My Journey Back to Creativity

My Journey Back to Creativity

“When my daughter was seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forget?’” – Howard Ikemoto (artist and art professor)

I’ve always been creative, for pretty much as long as I can remember. My childhood was filled with arts, crafts and music, and every day was an exciting adventure of creation.

Somewhere along the way though I lost touch with my creative self. It happened slowly but surely, until one day I found myself at 21 years of age staring blankly at a computer screen filled with spread sheets wondering what on earth I was doing.

I had just finished a business degree at uni and started my first full-time job. I’d landed a graduate position at a big insurance company straight out of my degree. It was something I had strived towards and worked incredibly hard for. But there I sat wondering how I got there.

My 9-5 Existence

I would go to work, sit in my cubicle and do what I considered rather mundane and meaningless work five days a week 9 to 5. It was uninspiring to say the least.

As I sat at my desk each day I would look around at all the other people in that big grey office. I was the youngest in my department by almost ten years and I wondered to myself where all the other people my age were. Out having fun, discovering themselves and their passions I assumed. In many cases I was correct.

Many of my own friends were out doing great things – studying their creative passions, starting bands and going on exchange at uni to live in a new country for a year. The stark contrast with my own situation was confronting and thought provoking.

The days were long, tedious and mundane. Imagining myself working in that office, or others similar, for one year was painful enough, let alone a lifetime. Before long I decided that I needed to make a change.

The Seeds of Change

I started looking into my options to do something I would really enjoy. Not as a new career, but rather a hobby. Something that might relieve me of the boredom of my day job and stimulate the senses.

I had always had the creative spark, though it was something I had fallen more and more out of touch with in the previous few years. One thing I had developed an interest in recently though was sewing, and with that in mind I decided to enrol in a short sewing course at my local community college. It was only a five week course but it sparked my interest and got my confidence up to think bigger.

Rediscovering My Creativity

As I dreamt bigger, I imagined the possibilities. I begun looking into local college courses for Fashion Design and just a few months later I was enrolling in a part-time design course. I attended night classes after work two nights a week and although it was exhausting it got me through what was otherwise a rather mundane existence. I looked forward to the creative outlet and I learnt so much.

I learnt how to sew, drape, make patterns, design, illustrate and more. It was stimulating and fun. I felt so engaged and excited for this work. In fact, it was pretty much the complete opposite of how I felt when doing my work at the insurance company. That work drained me. It left me feeling unfulfilled and exhausted. In contrast my fashion design work lifted me up. It gave me energy, enthusiasm and joy.

I spent the next year struggling away at my job at the insurance company.

As it became clearer that fashion was what I wanted to do full-time, the reality of my day to day work became harder. Sometimes it brought me to tears. Most of the time though it just left me feeling completely flat. No energy, no motivation and zero fulfilment.

Deciding to Leave It All Behind

I knew I needed to make this a bigger change, but I was scared. I had invested years of my life into my dream of working in the business world. I had strived towards it at school and throughout university. To throw it all away felt like I would be letting down myself and everyone around me who had helped me get there.

Before long though, I received the push I needed. My ultimate salvation came during a company restructure. It was 2009, right in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis and my company was one of many cutting staff. Hundreds lost their jobs and there were tears and uncertainty over the future by many of the people I worked with. The layoffs came slowly, and secretly, though with some guilt, I hoped I would be next.

The Push I Needed

One morning my manager called me into her office to break the news to me. I too was to be retrenched. I tried to hold in my excitement, but it was my out – the push I so badly needed. I was secretly overjoyed.

I gladly accepted and I knew at that moment what I was to do. That very day I contacted the college where I was studying to see if I could study my design course full time. Luckily there was a spot and over the next year and a half I would study Fashion Design full-time and get my Diploma.

Following My Heart

The last few years have been exciting because I’ve been following my heart to do what I love. Leaving my work at the insurance company wasn’t my clear cut to a creative life. In fact the last few years have seen me in and out of the business world to varying degrees, often for necessity’s sake.

Every time I have been back for a short stint it has only convinced me further that doing what I am doing is the absolute right thing for me. And at every point over the last few years I have had my new goal guiding me – to live creatively everyday and do what I love.

Living the Change Every Day

Today I am living a creative life every day as the designer of my own fashion label and the founder and writer of a blog on all things creative. The journey hasn’t always been easy or clear cut, but I’m so glad I’m here.

Sometimes it’s hard to make a change. We often feel we have invested so much in our current situation that to make the switch would be to waste everything we have put in up to that point. I believe though that when you know at your very core that what you are doing is not right, it’s time.

