BEING STRONG & STABLE – without the kitten heels.

Good morning and a Happy New Year to y’all.

I woke up this morning with this urge to write, something I’ve not felt in quite some time.

I felt the sun on the drawn curtains, trying it’s best to break through and light up my room. I felt the energy buzzing from it; the fizzy optimism, the hope and excitement at the possibility of new adventures to come, the burning need to jump out of bed to see what the world has to offer today.

The last time I felt this feeling was probably at the beginning of 2018, on the first day of my last job. Pure adrenalin-fuelled excitement. Pure heartfelt love for my existence. Pure authenticity; clarity of what I have to offer to the world if I venture outside my front door… love, creativity, ideas, encouragement, positivity.

I felt… myself.

2018 had started well. I was about to embark on this venture that was going to be a pretty big deal for me professionally. The dream job. After a pretty sucky 2017, bar a few incredible additions to my friendship circle and the funniest ‘job’ (I say job, it didn’t feel like one) in Dubai, I was so ready for it to kick off. All of my problems would be solved: I wouldn’t be skint, I’d be originating a cracking part in a brand new production and I’d get to travel about and see new places. The dream job. Happiness, fulfilment, satisfaction… mint.

The year progressed. We travelled from city to city… Birmingham… Edinburgh… Liverpool… Cardiff… the weeks rolled on by and as they did, I began to come to the realisation of one very important thing.

I wasn’t happy.

Not in a missed the bus, left my purse at home, tripped over and banged my knee kind of way.

Something wasn’t quite right.

I was completely uninspired. I’d sit and try to write and no words would come. I didn’t want to watch anything, I wasn’t particularly interested in hunting for new music to listen to and I couldn’t focus long enough to read anything that had any level of depth.

I started to feel panicky in social situations, insecure and unworthy and shit. Like I didn’t belong, or something. I was surrounded by people, friends, but felt a familiar pang of loneliness and isolation. A lone wolf. Uncomfortable and empty.

I felt like someone had skipped along and blown my candle out.

For a long time, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was going through a little bit of a thing – don’t really know what else to call it. I was so confused. I’d always gotten on with everyone I encountered, why didn’t people get me anymore? It felt fucking shit and it made me unbearably insecure and hyper-aware of every little thing I did.

I was aware that I was in a great job, playing a leading part amongst a very talented bunch of humans and I was STILL unhappy.


Not BECAUSE of the job but DESPITE the job (yes I’m SHOUTING, for DRAMATIC effect).


Christ, THE GUILT that ensued from the thought of all of that was horrific. Feeling guilty and ungrateful on top of feeling unhappy – not fun, let me tell you.

I put a moany tweet up during this time, about how hard weekly touring was/how knackered I was and signed it off with ‘don’t get me wrong, I love my job – I’m just knackered’ or something. A really kind person latched on to the fact that I’d done that, felt I had to justify myself, and responded with


‘You are 700000% allowed to find your job hard and feel simultaneously grateful for it, the fact other people would love your job doesn’t mean your feelings about it shouldn’t be spoken about. Such a shame you have to put a disclaimer on it otherwise people would complain.’

@EmmaLouiseBetty THANKS GAL, you made me feel a lot better about myself when I felt pretty damn shitty and goodness, are you correct!

Carrying on:

It was only when having a (paraphrased below) conversation with a cast mate late one night after a night out (big love to you V!) that I realised there was a deeper issue that I needed to address.

‘People just don’t get me, I don’t understand,’ I’d said.
‘Yeah but do you get you?’ my mate responded.
‘What do you mean?’ I replied.
‘Who is the real you? When you say people don’t get you, what is ‘you’?’ she said.

I’d thought about the response. She was absolutely right.

I was possibly having a little bit of an identity crisis and that wasn’t the show’s problem, that wasn’t my cast mates’ problem – that was my problem.

Now now now, I write this in a good space and won’t dwell upon the bad stuff for too long as it’s a processed thing of the past. The point of me writing today, with all of this in mind, is to share what I am going to do about it. I’ve already read one blog post this year, by my good pal Emma, chatting about life as a ‘resting’ actress and highlighting just what that entails – the 28348739 ordinary jobs we take on, not being paid on time sometimes (though from my Twitter feed atm, it seems it’s happening quite a lot) from work we’ve done, sacrificing the social life to work stupid hours… all that business.

I feel extremely fortunate to do what I love for a career, like… I fully love it from my head to my toes. I’m not even going to try and justify that and frankly, I don’t need to. I’m fully aware of what choosing to do this as a career entails, fully aware of the ups and downs. But it dawned on me last year, and has only become even more apparent as the months have rolled on since, that pinning my happiness on my work is no longer an option.

When my next job comes, I’ll be fine. I’ll save my money and I’ll be sensible and I’ll be happier,’ I’d said to myself, laid awake in my bed at 2am unable to sleep before having to get up at 6am for an early shift in a coffee shop. ‘It’s 2am and I’m miserable that I’m having to drag myself out of bed to get to my shift, to work 800 hours so that I can afford to live in this stupidly expensive city but have no life aside from that. But hey, when I start my new job and get out of this shit-hole, I’m going to be fine. That will amount to happiness because I won’t feel worked down to the ground.

