Avenues: A New Analogy

I have a new analogy.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time now, even going so far as to discuss it with a few friends (I’m finding it a lot easier nowadays to openly discuss thoughts and ideas with people I trust, which hopefully means that my confidence in my creative ability is growing – mini pat on the back, I’m my own worst critic).

Last year, I toured the UK with ‘The Sound of Music’. From January to September 2015 I lived out of my Ford Fiesta, visited multiple cities, clocked up around 6,000 miles, 3 speeding tickets (no excuses but when long distance journeys become a vital part of your life, for a long period of time, they start to get tedious and lead to distraction. I guess that counts as an excuse… guilty), lived away from a stable base for 9 months and as a result, somehow along the way, I actually grew up a little bit. I started to see multiple things with a new perspective.

Now, over the course of the tour, I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands. I often wished that I had a crazy hobby or the motivation to read To Kill A Mockingbird (I will get through it one day). Along with the excessive spare time I seemed to have, there were the present stresses of ‘What will be my next job?’, ‘When will my next job come along?’ and of course, the most haunting question of them all, ‘Will I even work again? EVER?’. Oh, us actors do worry. Worry and fear, if not ALL of the time then at the very least SOME of the time, latch on to our souls. But that’s a whole other subject, so we’ll leave that until another time…

So. Spare time, twiddling thumbs PLUS no motivation to do anything remotely productive PLUS stressing about my future in my life’s vocation/my main money earner/my one true love of life. Although I LOVED my job, more than anything – I never thought I’d ever come anywhere close to being in The Sound of Music in my lifetime, I felt completely stuck. And if I’m truly honest, it made me a little bit miserable and left me feeling a bit guilty. I beat myself up for acting ungrateful, to no-one else but myself, even though I was really grateful for the opportunities I’d been given. It was like one big internal boxing match, fighting 50 rounds in my head. But, before long, I had a cracking amount of Maria shows under my belt, I ticked one huge box off my ‘bucket list’ and the tour came to a close. Funemployment (it won’t be long before that word makes it’s way into the Oxford dictionary, mark my words) approached once more and I had nothing but afternoons on the sofa with the Friends box-set planned. Or so I thought.

Because that’s when my new analogy popped into my messy, boxing match of a brain.

I did a degree in Musical Theatre. Musical Theatre has been my life for as long as I can remember. I bloody adore Musical Theatre. For all of those reasons, Musical Theatre is what I chose to do professionally, to earn a living. However, Musical Theatre is also extremely competitive. It brings a lot of incredible highs AND some awful, heartbreaking lows – dealing with rejection is a massive part of the job, more to come on that one at a later date!

Nevertheless, Musical Theatre is my… HIGH STREET.
(For the American folk out there, I think it’s what would be called the Main Street? Sorry if I’m being completely ignorant, don’t hate me. I will learn.)
My lovely HIGH STREET. I’m going to say it has a pretty decent Tesco Express, probably a pharmacy, a post office, a local bakery and, for now, a tea/coffee shop. I’m going to say that the pizza takeaway shop recently closed down in a bid to promote a healthier lifestyle. I hope I haven’t lost you yet, I’m getting to the point… I promise.

This HIGH STREET is the centre of my town, town being metaphorical for my life. It brings home the literal bacon (lord, I love bacon), Doctor Theatre works there (he’s pretty great), it connects me with a lot of my favourite people, it brings home the dough ££ and it gives me ENERGY, LIFE, VITALITY etc etc…

Here comes the fun part. We’ve established that MT is a pretty prominent part of my life. But what happens when Funemployment pays a visit and MT is suddenly put ‘on hold’? That’s where my AVENUES come in to play…

A town cannot be a town with only a High Street to it’s name, surely. I decided sitting on my ass watching Friends was simply not an option anymore, and I started to explore the possibility of actually using my free time productively. FINALLY. It occurred to me that, although it is my one true passion and my professional occupation, Musical Theatre didn’t have to be the ‘be all end all’ of my life. Giving everything a go and training to be as diverse and versatile as possible had both been two of my favourite personality traits growing up… I thought it was about time they made a powerful re-entrance into my life.

To sum things up quickly, I revived the following non-Musical Theatre AVENUES:

AVENUE 1: Songwriting. My love for music has always been a huge part of my life and I had written songs in previous years. Within the first few weeks of re-earthing this avenue, I had 5 new songs nailed. WINNER.

AVENUE 2: My friends. Now, friendship is a never-ending blessing but 9 months on the road meant that I’d not been able to catch friends in shows, I missed going out for tea and I simply had not set eyes on some friends, face to face, since before I left London with my life packed into a car. Since giving myself a kick up the arse, I’ve had meals out galore, watched amazing friends being incredible onstage (ok, maybe that one’s a bit stagey) and I’ve squeezed the majority of them regularly in person. Not being hangry and plagued with FOMO (the fear of missing out – FYI), the feeling of pride and free hugs – all excellent scenarios to be in, I think you’ll agree.