I’m so glad I set the wheels of change in motion with that very small first step because it has lead me to where I am today.

Have you made a change to live a more creative life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Photo by martinak15

Michaela Cristallo

Michaela inspires people to embrace their creativity and live a creative passion filled life every single day at her website For the Creators. Join her to embrace your creativity and grab your free creative inspiration pack including her Creators at Work eBook and printable Creators’ Manifesto poster, click here to get yours.

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55 Comments

  1. I couldn’t help but crack a smile, Michaela. “I tried to hold in my excitement, but it was my out – the push I so badly needed. I was secretly overjoyed.” A reaction like that from being let go is just so amazing! It’s someone freeing you from your chains, someone pushing you out of the comfort zone without any chance of clinging on at the last second, and that is EXACTLY what you needed.

    Sometimes it is those external forces outside of our control that end up helping us and giving us that final push into the lives we want. My story is similar to yours, however, my journey started because a friend of mine popped his knee. :)

    Reply
    • Vincent, I’m so glad to hear that you too received the push you needed and are on a similar journey.

      You’re quite correct – it really did feel like being freed from chains! Even though the chains that held me there were mostly in my own mind, sometimes we do need an outside force to push us over the line. Mine came at exactly the right time and I’m forever grateful for that.

      Reply
  2. I literally just started The Artist’s Way yesterday. It’s a 12-week course about rediscovering your creative self designed to reach the same conclusions you’ve come to in this post. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing. I can’t see how my starting that course yesterday and receiving the link to this post in my e-mail today aren’t connected events on some level outside either one of us.

    Keep it up. I’ll meet you there one day.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad to hear that my story came at exactly the right time for you Ian! I’ve heard a lot of good things about The Artists Way but have never read it myself, I may just need to borrow that one from the library on my next visit.

      Best of luck with your own creative discovery, you’ve taken the first step which is often the hardest. You’re just starting an amazing journey which has the potential to change your life.

      I’d love to hear about your progress, stop by my website For the Creators sometime and let me know how it’s going :)

      Reply
  3. I loved the part where you said “you know at your very core”. This is what I felt when I recently left my job in the corporate world after eighteen years. I had known for a lot longer really, but was scared to take the plunge.
    Now it feels amazing to be following what I love to do and make a difference to other people’s lives.
    I am so happy that you found out earlier than me, what it feels like to listen to your dream and I wish you so much luck!

    Reply
    • I’m so glad to hear that you found the courage to take the plunge Joan! I can’t even imagine how I would have felt after 18 years in the corporate world. It must have been so wonderfully freeing for you to take that step.

      It’s great to hear you are now doing what you love. May we both prosper in our new creative lives and never return to the types of uninspiring jobs we left behind!

      Reply
  4. That was thoroughly inspiring to say the least.
    You know, taking the first step is the toughest step in any given situation.
    I’m very glad you shared your inspiring story with others. It really helps.

    Reply
    • I’m so happy to hear my story has inspired you Pavithra! You’re right, taking the first step is always the hardest. Best of luck with taking your first step if you haven’t already.

      Reply
  5. Michaela, thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story. I, like you, was scared to feel like I was letting someone down if I made a change I didn’t think others would approve of. Unfortunately, I let my fears prevent me from acting for many years.

    Luckily, I have a husband who gently but firmly supported me and together we committed to a life WE loved. Now we own our own business, work many fewer hours, and are able to pursue our creative endeavors. It is a life that, ten years ago, I never could have imagined.

    So inspiring to hear your story!

    Reply
    • Tammy, thank you for your kind words and I’m so glad to hear that you have found the support you need to commit to a life you love!

      Other people’s expectations can weigh so heavily on us, even though we know we probably shouldn’t be giving them the weight we do. I’ve found my friends and family to be incredibly supportive of my decisions throughout this journey, so for me at least those fears of letting someone down were really just in my own head.

      Reply
  6. I too made the journey from corporate world to creativity. Now everyday I dont go to “work” because I love what I do so much that time doesnt matter. I no longer clock watch and I attribute a lot of it to reading The Artists Way also. The quote from that book “Leap! and the net will appear” is plastered now firmly in my subconcious.

    Reply
    • That’s exactly how I feel Julie! It’s no longer work, it’s play. It’s simply doing something we love to do, and would do regardless of the reward. It’s the absolute best place to be. I’m so happy to hear you’ve made the leap too.

      And what a fantastic quote, I will remember that one!

      Reply
  7. Fantastic story and well-written. It feels good to read that someone said no to the status quo
    and yes to their creative passions. My wife and I are trying to do this too. We have made some big changes, but we need even bigger ones. Your story helps us keep going. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thank you CJ for your kind words :) It’s so amazing to hear that my story has helped you in whatever small way.

