Season 2, Episode 2:
For the best experience I’d recommend listening, but if you prefer to read the automated podcast please see below: this is an automated transcript using Otter so please don’t take the spellings/grammar too seriously!
In this episode, I’m sharing:
-Why my memory bank is so important
-What it is that’s make me question my sense of self right now?
-The values + beliefs that help me navigate my life
Welcome to episode 2 of The Happier Creative podcast. I’m your host Ruth Hoskins, thank you so much for tuning in.
The Happier Creative is a podcast that’s part memoir, part an essay on creative life and part guide to help you upgrade your life through allowing more creativity into it.
I’m here to help you explore how you live and work creatively as we navigate lockdown and beyond. I believe that creativity is a tool to help reduce anxiety and help us live and work better, whether we work full-time as a creative or have a creative business or we want to bring more creativity into our lives for a simpler, more joyful life.
In today’s episode I’m searching for the answer of self identity. Because, right now, do we even know who we are anymore? It’s something to explore if you’re nodding along thinking about this time we’re living in and trying to navigate our crazy lives together.
Firstly, I hope you’re safe and well. Dunno how you’re managing this school / work / life juggle. I’m broadcasting this from my new writing space – my bedroom! I’ve set up a desk looking onto the garden, it’s really sunny in the mornings and it’s nice to look out at the grass, trees and flowers. And I just love watching our garden birds. I fully appreciate not everyone has outside space; this is our first proper garden and I’m feeling thankful for the space every day.
My husband Tony has set up himself on the front drive in our yellow campervan Annie.
So we’re now both set up with spaces we can retreat to once we’ve done the home schooling activities. I’ll share some photos in the show notes if you’re like me and love to know what people’s homes look like!
As I’m broadcasting this from my bedroom too and hoping the kids won’t come in and distract me. They just seem to have that knack of knowing exactly the worst time don’t they?
I don’t know about you but I’ve felt really reflective, wanting to find the right words to articulate how I’m feeling in the hope it might soothe some of you. I’ve spent a few weeks asking myself, who they hell even am I?
It started off in my work but really it applies to life. And as I so often do, without my parents alive to help remind me of who I am, I’ve dug into my greatest possession to get some comfort and make sense of everything and that is my memory bank.
The first memory in my bank is this. It’s 1986. I’m 10. I’m soaking up a French food market in a village by the Atlantic Ocean – a real happy place for me; I’m holding my dad’s hand as I take in the exotic rainbow of produce, the foreign, heat-splattered sounds feel exciting to me; the opulent displays of jams, marmalades, honey. Uh. Amazing.
My dad’s shirt is unbuttoned, his large moobs protruding but he doesn’t care because, well, he’s like that! He stops to smack his lips at almost every stall as we sample as we go, using his (extraordinarily embarrassing) French.
I sit on a crate of prickly pairs and have a splintered bottom. We stop at an Oyster Hut; for 1 franc we buy a dozen oysters with a small glass of white wine to share. I feel so grown up as I sip the wine and let the oysters slide down inside laced with shallots and lemon juice, the omnipresent ocean roaring behind us as the salty molluscs awaken my taste buds. Later that day we buy a rotisserie chicken and sauté potatoes on an open fire.
It’s my first memory of forging a bond over food with my dad; a magnificent, enthusiastic if excessive, kinda cook. He was delighted that I loved them, and even more delighted to share a glass of wine with me, my dad believing in all the good things in life.
When I think back to this day, it encapsulates so succinctly who I am and what’s important to me. At this crazy strange time, I’ve been able to re-evaluate who I am and who I’m not and it’s helped me feel clearer, I guess, in all this kinda confusion about the future. These guiding values are still the ones I come back to: Adventure, Art, Freedom, Expression + Curiosity.
So today I’m going to talk about each of them cos I believe – and will go further into this in a future episode – that expressing who we really are is one of the most important things we can do to build bonds with people. This matters both in our private lives as well as when we’re communicating to the world – through social media or at events or on Zoom – a bit more relevant to us all today.
OK< firstly I’m going to start with adventure, one of my favourite ways to live life. This is one of my foundational needs and it spills over into all kinds of areas of my life. For me, there is no greater joy that turning up somewhere new, showing my kids the world, learning how other people live, eat and love.
My earliest memories of adventure again were gifted to me by my parents, who lived every day in a kind of world of slightly eccentric marvel. Even a car picnic near York was elevated. We’d look for places to pull up, park our red VW Beetle Pluto and find a shady tree to roll out the picnic blanket. There were never any plastic wrapped cheese sandwiches in our family. Dad would have spent the previous day making caramelised onion tarts, anchovy toasts or mushroom vol-au-vents, maybe a green bean and wild garlic salad with sun-dried tomatoes and we’d have my mum’s home-made elderflower cordial to drink.
It wasn’t just my dad who loved adventure, my mum and aunty back-packed their way around India and South East Asia in their late 60s. I always connected and inspired by their stories as they painted a picture as bright and vivid and intense as those countries are.
One Christmas we travelled to Kerala, and as we arrived at our quirky hotel, watching the dawn rise over the river is a movie in my mind that I revisit time and time again. Still a crystal clear luxury to me are the sounds of morning chanting flowing across from the other side of the river as we watch kingfishers fly by with our wintery toes gently thawing out in the soft, warm sand.