AVENUE 3: My family. I’ve actually had the time to sit on my sofa, cuddle my dog and create mess in my home, resulting in my mam and I arguing because we literally are THE SAME PERSON (we love an argument, we do). It’s the little things, ey?

AVENUE 4: Learning the guitar. Growing up, I attempted to learn the guitar, the alto saxophone and the piano. I failed to stick to every single one of them, something I really do regret. I can play piano well enough to write chords for my songs, I can bash out ‘Sir Duke’ on the sax if I’m asked to (please don’t ask me to), but guitar is always something that’s frightened me. Up until now. I bought a new guitar for my birthday and I’LL BE DAMNED if I don’t learn to play it this year. The Beatles – Blackbird: I’M COMING FOR YOU.

Those are just a few examples. I don’t want to bore you with many more but I’m also getting back into reading, I’m working on an idea for a theatrical piece and I’ve created a blog (that I hope you’re all still going to read after this crazy b*tch post).

These avenues link to my High Street, to create the wonderful town that is MY LIFE.

What I’m trying to get at is that I am a creative person and sometimes we need more than one thing to help us feel fulfilled. Broadening our horizons and venturing out of our comfort zones can create opportunities that we never thought were even possible, let alone that we felt we deserved.

Even in Musical Theatre, to this day, I am still learning. I am hungry to learn more, anything that can help me to improve on my craft. That is my area of expertise, and still I am not satisfied. I must keep learning, I NEED to keep learning. The moment I feel I have stopped learning will be the moment I quit. Which will probably be never.

I don’t profess to be an expert in any of my other avenues. As a matter of fact, I feel I am merely peasant level at the creative ones. So I am now jumping at the chance to start from the bottom. I have a chance to learn how to become respectable at something relatively new to me, that is not my area of expertise… and I absolutely deserve it. I have the chance to give each avenue a freaking STREET PARTY, with bunting, the lot. I have a chance to grow my town. I’m going to continue to lay new roads, build new houses, maybe even a hotel…

Stop referencing Monopoly now, Jess.

 

In short, my new analogy:

Your life is your town, your professional career is your High Street and your Avenues are everything that surrounds it. The avenues are the life and soul… YOU. Build a town, make a football team and I’ll create a friendly league… it’d be mint to have you.

 

Possibly took that last sentence that step too far. Classic Jess.

 

 

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Feel shit? Dance it out. v.1

Now, it’s no secret that one of my favourite TV series is Grey’s Anatomy.

For those who are unaware, Grey’s Anatomy is a U.S medical drama that was specifically designed to destroy souls. Ok, that’s not true. It’s incredibly well written by the talented Shonda Rhimes. So well written that you actually believe that the characters are a part of your life; you look for them in bars, you try to call them when you cut your finger open whilst chopping up your sweet potatoes etc etc… You become so connected to these people that, when one of them makes a ‘dramatic exit’ (no spoilers obviously), you go into mourning for a whole week. Full on mourning and I’m not even joking.  Also, you start to believe that you are an actual doctor. I was convinced for some time that I could probably muddle through a pulmonary heart valve replacement. Luckily, nobody’s ever asked me to perform one for them…

But one thing that I have definitely learned, as a result of watching all 12 and a bit series (so far) of Grey’s, is how to dance it out. 

This is one of the many ways I use art to deal with things that life throws at me, as commented on in my recent post Art. Is. Important.

Last year brought me a few rejections and a few tricky situations. These rejections and tricky situations brought me anger, frustration and upset. A lot of the time I was able to deal with situations logically, after thinking about them for a time and making a few wise decisions. At other times, I felt helpless. I had no clear idea of how to solve the issues without still feeling a little bit angry, frustrated or upset.

When the characters in Grey’s Anatomy feel like this, they put their earphones in and dance it out. On one particular day, when I felt completely hopeless, I suddenly had the idea to follow in the footsteps of my best mates from Grey’s. So I put in my earphones, opened up Spotify and I danced. Like, full on throwing myself around the kitchen as Phoebe from Friends probably would, that type of dancing.

And for that time that I was alone, dancing around my kitchen to the sounds of Taylor Swift – 1989 (I am not ashamed), the horrible situation that had been eating me up and shitting on my day ALL DAY LONG seemed to slip my mind for around 25 minutes. It felt, along with absolutely hilarious, absolutely CLASS.

Since that day, I have made it a thing to dance it out whenever I feel remotely shitty about myself. It sounds daft, I know, but I’ve found that it helps me to not take myself too seriously. Dancing it out is probably my way of telling myself to ‘GET OVER YOURSELF’.

Anyhow, the point of this post is to essentially share my favourite ‘throw yourself around the kitchen or a huge clear space’ songs. So here they are. Be warned:

  1. The Jam – A Town Called Malice
  2. T. Rex – I Love to Boogie
  3. Barry Manilow – Copacabana
  4. Taylor Swift – Shake it Off (obv)
  5. Daryl Hall & John Oates – You Make My Dreams
  6. Blondie – Atomic
  7. The Smiths – This Charming Man
  8. House of Pain – Jump Around (that one’s for my mam, she loves that bit in Mrs Doubtfire)
  9. Madness – Baggy Trousers
  10. Arctic Monkeys – I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it folks.

