If I had to use a word for 2013 it would be STRESS. Or maybe SUCKED. Or if I was trying to be positive it would be INTERESTING (with an ironic edge).
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some good points to 2013, but actually, the year has been a mixture of stress, frustration and faffing about. I don’t really feel I have progressed much, life wise, this year. But in the last month or so I have learned some valuable lessons, which will take me into 2014.
BEHOLD THE LESSONS!
1. Stop faffing about.
The other week I had a sudden epiphany, on the 192 to Stepping Hill. I always have epiphanies on the bus, its very odd.
The epiphany was this:
I could quite easily while away another 5 or 10 years of my life living in this house, in this town, going from gig to gig.
Its not really a shocking revelation, but it hit me really hard. Because I could see it, so clearly. It might be the curse/blessing of being a performer, but we do tend to structure our year around the gigs we have booked in month by month, or at least I do. That gig that seemed ages away, it comes around quicker than you would think, and suddenly it is Xmas again and you STILL haven’t got any bloody Xmas acts…. Anyway. In this moment, I saw so easily how I could pootle along, doing the same stuff, and find myself at 40 or 45, still in the same house, the same place, with lots of gigs under my belt and lots of wonderful/stressful/glam experiences in my memory- but is that what I really want?
Performing is one of the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. I have achieved my performing goals and then some. But if I am to be totally honest, it hasn’t made me happy. I am proud of what I have built from scratch, its brought me excitement and interest, but not contentment, peace of mind or security.
And its not just performing; I never wanted to settle in Manchester, I certainly don’t want to settle where I currently live. I want to write, to contribute ideas that help people, to spend more time making other people’s lives substantially better. I want more family and friends in my life. I don’t want to do the financial feast and famine (mainly famine) dance of the freelancer forever. Plus I know that there are limits on how good a performer I can be; I don’t stop trying to learn but it is annoying to aspire to “sheer brilliance” and only be capable of “reasonably entertaining”.
So I realised that I need to actively make changes to become who I want to be, and stop just hanging around seeing what will happen.
2. Stop giving valuable time to people and circumstances that I would much rather kick in the eye.
I try really hard to avoid social unpleasantness; it really upsets me because despite appearances, I am a soft and sensitive soul, plagued by social anxiety and inadequacy! This year I started to think- is it worth it? I purposefully put myself in very stressful social situations all the time, and there is always an underlying unease; what if I said or did the wrong thing? What if they don’t like me or think I don’t like them? What if what if what if? Up until now, I have always assumed this is something I have to learn to deal, but I suddenly thought- what if I don’t? What if I could actively put myself in situations that do not make me feel this way? Surround myself with people who like me, lift me up and inspire me? So I am resolved to give no more time to people or situations that make me feel bad.
3. Working hard is not pointless.
I have always been adequately good at most things I attempted (partly cos I avoid things at which I will most likely be shit). As a consequence, I have somehow managed to get into my 30s without ever having to work hard at something for which I have no prior talent or advantage. Let me tell you, not being able to do something that I want to be good at does not sit well with me! Strop and a half! Ice skating is one of these things. I do not have a great deal of physical intelligence; I exploit this to be funny, but if I have to be elegant, coordinated etc, I am screwed. It has be very hard and often disheartening trying to learn to skate, but the feeling when you finally achieve something that seemed impossible is immense! I got a bit choked up when I finally got crossovers! Its a bit late in the day to be learning the value of putting in the time and working like a bastard to get where you want to be, but I am learning it this year. It is boosting my confidence no end, and I feel more empowered to try other things I thought I could never do. Bloody brilliant! This time next year I will be an octopus (my secret dream).
So- three quite simple and pretty obvious lessons- but as The Matrix said “there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”. This coming year, I am going to start walking the path instead of staring pointlessly at a spoon waiting for it to bend.