This call to adventure has never left me, it just shines brighter inside me. And even through some really shitty times, I’ve used this as a moral compass of sorts; how can I turn sitting in a chemotherapy session with my husband or friends into an event, or date? And now, how can we have a summer adventure in our back garden as we navigate lockdown?
I’m sure you can relate to this, to finding a sense of purpose and adventure wherever you are.
And I’m really not telling you this to sound smug. God knows, like anyone, there’s been massive lows. The reality of losing both my parents at a relatively young age means I revisit my memory bank to feel happy, despite the overwhelming grief that washes over you like a tidal wave when you’re least expecting it. This But having this connection with the childhood version of you is an important part of working out who you really are.
And secondly, art is really important to me , although I have a mixed relationship with the word. I’ve always identified with the word creative but never dared myself to call myself an artist. But art is very important in my life; I love to explore theories and the contextual themes. And as I’m trying to live more courageously, I’m stepping into art as a value. It’s a happy place.
Two years ago I had a dodgy mammogram on my remaining boob. I had to wait a few weeks to fly back to the UK and get re scanned. In that time, art was my saviour. I spent hours in Barcelona, visiting the Picasso museum, the design museum, the Fundacio Joan Miro, I just gravitated there almost to remind myself than I’m a small human and my body, my temporary vessel is small in comparison to the world around us.
And now, how I want to show up in my life and work is to paint pictures with words; to leave a legacy so my kids know who I am, to learn to write and create across different mediums; screenwriting for example. To play around and not feel guilty about that.
My third compass dial points to freedom. Ah I love to feel free. I think partly being ADHD I find rules and rigidity difficult and life feels different when I’m constrained. Some mini routines work well for me – writing every morning, meditating, moving for example – but I have to keep periods free for spontaneity.
The feeling of freedom as I walked from my grandparents house into the village centre on hot sunny days, or of riding along with my friend Hester as we trotted around the villages surrounding York unaccompanied by an adult. The freedom of leaving school and knowing I could do whatever felt good.
The blissful freedom of running into the pounding Atlantic surf and of my first solo trip without my parents to Amsterdam and days spent dreaming in Vondel Park.
And more recently, the freedom of exploring in our campervan, with just the open road and no real plan. My favourite kinda feeling.
If you’re nodding along, I know it’s a bit hard to imagine this freedom right now. We’re constrained to save lives which is so vital instead I’m reliving adventures in my head, writing them down, looking through photos of all our travels with the kids and keeping the hope alive for more freedom soon.
My fourth guiding pillar, if you like, is expression. It’s a word that carries many nuances in terms of it’s meaning, but one thing is clear: neuroscience believes self-expression is the main way we connect, grow and navigate. It’s a way to empathise, to touch people’s hearts and minds through speaking our own truths.
I take great comfort in this. When you’re a teenager riddled with hormonal changes and a narrative that people at school start to influence you with, being able to express yourself, to feel heard, is wildly under-estimated. And it can take any form – I remember the feeling of writing my head thoughts into my sacred diary, or maybe you love to play the piano or sing or dance.
Maybe you’re like me and your words are your influence, or maybe you’re a photographer or artist and your pictures tell a relatable and aspirational story.
Again, linking this back to food, my literal obsession with never having a dull meal is really a representation of me expressing who I am through the sensory experience of cooking. A bright beetroot slaw, a fiery Korean dipping sauce, the unami – one of my all-time favourite words – taste of licking a spoonful of miso paste. It all brings me connected to my parents; my shared love of reading food books like Anthony Bourdain and Nigel Slater. I still have my dad’s copy of his book Real Fast Food. We always inscribed books in our family and I love reading them now.
To an imaginative, robust chef! All my love, Anne in my mum’s signature curly, creative and neat handwriting. A momentary capture that transports me back to that Christmas Day in 1993 when we opened presents together before heading round to our neighbours’ for stale nuts, cheap wine and olives that had seen better days. Warm, fuzzy memories to focus on when the world feels hard.
OK, finally, curiosity is my final compass point. It’s such a gift to yourself to stay curious, to ask questions, to learn more and to grow in more ways than you can think. Curiosity triggers empathy; a great gift especially in a communications landscape.
I remember driving back from Scotland as a child only on the back roads, something in us seeking adventure at every turn as the beetled roared it’s distinctive call as we drove round hairpin bends to get the best views.
And how good is it to ask people questions, to make them feel heard and listened too? To sit with an older person and try and understand the social and emotional landscape of their lives and the impact of that on them. To indulge people in their memories. I almost feel like passing these stories on is a really big and important piece of work. To curate people’s lives to help us on our own understanding of the world, and ourselves.
it’s soothing. It’s like having your own north star that you can use as a bullshit filter when you’re talking to people. This is where you know – and like yourself. Wow.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you SO much for listening. I really am grateful for any shares, reviews or ratings.I really would love to know what’s important to you, to feel like you can keep the truth of who you are, what makes you so uniquely you. As well as being nourishing now, it’s also a really good way to present who you are, whether you have a creative business or work life or you just want to have more creativity in your life.