      I encourage you with all my heart to keep making those big changes. Every change has the potential to completely transform your life. It’s great to hear that you and your wife are working together on this, support is so important and you two will keep each other going!

      Reply
  8. Thank you for your story. I have recently in the past year found my creative self again. I am almost retired and I had lost me in the world of computers, meaning I became a computer technician at the age of 55. It wasn’t what I had planned and not really I wanted to do but because of family constraints felt obligated to keep working in the field. I still am working in the computer field but little by little I am find me again. I published my first two silly books, I write a column for an area newspaper and I am teaching my grandchildren to never grow up.

    Keep inspiring others to look for their passion and they will find themselves. Congratulations on your courage to go for your dreams.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your kind words Julie. I’m so happy to hear that you are connecting with your creativity again. Working in a field you are not passionate about out of necessity can feel so restrictive. It’s great to hear you are making progress on the things you love!

      Teaching your grandchildren to never grow up is the most amazing thing you could do. I have so much respect for you in hearing that because children are so often taught to grow up and enter the ‘real world’ where ‘work isn’t meant to be fun’. You are shaping their perceptions of themselves and what it means to be a person in this world. As their grandmother you have the potential to change the course of their lives for the better just through your words. I’m feeling inspired by you now Julie! Thank you :)

      Reply
    • Wow, Julie! I love that your grandchildren are going to hear this from you. Most adults never say anything like this, and it is so refreshing to hear! Love it!!!!

      Reply
  9. Congratulations on the changes you made in order to live the creative life, and thank you for the awesome post! I’ve dedicated this summer to walking 1264 miles for a charity, and to finally taking my “real” self seriously. Meaning I am going to do what makes me truly happy, (writing, helping others, and creating art) and see where things go. I’ve been getting rid of “stuff” left and right, and on July 15th I depart. Nervous? Yep. Excited? HELL YES! Thanks again. :)

    Reply
    • Congratulations to you Derek, walking 1264 miles for charity is huge! I’m so glad to hear you are finally doing what makes you happy.

      You’re glowing with enthusiasm, to me this says you are doing exactly what you need to be doing. Best of luck with your trip!

      Reply
  10. Nice and inspiring post. One may have the tenacity to carry out the job assigned but doing a creative thing one loves gives joy and does not tire. i was a bureaucrat by chance and not by choice but I carried on and did rather well. Still , my inner urge was to pursue spiritual life, reading and writing. After retirement, I was advised to take up some job ‘ to keep busy’. I declined as I could not let go the chance to be with my self, pursuing things which interest me. Your blog re-affirms my decision. Follow your heart-seems to be your message.Money is important but one need not barter one’s soul for this.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words Mahavir. It sounds like you are now pursuing the life you always knew you wanted inside, that’s great to hear.

      That’s exactly my message – follow your heart. People assign so much importance to money. It is of course essential to have the basics to live a comfortable life, but many people do unfortunately barter their souls for it. I don’t believe that is the path any of us are meant for.

      Reply
  11. Thanks for reminding me what courage it takes to follow your dreams. I worked so hard to achieve goals set by society and thought I’d be guaranteed happiness only to end up in empty disillusionment. When I left my corporate job to pursue my real interests, I lost friends, worried my family and had to face up to the insecurity of being jobless for a while. All I had was the faith that I was doing the right and certainly not easy thing but I’m so much better for it now. Here’s to living the road less traveled.

    Reply
    • Thanks Wangari. I think so many of us fall into this trap, only to end up exactly as you say – in empty disillusionment. I’m so happy to hear you took the plunge and left the corporate job that was causing you so much misery.

      Sometimes faith in ourselves is all we have. Not everyone will understand. I hope your skeptical friends and family can now see that you are living a better life today because of it :)

      Reply
  12. I’m lucky that I began scrapbooking about 13 years ago and now card making is another creative outlet. But my photography is my true passion and I’m learning and growing on my own thanks to the internet. I haven’t figured out how to make this passion support me financially and it may never. But I know it gives me joy, pride and a fulfillment that I never dreamed possible.

    Reply
    • Great to hear you are enjoying being creative through scrapbooking and also pursing your passion for photography Sherri! Finding a way to make your passion support you financially can be difficult. I too am still working this out. If what you are doing gives you such joy you will find a way to make it work in your life :)

      Reply
  13. I teach for a living which can be creative, but I spend my moorings and evenings writing and playing music. I’m a single dad and can’t leave my teaching job. I hope my push comes in sales and offers from publishers/producers in the future. I’m releasing my second book on May 1, 2013.

