Story 21

When I was just a kite

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.

A question by Simona, the author of this story:
What are your creative gifts and how do you honour them?

Conversations 8 comments

Let's start a personal, meaningful conversation.

Example: Practical philosopher, therapist and writer.

Well.. I didn’t see this coming. Your story and, most of all, that gift-of-a-poem are just pure bliss. Read it three times, but I feel I have a looong way to go peeling away at the onion layers – no tears envoled, just joy and gratitude.

Now to answer your question. In all honesty and awareness of the false-modesty trap, I don’t know what are my creative gifts, not really. And I like it that way – it leaves room for exploration and surprises. 

Sure, I am a problem-solver, but who isn’t? Since you are still breathing chances are you’ve solved some problems to keep you so. I may tackle creative problems with my problem-solving gifts, but I often feel like that’s just being overly precious – another way of saying I get to choose what interesting problems to solve. Lucky me.

I think I have a way with words (those around me seem to point in that direction) and I try to use this gift throughout my daily life (professional or personal). I have an unshakable reverence for the written word, its power and determination to change minds and hearts – I try to wield it responsability, especially when it counts. Among the many shapes and sizes words choose to gather in, for me, poetry is right there at the top – an exhilarating mix of grace and might. It’s no wonder people drifted away from it nowadays: it’s too much to handle, too punchy and determined to catch you wholeheartedly. But I digress..

One other creative gift (or a curse?) I seem to possess in higher quantities than most is my ability to tackle complexity, lots of it. While most people paralize after a certain point, I seem to get more fired up as things become more challenging, as variables start  dancing in otherworldly rithms. I often think I may have a masochistic tendency and this my way of feeding the beast. Lots of unknown unknowns around here; as it should be – we’re talking about complexity after all.

Thank you, Simona, for hugging my day. I hug you back.

Simona Berarusays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:Unicorn, tinckering around with words

Dear Vlad!

I’m humbled by your comment and your hug and you’re most welcome 😊! The gift of poems is something I’ve rediscovered recently and it never ceases to amaze me the sweet power it wields over people, how it can transform both minds and hearts because it teaches us to see beyond limits and beyond the practical function of words.

As for creative gifts, I feel a better word would be creative potential that you can tap into to fuel your creative pursuits. ( problem-solving, thinking out-of-the-box, communicating and forging relationships creatively, you strike me as the type of person who feels at home with all these and I’m sure many more).

Relevant commenter background or experience:A kind soul, a believer in the power of stories

Dear Simona, thank you once again for trusting me and the entire process of writing. Your story makes our community better and stronger. On top of that, I like to believe that it opens gateways that I did not dare to imagine before.

Poetry is love and one of the closest roads for two people to listen and accept each other. These particular lines felt empowering due to how raw yet honest they are.

“I learned right then that money speaks
The language of the rich
Vernacular that millions poor
Will never learn in school.”

I genuinely think that one of my creative gifts is to see the light in others and help them embrace it. I sometimes call it reaching our potential, but it’s often more a feeling than a concrete outcome.

Thank you for reminding me!

Simona Berarusays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:The Unicorn who's standing on your shoulders.

Dear Oana,

Your creative gift is surely not for the meek or the faint of heart and I’m sure it can feel overwhelming at times, leading people into the blazing light of their full potential. You are an enabler and the shoulders that so many people stand on. I believe it is a privilege, I hope you see it that way too! I’m sure there’s frustration, doubts, inescapable malaise that come with the territory but they always vanish when you remember that living up to your creative potential and leading change from the heart, as you are,  is not about reaching a destination but embarking on the journey and enjoying the ride. Come rain or shine!

Ioana F.says:
Relevant commenter background or experience:Writer, storyteller, teacher, occasional painter & singer

Simona, let me congratulate you for the courage to write this piece in your unique way. I think, it stimulates everyone to enjoy things from a different perspective and to look vulnerability straight in ‘the eyes’, guided by your journey.I would say my creative gifts are writing, sometimes singing and drawing and I try to honour them by practicing them constantly – even if it means once a month. As long as, I don’t quit any of them, they continue to make my life richer and more pleasant.

Simona Berarusays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:Unicorn, thankful for your gifts!

Dear Ioana,

My hope is that my journey is in fact a collective journey with whomever has the courage to ride along and the sensibilities to open their heart to the message of my story. As you might have discovered already yourself, honouring your creative gifts has far-reaching reverberations on the people around you who are touched and inspired by your creative energies and the beauty you put into the world.  Not only does it make your life more meaningful and joyful but it inspires others to want the same for themselves. So keep writing singing, drawing, dancing and never doubt that the world around you is a better place because you do ❤.

Miruna Crețusays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:A small unicorn discovering the world 🦄🌎

‘What are your creative gifts and how do you honour them?’

Since I was little people have called me a creative child for writing songs, making up dance moves, drawing, painting, in general for thinking out-of-the-box. I’ve always loved learning new things and I still do.

Do I consider myself a creative person? Yes. Am I really a creative person? I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t know what creativity looks like or should be. I know what society tell me creativity should be, but maybe this isn’t the real one. And none of us knows what true creativity should be. It’s possible that the most boring human to be the most creative one or my cat to be the most creative living being. All of us can be truly creative, but will never know. Or will we?

Simona, your story has given me another perspective and made me doubt all my knowledge about this subject, which I like. Your creation is beautiful and inspiring as the other stories you told me over the years.

I’m so proud of you, auntie! I love you and I can’t wait to give you witchy hugs!😊😘

Simona Berarusays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:Proud ant, feeling blessed ❤

Dear Miruna,

You cannot begin to imagine the surprise and sense of pride I felt reading your comment! ❤To be honest, I’ve always considered your cat to be the laziest and dullest cat alive, so I’d be in awe to find out that it can pull off some really creative, in-your-face sort of tricks.

Does it? Personally, I believe there are a lot of myths and misconceptions relative to creativity and that’s probably why it is so difficult for us to recognise it even when it’s staring us in the face. One misconception is that creativity equates artistic or poetic talent. Sure, they may overlap, but you don’t need talent to be creative, you need imagination and the drive to put it to work to create or to make something original or something of value to yourself or others. For example, the witch hugs ( witchy hugs as you call them) are a creative way of showing affection in a fun way, communicating love and openness to enter a child’s world, to engage in play and games in order to connect. There is no talent in that, just feeling and joy. Talent is a different kettle of fish, I’d say. It takes a well-rehearsed skill or natural inclination honed not to perfection but to excellence, in order to get there.

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