One of my favorite stories about creative expression and the opportunities it affords for deepening self knowing is about a 10 year old girl that I had known since she was 7. First through third grade, she experienced perfection in everything she did: amazing art, excellent penmanship, brilliant. After summer break, she returned to the fourth grade with the same enthusiasm she greeted all of life. In the middle of a lesson I came upon her in tears – she was appalled at her workbook – it was, “messy and out of control” she quietly cried to me.
“Why this is wonderful and exciting!” I said. It was clear by the way she looked at me that she could not see how her work could be ‘wonderful and exciting’. “Remember when you were 7 and 8,” I said, “the way you used to work and play?” And we remembered the kinds of things she thought about and loved to do – how her work looked just the way she wanted it to look. And we realized that she wasn’t that person anymore. Starting in the third grade, we remembered, things in her were beginning to change. And now, in the fourth grade, we were witnessing the change in her being expressed through her art and writing. We talked about how chaotic and uncomfortable change can be and feel and we wondered about who she was becoming. Now we began to look at her work with interest and expectation.