Every person has a backstory, these histories may be dramatic, mundane, traumatic, triumphant, or just plain boring. No matter what type of backstory you have, there are treasures hidden in it waiting to be unlocked into your life. Sarah recently wrote about mapping our creative genome and finding the treasures hidden in our family line, today I want to talk about the same idea but from a different angle - looking at your cultural heritage. I think of our cultural influences as being like the spices in the soup of our lives. Depending on what culture you grew up in those spices may be chicken bullion, curry, chili, etc. The spices add flavor, color, and interest to our lives, but also need to be balanced so that the overall soup remains tasty.
My Mom moved many times growing up as the daughter of an itinerant preacher. She attended three different high schools and lived everywhere from the Carolinas to Hawaii. Despite all of those moves, much of her cultural influences are Southern. Many of her family's close friends were from the South and, once her family settled down, most of them ended up living in Southern states. She grew up always hosting people in their home, spending time with a big family (five kids), and traveling. My Dad was born and raised in New York City in a Jewish family of four, with polar opposite upbringing, family structure, and dynamics from my Mom. His neighbors were rowdy Irish boys who raced cars down the street, and he grew up going to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan every weekend during the winter, and fishing upstate during the summer.
The subcultures that my parents both brought into our family were incredibly influential on my life. In addition to the exposure to arts and sciences from my Dad, as well as the value on family time and music that we got from my Mom, we grew up in Colorado which added a laid back vibe to our family culture. Every city that you live in will add it's flavor to the spice of your life. Each person you are in close relationship with, the dynamics of your family, and the cultures that your parents and grandparents were influenced by will all contribute to the way that you view the world. Culture influences perspective. I grew up believing that I didn't have to be formally educated in order to learn, and that I could get anything I wanted if I worked hard. Other friends have vastly different perspectives because their culture put more pressure on them to conform to a certain mold or career path, or didn't value creative expression.
Every single subculture contributes a flavor that, when combined, give us a totally unique form of creative expression. What cultures and subcultures are influencing you? There are both positive and negative influences, treasures and traps, that come through those subcultures and you get to discover what those are and how to use them to your advantage. If you over salt your soup, it may require adding more ingredients, or more water to balance the flavor. The same can be true of our cultural heritage. If your culture says that no one will help you and you're responsible for making your own way, than you will need to be intentional about asking for help. If your culture says that you're only allowed to make art if you make money, than you will need to be intentional to give yourself time to play. If your culture gives you permission to be wild and colorful, than allow yourself to express that in your creativity. Looking at a superhero example, Superman's parents were leaders whose place in their culture was one of caring for others and looking out for the good of their planet, it's easy to see how that influenced Superman.
The culture that you and your family grew up in is an invaluable part of your creative backstory. You wouldn't be you without your cultural heritage. Take time this week and look at the treasures, and the traps, that are in your culture and see what you can do to unlock the treasure and overcome the traps. The rest of your creative journey will be influenced by how you respond to your cultural heritage. How do you want to flavor your soup?
Emily is a creative entrepreneur, born in the South, raised in Colorado, and loving life in Brooklyn, NY. As the co-founder of Bright Ideas she spends her time doing freelance photography, writing music and blog post, designing pretty web things, drinking coffee, experimentally cooking, and exploring NYC. You can listen to Emily's music, follow her adventures on Instagram or Twitter, see what inspires her on Pinterest, check out her photography on Facebook, or hire her here.