    Reply
    • It sounds like you’re making some great progress Dan with a book release coming up! The fact that you are still pursuing your creative passions despite not being able to leave your job out of necessity shows your commitment to living creatively. Best of luck to you :)

      Reply
  14. I loved this post. I wouldn’t say that our situation is the same but there are similarities and parallels that I can draw.
    I wouldn’t say I’ve invested any time or thought necessarily to get to where I am today. I finished school. tried college twice which made me alienated and depressed and now i feel a lot of pressure to make a decision(before im too old) as to what i should do. Its come down to chefing. Although I have no desire to be screamed at day to day all the while getting fatter and greyer (im 23 and not fat or grey) until i’ve been indoctrined into the chefs ethos, i certainly tink there is a lot to be learned here and it can be somewhat creative, although I think they often milk this point on TV (the glorification of chefs on TV is unsurpassed today) . I am a guitar [player at heart and honestly , if i could say there is one thing ide love to spend the rest of my days doing, its playing music and teaching music and possibly even learn how to handcraft guitars (I worked for the business end of such a company although no positions are available). Good on ya though for dropping out of a horribly boring and creatively sterile job.

    Reply
    • Thanks Boy for sharing your experience. While I’ve never been a chef I have heard that the reality of it is very different to how it’s presented on TV! Still though if you feel you have the opportunity to be creative in your job that is fantastic!

      Keep pursuing music, if it’s what you love you will find a way to make it work for you. even if that is not immediately. Good luck!

      Reply
  15. What an inspiring story, Michaela! Life always seems to provide exactly what is needed :) I’m excited to see your connection to creativity inspire others towards change.

    Reply
    • Thanks Aaron for your kind words and for checking out my post. I think so too, the timing of my retrenchment was perfect and has pushed me to where I am today. I’m excited to see us both inspire others! Good things ahead I’m sure!

      Reply
  16. Wow. Great post, Michaela! Your story is so similar to mine except it took my another 20 years to figure it out. I returned to graphic design school when I was 40 and finally experienced the energy, excitement and fulfillment I had been looking for. I had buried my creative self, only to discover it years later when I finally made the decision there had to be something more. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story!

    Reply
    • That’s fantastic to hear Carma! I’m so glad to hear that you took the plunge and made such a positive change in your life. Many people live their whole lives doing something that doesn’t light them up. Good on you!

      Reply
  17. I loved this article. I was an incredibly creative youth and the system beat it right out of me. Its only now that I’m reclaiming it. Easy article to connect to, great job.

    Reply
    • Thanks Josh your for kind words! I think far too many of us lose our creativity as we grow up. I’m glad to hear you are reclaiming it now!

      Reply
  18. You seem so happy! I mean this in the best possible way…I’m glad you got fired!

    Reply
    • haha thanks Kyle. And yes I am happy! I hope you are too :)

      Reply
  19. Hi Michaela. the blog 30yearoldninja.com has an update recently that talks about the something similar – I think the message will resonate with you (the writer has written for this blog too).

    I do have a question for you – before you were made redundant, what plans did you have to leave the insurance company and pursue creativity?

    - Razwana

    Reply
    • Thanks Razwana, I’ll check it out.

      Before I was made redundant I was planning to continue studying my fashion design course part time (night and weekend classes). This would have taken at least another 3 years to complete so I only would have just finished the course last year at that rate! To be honest though, I don’t know that I would have lasted that long so my redundancy was perfect timing.

      Reply
      • Wow! Talk about fate !

        Reply
  20. i should work on protecting mine
    too much routine might kill my creativity
    thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • Glad to hear you enjoyed the post Farouk. Routine can definitely be a creativity killer, try to immerse yourself in a little bit of creativity every day.

      Reply
  21. I too had a wake up call when I was around 20. I thought about my childhood and how I grew up creating art in any form. Every year up to my high school years were spent making collages, baking, sewing, writing, and painting. Then as an adult, that suddenly vanished as I was thrown into the work force, glued to a computer screen. It took me awhile to realize that the emptiness I was feeling was due to my creative voice being silence.

    So at this point I’m working on chipping away at the writer’s block that has become more concrete as every year passes. I’m doing yoga to help clear away the debris in my mind and body. I’m baking cookies for anyone who will eat them, and daydreaming about buying a sewing machine. And I’m looking forward to seeing what goodies land in my inbox, because I definitely just subscribed to your mailing list. :] I think For the Creators is GREAT and I can’t wait to witness its success.

