I haven’t written anything in a while; over three months, to be precise.
I’ve been really aware of this and there’s been an internal battle in my head the whole time. It goes something like this:
BRAIN: You should be writing and making theatre. You’re being lazy and you’re wasting any ounce of creativity you have.
BRAIN: Cram it! There’s no rush, Lei. When you’re ready to write again, you will. Stop putting pressure on yourse-
BRAIN: NO! You need to push yourself, you stupid twat! Stop sorting out your knicker drawer and gorging on crisps and use your fucking brain!
BRAIN: HEY, LEAVE ME OUT OF THIS!
… You get the picture.
I finished drama school in June 2015, then moved back to Brighton for a few months and felt myself slipping into a slightly depressive state. So, I upped and moved to Manchester, got a job in a restaurant, made this great new group of friends and everything appeared to be working itself out. I was really contented with my new life up north… apart from one aspect: I hadn’t been doing anything towards fulfilling my (bleugggh) "career goal". Fleiling Through Life has essentially been my only creative outlet since leaving Rose Bruford nearly two years ago and I am well aware of that.
It’s so easy to scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see our peers starting companies and putting on shows and making their art, in whatever form that may be. It’s so easy to look at them and think FUCK. Why am I not doing that? How are they doing what they want to be doing – what we trained to do together for three years – whilst I’m smiling through gritted teeth to a customer who’s adamant that they didn’t order the florentina pizza I’ve just put down in front of them when I know full well that they did because they changed their mind four times while I was stood there taking their order and I agreed that yeah, a florentina was probably a slightly healthier option than the buffalo chicken, even if their mate told them it was mint after the last time she’d been in.
I’ve felt like a fraud going to performances and critiquing them afterwards because what did I have to show for myself in response? Nothing. I’d finished my training and left all that I’d learnt at the back of my head in an unused box which also contained Pythagoras’ Theorem and the theme song to The O.C. I’d be introduced to people as “a fellow performer” and think, Am I still one of those even though I’m not doing anything about it?
I then went travelling partly because I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my job. Don’t get me wrong – it was an incredible place to work but the problem was that I almost felt too comfortable there. 99% of the time, I genuinely loved waitressing and I was having such a great time working with an amazing group of people that I didn’t notice myself losing track of my creative plans. Starting to feel a little lost and wondering why I’d moved up north for no apparent reason, I booked myself a one-way ticket to India whilst stoned one night – if that’s not the sign of a quarter-life crisis, I don’t know what is.
I went to India, fell in and out of love with the country more times than you could shake a sacred cow at, and learned a hell of a lot along the way. After three months, I decided to come back because I felt like I’d finally rediscovered the creativity I’d been missing before I left the UK. It was only while I was there that I realised how much I’d been struggling to understand my *puke puke puke* artistic identity. Full of beans, I hopped on a plane and watched the colours of the country melt away into the horizon as I daydreamed about how successfully I would leap back into the arts and instantly make a name for myself
… It’s exciting how often I can be so wrong as it really keeps me on my toes.
Since returning from India, I have: been to twelve house viewings, moved house twice, had seven interviews, been to two trial shifts and cancelled two of them, started four jobs and quit two of them… and, during all of this, my bank balance has dropped to less than a tenner on more than one occasion. It’s been a testing few months.
I’m still finding my feet and trying to sort out an income to pay the rent with jobs that I find both enjoyable and challenging, and I don’t think I’ll be putting on any scratch performances just yet… but (and this is the crux of what I’ve been waffling about for far too many paragraphs now):
Life is not a race.
For ages, I would regurgitate this to anyone who’d listen to me whilst also telling them, “I’m taking a break from theatre and I’ll jump back in when I’m ready.” I would ramble on about it as they fell asleep standing up but it’s only now that I’m truly starting to believe it for myself. (See the About page for a healthy dose of hypocrisy.)
If I’d tried and tried and tried and failed miserably then yes, maybe I’d have licence to complain and should reassess if this is really what I’m meant to be doing. But when I haven’t even attempted to put myself out there, I need to shut the front door* and get a grip.
* Not my original choice of words but I’m very aware that my mother is always the first person to read anything I’ve written and she hates me swearing and I’ve said ‘fuck’ at least twice alrea- Oh shit.
There is no rush. Social media may make it seem like everyone else is racing ahead of you but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because you haven’t got it completely figured out yet, doesn’t mean you won’t. I finally feel like I’m ready to start giving this whole writing/performing/making theatre thing a proper stab some time soon and I’m glad that I’ve waited until I’ve felt ready. However, until that time comes, I’m going to get back to sorting out my knicker drawer.
If you’re struggling to sleep then please message me via the Contact page and I will organise an evening event for my ramblings where you will be able to get some easy shut-eye. Donations welcome.