The other night I could not sleep – it was one of those nights, when you are so damn tired that even to fall asleep exhausts you. Yet, I was just turning and turning and the more I wanted the less I could just ease. Usually, I get out of bed make some push-ups (yes, push-ups!) and then I can relax. But this time, nothing worked. Around 2.30 am, my other half turned to me and told me firmly: “You cannot sleep, make these hours count, go, get out, draw a rose or something!”.
Let’s stop here for a moment: draw? a rose? What an idea he got? And why he tells me this?! He knows I cannot draw…what is wrong with him?
But at this moment I turned, went out of bed, went to my secret commode and took out a canvas and some acrylic paints that I bought 3 years ago, when I first played with the thoughts of ‘oh, I wish I could paint’.
I sat down, I put some Fleetwood Mac for inspiration. I was excited as a kid, who draws his first letter in school. I had no idea what I want to paint or how to start at all. But I was sure of one thing: I CAN’T DRAW or PAINT!
How did I know this for sure?I was told! I was told during all my school years: you can’t draw! So by the end, lost all confidence and asked my classmates to draw the tasks for me, because I cannot! I was 11. It never occurred to me to try again. I was convinced.
Until this very night! But I felt the inner urge to create! So I painted. I painted for 2 hours mesmerized by each color I inserted into my ART – I painted a ROSE. It might not be one of the outstanding descendant of the big impressionist, yet, I fall in love with it. I like it, I enjoy looking at it. What is more: my other half enjoys too (I know, I know, he might be too subjective) – yet every time I pass by my little piece of art I smile. I created something – even though I was told I couldn’t!
Tonight I cannot sleep again. So I turned, left the bed and opened my laptop.
I cannot sleep because my mind started to list all the things I was told I could not do!
The list got longer and longer and I started to smile in the dark room. “I can’t believe all these things I was told – and look at you!” – I need to face with them and I thought you might be interested as well, so here it goes:
- at the age of 9 I applied to the Hungarian Dance Academy to be a ballerina. They took me, but only to the paying class, which meant, I had 6 month probation time. After the first week, I was told, due to my leg structure I can’t make it. I will not pass the exam. On the exam I wore the number 13 (I remember clearly). 35 people, as the jury, was in the classroom, and I entered with the fact: I can’t make it, I was told. After the exam, I had not only passed with a strong mark but my ballet master asked for my parents. They were told, that I was just too unique and what I did with my legs is a magic and the jury could not not look at me…So I stayed for an other 10 years! I became one of the bests in our class. I spent all my summers in different parts of the world. I graduated as a the best school-leaver ballet dancer – later on, I quite dancing for other reasons.
at the of 15 I grew suddenly and got a sever ‘S shape’ in my spine. I was sent to a specialist, seeing me she told it needs operation. I answered her shaking and paled as the whitest wall: but what about dance? She told me without looking at me: ‘you can’t! You have to stop dancing with this back. But you still can be snake-charmer.’ I run out with tears in my eyes. I never went back. Instead, I found an alternative way and for the next 2 years after finishing with all my classes I went to rehabilitation from 7pm-10pm, special massages on the weekends. Thanks to the efforts and works my spine found its way back, and I made it! I still can dance from sunrise till sunset.
at the age of 22I quite dancing, I entered a University. During the first briefings, we needed to introduce the school we were coming from to our Statistics Professor. Needless, to say, that this whole out of ballet world was shocking to me and I had no realistic view on what people can talk about besides point-shoes and tutus. Sitting there among the other 50 students the turn was mine and I proudly said: Hungarian Dance Academy. The Professor outburst in laugh and informed me that this University will last me long: ‘dancers have no brain and he already taught 1-2 of them, I can’t make his class. I will fail.’ Everybody laughed. I did not: I replied to him I WILL. I did. With the highest mark possible.
at the of 23 I applied for Erasmus to Oxford. They offered two places. When I sent my application paper, they called me: ‘you know that you should name 3 options, since, honestly, we don’t think you can make to Oxford’ – I thanked for their caring and put Oxford for all the 3 options. 6 month later I was on the plane to the UK.
In Oxford, I chose Art Journalism as my optional module. They informed me that I can’t make it because of the likelihood of failing (since English is not my mother tongue and I had no previous education). I insisted. I have never received such a bad mark in my life. But I made it and loved it!
at the age of 24 I applied for my first internship in the Real World. And I put it high (again), I applied to the Houses of Parliament. I was told by everybody, I have no reputed education for this – I can’t get in! I got the invitation letter for the hearing. 30 people sitting in front of you and you need to prove you belong there. I did. I entered. The first day of my work, my supervisor (once I get older I will be courages to name him), asked me what am I doing here. I answered surprisedly : I came to work. He continued: ‘a ballerina should go back to where she comes from and continue jumping and gamboling on the stage, you have nothing to do here’. I smiled and during the 6 month, I proved him wrong.
after my graduation, at the age of 26, I started to seek for a job. I was scared and lost, since I was told it was difficult and I was not sure what I want. A friend of mine passed me a job advertisement stating: Assistant to the Minister in Brussels. I knew it was for me. Yet, everybody laughed at me: You can’t make it! Get it as a first job? Get it without network? Get it without a reputed school degree? Two weeks later I signed the contract.
I have several other ‘YOU CAN’T’ statements echoing among my memories, but I think these examples direct us perfectly to my posing: Why? Why do we let people tell us what we are capable of? Why do we believe them? Why do they dare interfering in our lives?
I was lucky, I have this sort of character, yet, there are many things about which I possess the strong belief: I CAN’T do! Simply, because, I was told so!
How could I be so blind? So naive to believe any of them?
All these sentences should bear consequences! All these people should apologize to us!
How many broken wings are out there? How many years it took me to hold a paintbrush to realize: I can create!
We do not have to master everything in life, to be the first, the best, the greatest – but we all should have the right to try out everything in life, without prejudice, judgment, rejection.
I am starting to awaken and release myself from all the ‘YOU CAN’T DO’ statements I received and continue receiving in my life. I will delete them from my system carefully one by one…and tomorrow I will be dipping the paintbrush again…
Sit down for a moment and tell me what CAN’T YOU DO?
Once your list is done: Go and do them!
Then sit down for a moment and tell me what did you tell other people that they CAN’T DO?
Once your list is done: Go and tell them THEY CAN!