    Reply
    • Thanks Jarani for stopping by and your kind words :) I’m glad to hear you too are reclaiming your creativity. Go buy that sewing machine! It’s amazing all the things you can create once you have one.

      I’m so happy to hear you are loving For the Creators. Thanks for signing up for the mailing list, I promise I won’t disappoint!

      Reply
  22. Hi Michaela,

    This was a great post to read. What a change-from insurance to fashion designer. Wow! I haven’t been exploring my creativity as much as I would like and lately its been making me restless. I have a passion for theater that I’ve been denying for years, that I’ve resolved to address this year. It is funny I came across this artile today, becaue last night was my first attempt at immersing myself in my local artist community. I say attempt, because when I got to the meeting place, it was locked and when I called,no one answered the phones. I don’t know if it was at a different building or what, but anyway, I will be sure to be there next time. But what I felt when I stood outside those locked doors was ” I belong here.” Glad you found your way. :-)

    Reply
  23. It’s great to hear you are taking the first step to rekindling your creative passion for theatre Lisa! Such a shame your first meeting last night didn’t eventuate but just taking that step has put your path in motion.

    What an amazing feeling to know you belong, it sounds like you know your calling – the only thing left to do is immerse yourself in it fully.

    Reply
  24. Oh my goodness, this is the same exact story as mine! I even worked for an insurance company and went to art school part time. The only difference is that I want to be a children’s book writer and illustrator. Luckily, after I left my corporate job, I got this amazing part-time job at a library where I’m inspired every day. It’s a struggle to make ends meet and I do miss the money (and the health insurance) sometimes, but I feel a happiness and a freedom that I’ve never felt before in my entire life. The good news is that I’m over half way through my first book and I’m hoping to self publish it this year. I never thought that my career would be making up stories and drawing them, but it’s the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.

    Bravo for your courage, Michaela! Keep up the good work!

    You are definately not alone.

    Reply
    • How amazing that we have such incredibly similar stories Christina! There’s nothing quite like an insurance company to push out the creativity in you hey!

      I know the exact feeling you’re talking about – when you wake up genuinely excited to start your day and feel such true joy while you are working. I miss the money at times too but it’s such a minor sacrifice for my happiness every day. I wouldn’t give up this freedom for anything and it sounds like you wouldn’t either.

      I’m so excited to hear you’ll be publishing your first book soon! I’d love to see the final result once it’s done, let me know if you have a mailing list I can sign up to or pop me an email when you’re finished :)

      Reply
  25. I think it was important that you knew what you wanted to do not just what you didn’t want to do!

    Reply
    • I agree Peter, and I feel lucky that I did know what I wanted to do. I think there are alot of people out there who know lots of things they don’t want to do but haven’t quite found that one thing they do want to do which is a much harder situation to be in!

      Reply
  26. Michaela,

    I read The Change Blog on a regular basis. Today I opened my email and found the blog’s newsleller about getting back to the core creativity…. because the story you tell is the one I want to pursue! Well, not exactly the same way :), but I fell like I was closed in a cage as well working for one of the world’s biggest corporations for 1,5 years so far, and 3,5 years in another one before… I am working hard, I want to be someone, earn money… when I was ca. sixteen I though if I resign from being a musician I will be more than happy: have the job in the fascinating business world, be a business woman.. a one huge WOW!
    One day I thought: gosh, do I have to live the life I really hate!? do my life have to look like that until I retire? And so I am looking for a way to unchain myself and go a creative way all the rest of my life. Thanks for showing me a man can life a wonderful and enthusiastic life!

    Reply
    • I’m so happy to hear you are looking to make a creative change in your life Joanna! I think sometimes what we believe we will gain from career in the business world isn’t quite as glamorous or fulfilling as we’d hoped once we get there. Best of luck with living your life creatively and full of enthusiasm every day. Let me know how you’re going over at my blog http://www.forthecreators.com sometime :)

      Reply
      • I will, thanks :) All the best to you too!

        Reply
  27. I’m finding this at a very similar point in my life. I thank you for the wisdom this is gonna take me far.

    Reply
  28. Hi michaela …

    Reading this some how give me a push…
    I had given up my job to follow my life long dream.
    I’ve always wanted to become a businesswoman , and have my own label..
    Working In a corporate world for almost 5 years didn’t give joy..
    Like you , everyday was a struggle for me…
    After giving up my job last year, and put-up a small business , I never been so happy( extremely happy), in fact I felt fulfilled..
    But unfortunately , 8 months later my business went bankrupt , and everything I worked hard for was gone..
    I’m dressed right now because I don’t know where to begin , and I have no choice but to go back to the world where once I turned my back to…

    Reply

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