Lauren Biglow is a 2016 graduate of Northwestern's Weinberg College of the Arts and Sciences and Bienen School of Music. She became involved with this program in the spring of 2012. Her extracurricular involvements include volunteer work as a Wildcat Welcome Peer Adviser and a Counselor for California Girls State.
Upside Down and Backwards
Click below to hear an audio version of the essay.
My five-year-old self was bored at the prospect of visiting the doctor's office, despite the impressive selection of colorful cartoon stickers they had there. The pediatrician's name was Doctor Vukicevic. Since that combination of sounds was not very palatable to a pint-sized person like me, my parents and I decided to call her "Doctor V." She was a tall, thin woman with a blonde bob and a gentle voice. She sat facing my parents and me from across the examination table.
"Lauren, could you please write your name for me?" she asked, handing me a pen from her clipboard. She motioned to the crepe paper on the examination table to let me know that it was okay to write my name there.
I began to write my name for Doctor V in slow, wobbly script, my parents watching over my shoulder with anticipation. After a couple of seconds Mom could not help but let out a little worried gasp. From my parents' perspective it didn't look like I was writing normal letters. The little squiggles of my shaky handwriting went in directions that didn't make sense to them.
They were unnerved for a few moments until Doctor V said, "Well, look at that! She did exactly what I asked her to do. She wrote it for me." When my parents looked again they realized that I had managed to scrawl my name upside down and backwards for Doctor V so that she could read my full name normally from across the table.
As an adult, I often wish that I would default to doing things upside down and backwards. Almost fourteen years after that day I feel my creativity muscles stiffening. Back then I was so agile, so comfortable with doing things without inhibition. Being only five years old I didn't understand that there was such a thing as a standard way of doing something. I was happy and slightly confused that my imaginative solution impressed my parents and Doctor V.
The unfortunate thing about growing up is that now I am afraid to deviate from the status quo. My mind has narrowed and assimilated to the adult world such that, when asked to write my name for someone, I would feel silly writing it upside down and backwards. Besides, what if I get one of the letters flipped around? What if the final product isn't intelligible? After more than a decade of schooling and "broadening my mind," why do I feel so anxious about exercising my own creative instinct?
The basic answer is that I fear failure. I am a self-diagnosed perfectionist and I love being right, which makes it hard for me to accept the fact that I inevitably make mistakes. I believe, though, that I will benefit from embracing my innovative spirit. I hope that doing so will teach me to trust myself and to stop worrying about the repercussions of breaking from the norm. I believe that becoming comfortable with taking creative risks—and with making mistakes — is both helpful and necessary. Sometimes I wonder why, after 18 years of making mistakes, I am so hesitant to accept their inevitability.
I know that if my 5-year-old self were here to give me advice she would be writing the answers for me upside down and backwards.