CEGE Connection is pleased to launch a new column – “Creative Lives,” which was inspired by an article written by Dr. Rick Fullerton, adjunct professor, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Dalhousie University. Rick has significant experience in private, public and education sectors. He is passionate about life-long learning and embracing creativity in all stages of our lives.
Rick has graciously agreed to share his thoughts on CEGE Connection:
Dr. Rick Fullerton:
I am waiting for our third grandchild to be born. In fact, everyone in our family and circle of friends is primed for the big event—but none more so than the mother and father to be. Their lives are about to be totally transformed when their love, commitment and belief in the future is expressed in the arrival of ‘baby’.
Birth, for most people, is the ultimate miracle of life. So, it is natural that birth is celebrated universally as an act of creation. Beyond the waiting, the sacrifices, the preparation and the costs, bringing a child into the world is a symbolic declaration of possibility like no other. Seen another way, procreation is an act that ensures the progeny of people, the future of families, the continuation of communities and ultimately the survival of our species. Little wonder we make such a fuss about babies!
Beginning our lives as infants, we are helpless and vulnerable, yet incredibly powerful. Our early years are marked by growth, learning and playfulness. Children experiment, explore, question and amaze us with their imaginations. Yes, childhood can be seen as a period of great creativity.
As we are schooled, we adopt the ways of the dominant culture, often sacrificing much of our natural curiosity and spontaneity in favour of disciplined approaches that have survived the test of time. Still when adulthood arrives with demanding jobs and increasing responsibilities, there are many ways to express our creativity, whether it be in our work, our leisure interests or in our families. Most people look on their prime adult years as the most meaning-filled and creative of their lives.
So what about our ‘senior’ years? According to Erik Erikson, one challenge of the latter stages of adulthood is “Generativity vs. Stagnation”. Either we seek to “assist the younger generation in developing and leading useful lives” or, failing that, we experience stagnation. Interestingly, Erikson’s final stage of adulthood, “Integrity vs. Despair”, speaks about reflecting on the life lived and the consequence of the resulting assessment.
The implications for those of us committed to continue contributing as seniors are clear. I need to choose a path that will serve the younger generation—to foster their learning and development. I’m reminded of the saying: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” While this used to have a pejorative intent, as my capabilities and commitments change, this quote has taken on a new, more positive appeal. The credibility flowing from past success is an important contribution to the learning process. Indeed, the better saying might be, “Those who can, do; those who did, teach.”
Of course, my own learning must continue as well. Who do I need to be to best serve my children, grandchildren, graduate students, clients and younger professionals? What skills and behaviours will enhance their learning? What should I stop doing or do less of? What is best maintained or increased? How will I recognize success?
When I reflect on my career and life to date, it does not automatically mean I am hanging up my spurs. It is not too late to generate new possibilities and choose more commitments worth pursuing. Addressing the challenge of generativity does not mean giving up everything else. Rather the secret to a meaningful life lies in conscious choice, loving commitment, and continuing creativity—ideally, right to the end of life and perhaps beyond!
Rick Fullerton, PhD