I obviously hold no responsibility for personal injuries or accidents. Oh and don’t blame me if you lose two months of your life binge watching Grey’s Anatomy, I’ll deny all accusations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art. Is. Important.

I believe that I am truly a happy person.

But, I know that when I do feel unsure, a bit blue, anxious, irritated, frustrated or confused with how to deal with a tough situation that I’ve been unfortunate to encounter, I turn my focus to the medium of art.

I turn my focus to music, to writing, to watching films, to reading books or to just simply looking at photographs.

I turn to art.

Art is my answer, my remedy, my painkiller… my emotional anti-inflammatory, if you like. Taking in art, or expressing myself artistically, numbs the panic and helps me to gradually come up with a way to decipher the problem. It helps my brain to diffuse heightened emotion. It helps me to weigh up the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’. It helps me to figure out the next step. It helps me to create a resolution.

Depending on the severity of a situation, sometimes my brain doesn’t allow me to start this process right away, so I feel like I have to endure raw emotion at it’s most concentrated. Sometimes art can’t just step in and take the bull by the horns.

But at other times, it does. And that is what’s important. If it works 1/7 times, that’s 1/7 times more than none at all.

As children, we constantly had the opportunity to create: colouring-in books, doodle bears, etch a sketch, putting on home concerts for the family, dressing up etc etc. As adults, maybe due to careers, social commitments or all round more responsibility (to name a few), sometimes we don’t think we have as much time to create. Oh, how deluded we can be.

Because, in the process of art being something to lean on or something to look to, we can, and often will, create.

We create things. Things that, quite frankly, may be completely useless. But still, our brains have been given the luxurious chance to create and, majority of the time, we can’t help ourselves.

e.g. I got dumped, a good few years ago now, and I wrote a song about said dumpee. I posted it on MySpace in the heat of the moment and it made me feel better, even if only for a day. Said song is now firmly buried as it was not my finest lyrically and, nowadays, the mere thought of it makes me want to die of embarrassment. It helped at the time though, which is the main thing.

In a world full of being stuck to our iPhones, constantly refreshing facebook timelines and posting the same old selfie once every few days, our beautifully, intricately put together, ingenious and intelligent brains are given the golden ticket to creativity. Now personally, and I don’t know about you, this creativity is like coming up for fresh air when you’ve been swimming under water for too long. You have the opportunity to pour a whole lot of glorious YOU, and YOU alone, into something. Something that shows, YOU of all people, a particular battle, big or small – both equally as important, that you have fought and overcome. Something that shows how brave you are in a world that constantly fights to make you feel that you’re simply not good enough, not fit enough, lean enough, talented enough or beautiful enough (the list is endless).

If you take that extra step and choose to share your art with the world, your art could be just the thing that gives another struggling human a helping hand through a battle of their own. How wonderful is that? You can single-handedly give someone the boost they need to a. identify their issue, b. resolve their issue, c. realise they are absolutely enough and d. create their own art that represents their own personal battle that they have fought and overcome.

This is why we need art. Art is hope. Art is an expression of the soul. Art is who we are, deep down. Art is a reflection of life.

We must open our hearts (and schedules!!) to creating some more. Allow ourselves a small time frame of artistic indulgence, whether it be playing a favourite record, taking photographs or simply doodling on a post-it. We must make time. We must keep creating.

Art. Is. Important.

2016

Giant's Causeway

giant’s causeway

New Year: New Me. This phrase must be one of the most overused phrases at this time of year. It’s a shame that I’m about to be completely unoriginal and use it then, isn’t it?

A very different, unusual year stands before me this year, and I feel that, like everybody in the first week of January, I would like to approach it with a new attitude, a new mentality.

This did cross my mind at the same point last year, I won’t lie. I was full of ‘I WILL GET FIT’ ya de ya de yaaaa…..

But this year I am choosing to concentrate on the things that make me a happier, more approachable, more creative and mindful human being.

New Year: New MEntality.

I am choosing my love for discovering things, my love for adventure and my love for creating. I am choosing my talented friends and my wonderful family. I am choosing to be proactive, to not rely on Facebook to remember birthdays and contacting people the good old-fashioned way, by good old-fashioned letters and postcards. I no longer want to be a slave to technology, I need technology to be my bitch instead. I am choosing to take opportunity, to be direct, to embrace change and to welcome it.

If I’ve learnt anything over the past year, it’s that the past cannot be altered and the future cannot be predicted.

So I am choosing to live in this moment, right now, and to drink in what it has to offer… Hopefully, a good cuppa. There’s a big, fat, beautiful world out there, people… and you only get one opportunity to enjoy it.

 

HNY – love & peace & yorkshire tea. x