The Smoother Ride

I am enjoying watching other people’s lives unfold. It’s nice to see from an outside perspective how a career can appear to be slowing down, in a drought with no clear path forward and suddenly BOOM! A great job comes in. Everything changes – at least for the duration of that job, and suddenly things are back on track (wherever that track may appear to lead).

It’s a key driving force for performers in the theatre industry – you never know what’s around the corner, and it’s true to a degree. I am growing tired of living life like this however. Is “what’s around the corner” any better truly, than what exists now? It’s nice to feel that you are getting somewhere – but where is somewhere? Can you ever be anywhere but here? (Thanks JRB)

That said, it’s a thing of beauty when someone you know who has worked, grafted and struggled, suddenly has a career shaping moment – they get THE JOB. The sense of relief is not only financial, but life affirming. I am in the system, I have value and worth, I belong in the industry. The industry wants and values me. I EXIST.

When we got our first round of Arts Council funding last year, I had this moment. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I was almost sick. It felt as if I was given a big gift and the tide had come in for once. I’m not gonna lie, I really needed this to happen. My celebratory mood was quickly replaced however by the fear of going into the unknown (loved Frozen II), and then panic at how to make our budget and plans a reality. It didn’t last long, and low and behold the mundane crept back in. It’s the mundane that now interests me and I want to feel better “in between” jobs. I don’t want the highs to be as high and I don’t want the lows to be so low.

Take me back to my twenties and I would had said that this was a boring way to live. I would have worried that I wasn’t edgy enough, I wasn’t damaged enough, I was living too comfortably and needed some drama to make good art. Feeling better about my everyday life makes me work better, be more efficient, and less reliant on outside elements to bring me happiness. I don’t think there is such a thing as a permanent state of happiness as it comes and goes like other emotions, but I do think that you can feel more alive and connected. I want to experience things on a deeper level. Does this mean that the big, life changing events mean less? Not necessarily. It just means that there is less of a rollercoaster. I don’t want to be bashed around back and forth anymore. I’ll take the smoother ride please.

Hold fast, hold tight – everything will be alright!

I slept for 10 hours last night out of pure exhaustion, waking up to a feeling of “this can’t be happening”.

I’ve been through some ups and downs in my freelance career and have come back from the brink several times. I’ve had record deals offered that fell through, jobs promised then pulled, a band that I managed fell apart leaving with me a debt of 21k. I remember being so poor that I couldn’t afford the bus fair to work and was counting out coppers from our penny pot. I’ve had a long term eating disorder, anxiety, loss of confidence – all of these things I’ve worked through and come out of. I remember not being able to feel happy for friends that were getting married, having babies, buying houses. I thought “this will never happen for me”.

The last two years however, have felt buoyant – the musical that I left a steady job to write has been coming along, I’ve taken risks that have paid off, and have been feeling more creative and more level in general. I have built up a thriving client base of London students – some came as a result of me grafting and promoting myself, some were loyal students I taught back in my college days, and more recently students being personally recommended, which is a lovely thing. It felt that I had found “my people” and I have been really happy working in this environment. I have also managed to put aside a small amount of savings that were going towards a first time buyer’s ISA. I’ve attempted to do this once already, but had to take the money out to pay for a family related emergency.

I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they’ve hatched, and always feel (however balanced I am) that the rug could be pulled from under my feet at any given moment. This has yet again proven to be the case with the recent outbreak of Coronavirus. You never know what is around the corner, sometimes it’s a career defining job offer or sometimes the roof falls in. I have been in a state of anxiety (as I know lots of people have) – the dramatic scenes of theatres closing, contracts being pulled, people being made unemployed. I felt overwhelmed, sick, shaky, couldn’t think straight.

This morning I woke up feeling emotionally exhausted but mentally OK. So much of what is happening is out of my hands. I can only do my best to stay afloat, stay down South as long as possible, hang on, sit tight, and hope that this boat rights itself. The reality is, that no one knows how the landscape is going to look in a few months time. I don’t know if I will still be in business, or if I will be having to uproot my family and move back up North. I don’t have anything to fall back on. I don’t own anything (apart from a 10-year old Micra lovingly known as The Chariot) oh and a Kawai piano (gotta get your priorities straight!). My small amount of savings will be put towards living, feeding my family, rent and bills, and then I will no doubt be borrowing money to stay afloat. I’m wondering how far down this rabbit hole we all will have to go before we can breathe again? Funny how the mundane normality of the life that once was, now seems so attractive. What will the new “normal” look like?

In the meantime, I am going to try to continue to nurture my soul, write, play the piano, sing, ride, spend quality time with my family and breathe into the situation. I don’t want to feel that my day to day happiness is dependent on a future that is as yet unknown. Thinking too far ahead serves no real purpose, and what will be will be at the end of the day. At least I’ll go out galloping through a field on horseback, singing at the top of my lungs!

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

4 years ago, I hit a wall. It’s the second time as an adult that this has happened to me, and both times it has felt insurmountable. I seemed to have lost all belief in myself and my abilities. I had a tiny glimmer of a spark, but it felt far away, distant and out of reach. I remember talking to a lady who does reiki and things like that, and she asked me what was holding me back? I couldn’t answer.

I was working in a teaching job at the time, I had been in for over a decade. This job came as a result of burnout from working in the city, running my own agency, “living the dream” and trying to convince myself that I could work in a high pressure marketing job. The jobs in the city were as a result of hitting the first wall with my music career, so I felt a million miles away from what I had originally embarked upon.

In this second wall hit, I was looking at friends and their successes, watching their lives coming together. It seemed that they had the answers and I didn’t – that they knew how the play the game and I was there flailing around, with no sense of direction. I felt numb but overwhelmed, and with no belief that my situation would change.

This small spark, that the reiki lady had helped me identify, kept glowing. I started to feel an urge to create, to make something, and instead of shutting this down, I tuned into it and began to write. I started slowly at first, dipping my toe in the water, feeling overwhelmed to stop, but I kept going. I played my partner (who is a songwriter / producer – no pressure!) one of my ideas, preparing to be crippled by searing insecurity by how shit it was, but instead I felt strangely centred and energised – still nervous, but like I was tapping into something good. I pushed on. Lots of ideas came and went – like bubbles forming and bursting, many of them were never finished. I was reminded of a song I wrote years ago, which I was never happy with but that I liked – a song called “In Your Eyes”. I still felt it had something, but didn’t know at the time of writing what it needed. Now I did. Finishing this song was really bloody hard however. I had no confidence in my ability to finish something, I doubted my choices – should I use this lyric? Should I change to this chord? Is this just embarrassingly awful? What is the point? But I carried on. My partner helped with one line that I was stuck on – even allowing his input was hard – did this mean that I couldn’t finish something on my own? Was I weak? Not talented? A joke? Seriously – the amount of negativity in my head was overwhelming. But, on I pushed. The songwriting continued and the song was finally finished.

Writers talk about the importance of finishing stuff – yes indeed. Finishing this song (even though it is being reworked again now), was super important and gave me confidence to continue writing. Knowing that I could finish something, that I still had the ability, that I wasn’t a total failure, was powerful and gave me just enough energy to keep moving forward.