You might be forgiven for thinking the above was drawn by a child. It was not. It was, in fact drawn by me while on hold to IT support for over an hour. As you can see I’m not a natural artist. Snazzy dresser, but gifted with a paint brush certainly not. Stuck listening to terrible hold music in front of a broken computer, my friend and colleague Chloe suggested drawing would be a pleasant way to pass the minutes. At 24 years old Chloe is still filled with a childlike sense of wonder I lost around the time I realised my dog didn't die quietly in the car on the way to the vet. Bright and successful, she runs an office like a well organised army, yet still retains an enviable sense of whimsy in her personal life. A visit to her bedroom is like visiting Elle Woods happy place, everything is pink. She even has a Hello Kitty electric guitar proudly on display, despite not having the ability or even the desire to actually play guitar. Chloe is the Pinky to my Brain, the Kermit to my Miss Piggy, the Garth to my Wayne.
During long phone calls she entertains herself by filling the pages of Disney colouring books with intricately patterned, colourful shadings. That day when she nudged her pink pot of coloured pencils in my direction I figured I had nothing to lose. But what would I draw? The enticing array of colours on offer made me want to draw something pretty spectacular, so I decided on a unicorn at the end of a rainbow with a pot of gold. I mean, why not, right?
Things got off to a rocky start when I realised I had drawn the body of my unicorn in black, so its butt was clearly visible through its wings and I didn't have an eraser nor did I want to colour the wings in black.
'Chloe,' I said. 'I've stuffed up already, you can see his ass.'
‘No you haven’t!' she said encouragingly. 'They're magical see through wings, that’s all.'
Damn straight they were. I pressed on. Next things took a turn for the worse in the lower appendage department, with my unicorn’s legs dangling awkwardly beneath him. I felt it looked a bit like a horse version of the Human Centipede.
'He's flying,' Chloe said. 'His legs are just bent at the knees to help him fly.' Of course! He was just aerodynamic. I was back on track.
My final hurdle was the rainbow. How many colours were there? What order did they come in? My computer was broken, I couldn't even Google it.
'Chlo, what colours are in a rainbow?' Her answer was the sweetest sound I would hear that day, a tiny voice softly singing...
'Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue.' How did she remember that? I can't even remember the order the planets come in.
Finally, my masterpiece was finished and I felt proud of my achievement. Had it not been for Chloe's encouragement, I may have given up when I hit the visible ass stumbling block. I might have lost faith in myself when the legs resembled al dente spaghetti. Lord knows how I would have crumbled emotionally over the colours of the rainbow. Not surprising really, I was once described by my boss as a chronic overachiever. I took it as a compliment. You want a stunning business plan? I'm your gal. Dynamic presentation for the board including a Powerpoint and some work appropriate jokes? I'll see you in the conference room. Somebody to lead the team to victory in the annual orienteering event? Well, not me cos I have no sense of direction, but I'll give them an incredibly motivating speech before I hide in the refreshments room.
When things are subjective though, overachievers can feel vulnerable. How will you know if you've succeeded, if there are no measures in place to confirm you have? If you’re not awarded a prize or reward at the end, does that mean your efforts aren’t appreciated? Letting go of this need for gratification and allowing yourself time to do something purely for distraction can be freeing. Chloe didn't suggest I rub my picture out and try again, she saw unexpected solutions where I had allowed myself to get bogged down in worry and self-criticism. Sure you might say it's just a stupid picture of a unicorn, but for me it represents the chance to give myself a break and see life through a fresher, and probably happier pair of eyes.