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Learn how Empowering Experiences will Change you Forever

Written by: Hollis Citron, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Some people know what they want since childhood, what college they will go to, what they want to be when they grow up, what their wedding will look like, and how many kids they want to have. I was not that person, were you? As a younger person, up to my 40’s, I would have described myself as a little serious, shy, empathic, and very aware, which made me very sensitive.


Now in my 50’s and with some perspective, I noticed some life experiences that could have been disempowering but instead became empowering.

Empowering Experience One: Senior year of high school, I applied to art school because I honestly did not know what I wanted to do, but I always enjoyed art classes and found it to be a happy place for me. I had a guidance counselor that was not so supportive and flat out said, “I don’t think that you should apply to art school. You are not good enough to get in”. Well, he was wrong. I graduated with a BFA in Ceramics and later went on to get an MA in art education.

Empowering Experience Two: First year of college. We had to take a drawing class. Drawing was never my thing really, I could get my ideas out on paper, but it has not been my area to shine. In this class, the teacher would do something that I promised never to do when I became a teacher. She would “fix” our work by drawing on our paper. It always bothered me, not that I did not need correcting, don't get me wrong. It just felt like a violation. One day I worked up the guts to say, “Please do not draw on my paper. Show me how to fix it on another piece of paper”. Her response to me was, “I don’t think that you are good enough to do it on your own.” As my voice trembled, I said, “I did not ask you if I was good enough, I just asked you not to draw on my paper.” Well needless to say I got a D in the class. Still, to this day, when I became a teacher, I vowed to myself to never draw on anyone’s paper unless I ask permission first and always demonstrate and allow them to try on their own.

Empowering Experience Three: I got this amazing ceramic residency at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia, PA. The process of getting there felt like a nightmare at the time coming true. To be considered for a spot, you would have to come in and be interviewed by 15 people determining if you were WORTHY. I turned every shade of purple during the interview, but I got the spot. Despite all of what I perceived as faults, the group saw differently. I felt vulnerable but was honest, and they accepted me for who I was. It was really just a matter of me being open and rising to the challenge. I realized that it was in me this whole time, and it took a process of failing, getting up, and waking up to figure it out

Empowering Experience Four: Accepting the residency meant one had to teach adults. Every insecurity bubbled to the surface, and the one screaming was, “I am 22 years old and have to teach adults, why the hell would they listen to me? What do I have to teach them?” The pivotal moment for me was when two women were standing across a table from each other in class. As they were getting ready to glaze their pieces, one asked the other to borrow a paintbrush, and the other said, “Yes, as long as you give it back.” I giggled to myself. Light bulb moment for me! When you are just learning something for the first time, you have that childlike perspective, and in this case, I was the “expert” or one with the most experience. Needless to say, it was an incredible experience, and it really set me off in a career that would lead in many directions, with one mission, to provide a space for expression.

Empowering Experience Five: Huge lesson learned in the classroom is that each person is unique and has their own story, which affects how they act in the classroom. This scenario is about an eighth-grade student that was not easy to reach. She was not always willing to participate. She was absent a lot and when in class, would start a fight if provoked. This project she was interested in, but she was getting frustrated. One day before class, she pulled me aside and told me she was not getting it. We talked about different possibilities, and then I tried to explain that a lot of the process is connected with a feeling. It knows something is right when you feel it in the pit of your stomach, like butterflies, then it is right. As I was in front of the class doing a quick intro on what we were doing for the day, I will never forget. Suddenly, I looked over at this girl, and it was like a light bulb went on. Her spine straightened up, and her face just lit up, literally. I smiled and said, “you got it?” Her smile said it all. When we take the time to notice this visceral feeling, when we take the time to breathe and to notice, it has the power to be life-changing.

Empowering Experience Six: When teaching at a middle/high school, I realized that I would never have a more difficult audience, and it was a gift to have to learn how to make art class approachable. Determined to make it something that someone at least has enough interest to stick their toe in the water and be willing to try. I truly got to experience the saying, “you never know who you are affecting and how.” This scenario was with a senior that I would see every day, the first period for the whole year. He considered himself an athlete and had to take art to fulfill the requirements to graduate. He would often say, “I really don't care, no offense, I am not an artist.” My response was always,” I get it, really, but since you are here, you have an opportunity to try some different things and explore your interests, so why not use the time well.” As far as “ results' ' went, I would see his ebb and flow with effort, but as I said, he was respectful enough. He did well enough to pass and created some pieces that he was happily surprised with, I think. At graduation that year, he hugged me and said to me, “Mrs. Citron, I will never forget you.” It really took my breath away. When you realize that you are so blessed to have the opportunity to expose people to new possibilities, to allow them to shed their skin and be vulnerable. It is a true honor to be allowed to be part of the process.

Having been in many different settings, I have recognized the basic categories of creative expression people fall into. It varies, but it generally looks like this:

  1. I am not an “Artist”; I cannot draw a straight line or paint. People often think this is all you need to be creative. By the way, this is not just an adult mindset. Young kids can say this as well, but it is usually because an adult said something to them.

  2. I want to do something, but I am not sure what, and I don’t want to make mistakes.

  3. I am willing to try these different mediums and am ready to mess up so I can learn along the way.

So here are some easy & manageable ways to make you feel excited about tapping into your interests and talents.

  1. Carve out at least 15 minutes a day doing something that you like (it does not have to be visual arts. It can be exercise, cooking, writing, brainstorming on your business ideas), start there it will grow in time.

  2. If you are not sure what you like, journal it out and get it on paper, as silly or trivial as it all might sound.

  3. If you do not know how to do it and need a support system, join a class or get a partner to support you in the journey for accountability. It may sound simple, but it works.

Get the ideas out and take time for yourself. I see creativity as your voice as your contribution to humanity. You can either step up and choose to show up, or you can choose to hide and not be noticed. I am not saying that you have to stand in a crowd and scream, “Look at me, it is all about me.” But what you really do have to do is be able to stand in a crowd and scream, “I have something to say. Look at me.

To sum up, what have I learned so far in my fifty-three years in this life journey?

  • Get out of your comfort zone. Try new things, revisit old things, do some things you don’t like, maybe you will discover something new, you might be surprised.

  • Learn to own your stuff. If you mess up, say you’re sorry.

  • If you love someone, tell them.

  • If you are turning purple while talking and you feel like you need to acknowledge it because people might think you are going to pass out, make a joke out of it.

  • Life is too short to spend time wondering and thinking, well, I might mess up and not be good at it. If you are not good, then great, you just learned something about yourself and move on.

  • If you happen to discover a talent, when you get those butterflies in your stomach that makes you feel alive, feel it and own it. You are worth it.

I wish you to play and discover your voice to shout from the mountain tops or beach if you so prefer, just feel, it is really living!

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or visit my website for more info!


Hollis Citron, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Hollis Citron is on a mission to make creativity accessible to everyone by exposing new possibilities. She has spent nearly 30 years of my life helping students of all ages and in all settings to access their creative expression. I Am Creative & Express Yourself Publishing was born from this passion to help people build their confidence to recognize, encourage and express the innate expression they are born with.

Hollis does this through experiential kits, creativity coaching, her podcast: Creative Conversations with Hollis Citron & creating multi-author books to create community and safe space for people to share their stories to empower themselves and the world.

Creativity goes beyond a pencil & a paintbrush! It is your voice, your expression, and everyone has one.



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