Permission to be myself. And not worry about it.

  • Written by Peyton Rowe
I’m surprised I don’t feel like this all the time.

Last week began the frenetic final 2 weeks before my annual CreateAthon at VCU event. I’ve been working with students since January revising creative briefs, helping organize a Meet & Greet for all 80 student volunteers, coordinating many talented students to make sure we have t-shirts, parking, food, supplies, computer accounts and a million other details that go into planning any big event. At the same time, I’ve been teaching two other creative classes (both of which I’ve changed to improve the class), been a Mom of 5th and 3rd grade boys, been trying to reach out the possible Board Members for CreateAthon and oh yeah, trying to relax with my sweet husband. Don’t forget yoga class on Tuesdays.

To read that sounds outrageous. How can I possibly breathe while balancing all that? Last Thursday night, I thought that very thing while talking with a friend about all the things that happened during the week. As I was driving home, it hit me. I understood clearer than ever before why I love this crazy marathon pro bono model. Why I love talking about it, planning it, coordinating the details of the event, working and reworking student teams over and over and over. Why I push my students through 17 revisions of their creative briefs before they send them to clients (I think 17 is an exaggeration but my students beg to differ). Why am I able to do all those things seemingly all at once?

I am at my very best during CreateAthon.

I don’t mean my creative best. I mean my best. I become more true to who I am and what I believe than I do at any other time. During the rest of year, I succumb easily to the pressures I put on myself: “Am I good enough?” “Am I doing the right thing?” “Did I make the right choice?” “Am I a good parent?” “What will they think of me?” whomever “they” are.

During CreateAthon season, all that questioning slips away. It appears at times when I am tired or vulnerable but it doesn’t linger as long as usual. So I wondered,

What about CreateAthon gives me permission to be myself?

I don’t have the luxury of time to question my decisions.
So I don’t. Questioning everything – from did I make him mad? to is that the best color for a logo? to did I do my best in class today? – is really rather selfish. I don’t mean people should rush to decisions but giving into the anxiety that can come (easily for me, I admit) with being human and making decisions can quickly become hardcore navel gazing. With CreateAthon, I can’t navel gaze. I MUST listen to my gut and make the best decision I can at the time, and most importantly, trust it. Even better, trusting my own decisions starts to seep into other areas of my life. Certainly into my other classes. Still working on the parenting but I can see it sneaking in there, too.

Collaborative energy is amazingly powerful.
And I trust it 100%. Yes, the 24-hour creative event is about collaboration but the pre-event planning couldn’t happen without it. I have an incredible group of current and former students who are fully invested in this process. Even better, I trust them and work hard to empower them to move this process forward. Knowing I have fellow CreateAthoners who will work just as hard in their own way to make this crazy thing happen is beyond calming.

This, the 5th year of CreateAthon at VCU is a testament to the power of collaboration. There are 2 experienced Project Managers, 12 Team Leaders, and 8 students called the gO! team whose entire job is to promote and support CreateAthon at VCU. gO! is doing everything from videoing testimonials to planning and executing social media to successfully recruiting a web design sponsor who is giving us the entire month of April at a reduced rate to produce websites for our clients. Are you kidding me? Why would I fight this collaboration? Better yet, why would I worry about it?

It is not about me. At all.
What a gift to me. It is not about me. It is about helping these 12 non-profits do their jobs better. It is about creating a space where students and professionals can thrive and come up with brilliant solutions. It is about using what I do best – motivating and teaching – to make the world a better place. I will go to the mat to make all of those things happen during CreateAthon. And I don’t care what anyone thinks about me. Because it’s not about me. It’s about CreateAthon.

Next week, on March 15th, when about 120 volunteers will come together to create amazing work for 12 Richmond non-profits, I’ll try to take a moment and soak it up. I’ll try to remember the best gift CreateAthon could ever give me is the permission to be myself and not worry about it. Most importantly, in the exhausting recovery weeks after the event, I’ll try to remember that gift. I’ll try to be myself and trust it.