Aged four years old, my family moved back to my Mum’s middle-of-nowhere rural village in Spain. I was, at the time, blissfully unaware in my childish innocence of the likes of language barriers and culture shocks.
Looking back, I have few memories of learning to adapt to the new life and language or of kids looking at me with blank faces when I said “hello”, but what I do remember is being asked to make paper houses together by the girl who became my first proper childhood friend, decorating biscuits with my Uncle in my family bakery (although more chocolate icing made it into my mouth than onto the biscuits) and making up ‘gymnastic’ routines with girls at the park – after all the language of clumsy handstands and wonky cartwheels is universal.
Creativity allowed me to weather the perfect storm of being both an inherently shy child and starting out with a very basic level of the language that surrounded me. It allowed the blonde little Inglesa girl to forge connections with her new olive-skinned classmates and with the rolling Rs and throaty Js of the Spanish language.
At eighteen years old, life as we knew it came to a shuddering halt as the invisible walls of lockdown kept friends and families apart. And how did humanity react to this adversity? It created.
Short-form content platforms like TikTok blew up, with people sharing everything from one-bowl banana bread recipes to 5-minute crafts. Whilst countries’ borders were sealed tight indefinitely, online global communities were formed over the escapism provided by watching at-home baristas make frothy Greek coffee or choreographing wannabe-viral 20-second dances in their room.
My friend and I would spend hours on Facetime and just paint and talk for hours, her producing vibrant prints of woodland birds and portraits of family pets whilst I was honestly just trying my best to stay within the lines of my botanical-themed water-colouring book. With each pixelated brushstroke came an opportunity to connect at a time where physical human connection was an increasingly distant reality.
Now I’m twenty-two, and creativity is still the spark of connection for me. Hearing about a first-date’s passion for music production, watching classmates perform in university theatre productions, late-night brownie baking with a housemate, playing Girls Night In and making up ridiculous words which inevitably become part of the friend-group’s dialect.
There’s something about interacting creatively with someone which allows you to embrace vulnerability and open-up to deeper connection.
It allows a form of authentic self-expression that, especially for my fellow guarded/socially anxious pals, is hard to achieve through simple conversation.
Creativity and connection go hand in hand throughout life; childhood friendships formed over orange squash and designing architecturally questionable Lego towers evolve into adult friendships maintained by Pinot Grigio and attending monthly amateur pottery classes together (the products of which are, again, structurally questionable but hey, blame the Pinot Grigio). When you create, you connect - whether it’s with new acquaintances, with dear old friends, or simply with yourself.
By Sofia Gilks, Olea Marketing Intern