my highly-intellectualized claim that I’m not the creative type.
“We’re ALL creatives and creators. That’s the universal law that governs the Universe we live in and our creative energies keep the Earth spinning on its axis!” she says with the unwavering confidence of a reformed ex-convict who’s been to hell but found their way back unscathed.
She herself broke that law and committed the crime of buying into the misguided belief that creativity is a rare gift bestowed upon a select few, the chosen ones, God’s blue-eyed boys.
But she served time behind the bars of “I’m not creative” high-security prison, unlearned that belief, righted the wrong and set herself and her creativity free. She ridded hersef of that stigma and is now a redeemed ex-felon on a mission to help others to break free of their shackles.
It was as liberating as growing wings to understand that when you take off the ideological straightjacket and you allow for the possibility that you and every other individual have something valuable to contribute to the world, the creative act frees you up. There isn’t ONE right way to be creative; there are MILLIONS of right ways to do it!
So, I’m Simona, reforming ex-prisoner and I’m presently learning, with shaking hands, how to reclaim, own and honour my creative gifts, for I believe the world would be a lesser place without them, and this is my confession.
When I was just a kite
Remember that day I was just a kite?
With carefree hands, I claimed the sky
I claimed its stories and its dues
Its blue dominion, all mine!
I peeled it naked, cloud by cloud
Soft cotton at the core
It yielded its cerulean eye
Which wept an open door.
Look down I did, how could I not?
Perched on its shoulders and wide-eyed
I hadn’t known that sun shines light
On empty shells that dream at night.
I saw old houses, hollow-eyed
Abode for shackled souls
The skyline teemed with crippled dreams
Like leper colonies, the fiends!
I had not known that hearts can break
And surely, so can bones
When ears go deaf and eyes go blind
To the suffering of your kind.
Why had I never heard the growl
Of hungry bellies, so piercing yet so faint
Through the thick glass ceiling
Above their head
It’s hard to make a dent.
Scraped knees and trembling fingers dig
Skilled scavengers through mud
For a slice of joy or cinders, deep
Or maybe for their God.
I learned right then that money speaks
The language of the rich
Vernacular that millions poor
Will never learn in school.
Nor had I known that ‘I love you’
Is just a string of words
Rings hollow on too many lips
And honey on too few.
Oh, how I wanted to unsee the earth tiled up with bones!
The wars that passed, the wars that are
The wars that are to come.
I shut my eyes, shut out this truth
What wicked wretched game
The mighty sky was playing at!
‘How could I have known?’
I shunned the blame.
‘When I was just a kite?’
Remember when I claimed the sky?
I was a kite no more.
Do creativity your way,
Contributors of this story: Simona Beraru wrote this story, Oana Filip edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge with the development, Katerina Nedelcu took the photo.