If you saw Elizabeth Gilbert speak in the Memorial Chapel, like me, you probably want to be her best friend. Since Gilbert was touring with Oprah, the University had to book her a year in advance. With heavy anticipation, she rose to the stage surrounded by a crowded chapel with complete confidence and a rad pair of glasses frames. Gilbert delivered a powerful speech on the intertwining of creativity and fear. Gilbert spoke with warmth and wit, making her lecture feel like she was personally telling each one of us how to live the best version of our lives.
Immediately, Gilbert dismisses the connotation that creativity stems from the arts. She reinvents creativity by defining its root: being curious about the world. Humanity’s uniqueness comes from this curiosity. We all made a creative choice and let the reins of our fear go, by choosing to come to college. We didn’t allow fear to paralyze us.
University of Redlands freshman Allie Kuroff, connected with Gilbert’s unique focus on fear.
“I liked that she used a lot of imagery to describe fear as an entity,” Kuroff said. “Fear is present in the backseat but you’re not allowed to drive here. [Gilbert] acknowledged it but doesn’t allow people to control you. Recognizing fear is a legitimate part of your life that you can access. Very often we try to be fearless, but I think it is stronger to recognize your fear instead of pretending that it is not there.”
Throughout college, we use our creativity to develop the little jewels within us all. Within each of our demanding classes we are searching for the work that makes our souls leap for joy and crave more. We work writing papers, solving equations, and conducting experiments. Gilbert said that when it all seems to be too much, a sinister voice ignites in our mind asking who we think we are. Questioning to our core who are we to try and achieve everything that we want. Gilbert advises to answer it simply and with authority. I am an adventurer, I am an environmentalist, I am a feminist, and I am someone who cares about this world. By asserting myself, I have power over my life and the doubts will secede. I found it interesting that Gilbert has the courage to be able to turn her self doubt into what fuels her fire of creativity. It was humbling to see such a powerful woman say that she has fears when she starts to write or attempt new things. If she gave up, she wouldn’t have made it to be a New York Times Bestseller, in an industry where once if women had the courage the publish, they had to do it under a false name. Gilbert states that we have the entitlement to follow a vision because we exist as human beings.
She closes with a story of a man pursuing his dream by living the life of a struggling artist in Paris. He’s at a pub and falls into conversation with aristocratic French kids that are enchanted by him. He gets invited to a masquerade ball hosted by one of the kids uncle that is a Duke. Kind of the Disney dream right? Since he is an artist he is able to create a masterpiece of a costume that would only be suitable for a Duke’s party. But when he arrives at the castle, he realizes that the theme of the party got lost in translation– looking down he sees a room filled with traditional medieval clothing and royal family jewels. He is dressed as lobster. He looks at his costume and sees he is not up to par with everyone else. But he made the costume and it was a representation of him. He has the courage to go down to the party and declares himself the ‘court lobster.’ He could of been mocked or asked to leave, but instead he faced his fears as he descended the stairs to the party. It is important to have such courage to be comfortable knowing you could completely fail, but be okay with it. If I let fear take control of every opportunity, I would not have very many experiences. By living outside of comfort, I have been able to expand every thought I have had of the world.
Gilbert filled the chapel with laughter, when comparing her writing to a potato sack with nails in it. Gilbert caringly held her hands out and said “look I made it.” When it comes to classes or searching for a career, we are not likely to be the best in the room. The work we create might not always get the best grade. But the importance is trying and putting our soul into whatever we do. Because a creatively led life will lead to a life with purpose.
[Image courtesy of Sky Ung, Redlands Bulldog photographer]