While each person’s transformation into a Cultural Creative is completely unique, every one of us took 4 key steps to find our truth. It is our common history, our common story and it only helps to highlight just how interconnected we are.
The First Step: Questioning the Accepted Story
Our Cultural Creative (CC) journey commenced the first time we found our self challenging one of the givens. For some that first ‘question’ can arise in childhood but for others it can happen much later in life. Regardless of when we began this inner departure, at some point we determined that the accepted reason wasn’t cutting it for us.
For me, my departure began in childhood. I grew up in an upper class home in Toronto, Canada. For years, I dutifully attended Sunday school, sang in the church choir and tried to participate in our Anglican church as I thought I should. But I couldn’t fight the nagging feeling in the back of me, telling me that it wasn’t right. I couldn’t reconcile my values and ideas with the truths that were presented to me. I couldn’t understand why I needed to be told how to live my life. I wondered how a book written a thousand years ago and revised by a thousand different minds could really be my key to happiness. It all seemed to me like a big lie. It made me feel weird and alone and I wondered how I could think so differently from everyone around me, including my family.
While I may have questioned other givens as I child, in my mind, religion was the most troublesome, perhaps because I was faced with it weekly. The older I got and the more I heard, the more holes I was able to poke into its angelic surface.
This is how it happens for us. We begin to poke holes into the held values and while others may attempt to appease their minds and re-fill them, Cultural Creatives make them bigger. And the bigger the holes grow, the more we become open to new ways of thinking and the more flawed and broken the old ways seem.
Two Types of Cultural Creatives
With my mention of religion and my disenchantment with it, I think it is important for me to highlight that there are a few topics, religion included, that all Cultural Creatives do not see eye to eye on. In fact, we can actually be divided into two types – Core CC’s and Green CC’s. We are pretty much split down the middle with there being slightly more Green CC’s. Core CC’s are much more fascinated by personal growth and spirituality, as well as social activism. Green CC’s values are much more extroverted and less intensely held. And they tend to have a more traditional religious point of view. What we both share is our desire to make things better, planet-wide.
The Second Step: Setting Out
This is the point where we took the first step on the path towards our new life. This step doesn’t happen overnight, our mind or our heart leads us there gradually. And how we set out on this new path is utterly individual, some of us did it intentionally while others did it inadvertently. Regardless, none of us ever planned it.
I really started feeling like an alien around the age of 10. It was at that point that I realized that the way I thought wasn’t ‘normal’. I have vivid memories of Earth Day and an environmental awareness video featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson (back when they were together) urging us to be more environmentally conscious. I listened intently and vowed to do my part. At twelve, I presented a lively class speech on animal rights and the fur industry much to the distaste of my conservative and affluent private school classmates. At thirteen, I finally concluded that religion was not for me, and my parents having heard all my views, agreed that I no longer needed to attend. And at fifteen, I began discovering my passion for psychology and the inner self and volunteered with a nearby university professor. I was an early bloomer and I have a feeling I have my parents openness to thank.
The Third Step: Braving the Critics
When you set out on a path that hasn’t been tread before, you are vulnerable to criticism. Criticism not only from others but also from within yourself. Dr. Ray and Dr. Anderson note that CC’s are
“especially vulnerable to uncertainty and criticism because of their stance on life: they are more open-minded than most Traditionals, and they take their values more seriously than Moderns. So they listen to criticism, probably too carefully. As a result of this uncertainty, their images of success and standards of value tend to unconsciously blend Modernism, Traditionalism and their own experience.”
Coupled with this, we are challenging the dominant social codes of our culture. Because our values are not greeted warmly by everyone, we create an internalized version of the old culture, which Dr. Ray and Dr. Anderson called our “Inner Critic”. And if our external critics hit upon the same objections as our Inner Critic, we are thrown into turmoil.
Our external critics use three techniques to dismiss our ideals – they create distorted mirrors, making CC’s values and opinions appear almost comical and ripe for mockery; they refuse to talk about what truly matters, instead focusing on superficial topics; or they simply deny that there is anything that needs to be fixed at all. All of these techniques assist CC’s and the world at large from seeing through the distortions our culture has created.
I think braving the critics is an ongoing process, I know it is for me. I never expect to stop meeting people who challenge what I believe. It is up to me to not let those criticisms give fuel to my Inner Critic. She is my greatest foe, the one who makes me question things and dislike myself; she is the one that has the greatest power to wound me.
Step Four: Creating Your New Life
This is the point when you took your values and worldview and transformed them into the life you have today. It is the point when you realized that the old way would never work for you again. Each of us underwent this in a different way but we all used the same innate tools to do so – our ability to think outside the box and our ability to keep our eye on the big picture.
For me, it was a metamorphosis began over the last three years. My family had always encouraged practicality, in thought and in action, and I had tried to adhere to those values. I was educated in Business and went to work in marketing departments, thinking my dream was to be a Marketing Director. The most I could do to grasp at my passions was work in web marketing in the performing arts. Even then, my more conventional colleagues chastised me for not having a ‘real job’. To them, working in the arts did not count. And while I loved being surrounded by music, dance and theatre, this dream I was following still wasn’t working for me. I would spend many a lunch, sitting in the grass in the park, while the rest of my co-workers stayed at their desks, trying to figure out why things just didn’t feel right. At some point, I couldn’t ignore the feeling any more and I decided to quit and take a half a year to explore the world and myself. The subsequent six months were a mind revolution and I opened myself up to the pure creativity and curiosity that boiled beneath me. While I was away, I began to re-write more and more truths that by the time I returned, I had almost completed my transformation into a Cultural Creative. I say almost, as the last domino was yet to fall — my career. I was still afraid to be ‘impractical’ and I made a decision that was untrue to myself and took a role as an eMarketing Manager at a construction consulting firm. Five difficult and anxious months later, after sleepless nights, intensive soul searching and personality awakening, I had what I can only describe as an epiphany and I decided to leave my job and truly follow my passions. I decided to start my own business, where I could write and work with people who shared my values. There was a quote by a CC in The Cultural Creatives that sums up my aspirations perfectly, “my life purpose [is] to seek out that quality of human being, encounter it, and hopefully promote it.”
What a Long Strange Trip It Has Been
Each of us took our own path to get to here. And I doubt that any of us would argue that it isn’t a lonely and scary trip. But now we understand that every path leads to the same place. We are the union of the social and conscious movements.
We can wield this knowledge by spreading it. We can show other CC’s that they are a part of an ‘us’. We can use it as a beacon for those that have started on their lonely path and are unsure of where it could lead them. We need people to understand that they are a part of something bigger, a great current of change, and that the end of their path leads to a place where collectively we can make a difference.