These are the thoughts that crossed my mind in 2017. I pinned my happiness on my career, especially as I was about to embark on a really big, exciting step up to a leading role. And because HEY, a leading role equals success… right?

Oh, how different I feel now. The minute I stepped into that lovely, artistically-juicy environment once more and realised ‘OH FUCK, THIS DOES NOT FIX THE SHIT UNDER THE SURFACE THAT I’VE BEEN SWEEPING UNDER THE RUG’… I knew I had a lot of work to do.

An actor’s life can be far from stable. But alas, I have discovered… there is more to life than an actor’s life. I put too much on my work, I expect too much. I have a lot of my own insecurities to deal with that my work cannot fix and y’know, that’s cool man. That’s kind of exciting I reckon.

Now, I can hear some of ya out there shouting ‘GET THERE QUICKER SON, I found that out 10 years ago – nowt spesh!’ and if you are, humour me. I am aware that we all reach moments in life when priorities shift, perspectives change and epiphanies are had. We each have these moments when they are truly needed for us, as individuals. We’re not in some kinda race here – I say this as I sometimes need to remind myself to stop comparing one’s own journey to others.

Well, it seems that I may have reached this moment, at the ripe old age of 27 (how the F I made it to 27, I don’t know. Still life in the old gal yet!)

I’ve had the epiphany and I’m gonna shout it loud and clear, for the people in the back and just to cement it even more so in my brain:

Pinning my happiness on my work is NO LONGER AN OPTION.

My happiness can only be manifested from one thing alone – myself.

And so begins a New Year in doing what I can to ensure that if and when I happen to be out of work, I can be happy. At the risk of sounding like the kitten heel extraordinaire Terry May… I want to be strong and stable and work is not the fix for that. I’m on a quest to build me a good, solid  foundation, so that work can be my lovely kitchen extension that I enjoy spending time in on evenings with friends and I realise now, that it all starts with looking inwards.

I’m taking back the power.

Much more, with this all taken into account… I feel myself again.

Advertisements

PERSPECTIVE: that time I cried at a Marks and Spencer’s biscuit.

perspective
pəˈspɛktɪv
noun
  1. 1.
    the art of representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other.
    “the theory and practice of perspective”
    2. 
    a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.
    “most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective”

Perspective interests me greatly. I am absolutely fascinated by how different things can affect perspective. Different environments, different people, different cultures. We are one person, with one set of eyes. Yet, what we see in our teens can be so drastically different to what we see in our twenties. What we see and how we deal with things in one country can be so drastically different to what we see in another country. What we see through our own eyes is entirely different to what your Uncle Bob sees through his eyes. What a criminal sees as right, the average non-criminal sees as wrong. What you see as one colour may appear different to what another person sees (hence that whole stupid ‘WHAT COLOUR IS THE DRESS?’ escapade).

I guess I find it so interesting as my perspective has changed a lot lately. With age, with experiences, with reading and educating myself. It amazes me how differently I look at things now, from how I looked at them when I was eighteen.

When I was eighteen, the world was my oyster. I dreamt big, I dreamt of having a successful career, I dreamt of living comfortably in London and taking over the world, step by step. Stereotypical of a creative, aspiring teen performer, some may think. But I wasn’t completely naive to the industry I was entering, I had witnessed many friends trying and giving up because it’s a super tough world out there. I’ve always been a hard worker, I enjoy hard work. I enjoyed slogging away at school to get my A* in GCSE English Literature. I enjoyed pouring endless hours of research into new musicals whilst studying for my BTEC in Performing Arts, just so I could be the person singing a song nobody had heard before. I’ve always enjoyed that feeling of ‘getting educated’ and learning new things. On top of all of this, I dreamt big and had this burning hope in my heart that I’d be that super successful person I strived to be, one shiny day in the distant future. This is what I perceived to be ‘the ideal life’.

Cut to being twenty four. I’m currently sitting in a beautiful, organic restaurant in Makati, Metro Manila. If you were to ask me, at eighteen, ‘Where do you think you will be in six years time?’, I can bet you ten thousand pesos, right in the moment now, that I would not reply with ‘doing Les Mis in the Philippines?’. I am BAFFLED at the thought of being here. At least once a week, I ask myself ‘how on earth did you wind up here, Jess?’.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a pretty great run in the industry so far, each job I’ve done has been very different to the previous job, artistically and logistically. I had a great year in London, a great year on the road in the UK and now, here I am in Asia. I have to admit, I’m completely rubbish at saving money, it’s the one thing that worries my mother (sorry Mam). And you know, if I was good at saving money, I probably would have enough to not be worried when the dark days of ‘funemployment’ loom, instead of panicking and working endless shifts in a pub to buy food and petrol.

But whilst being rubbish at saving money, do you know what I have done? I have travelled. I also have to admit, I’ve looked relatively well whilst doing said travelling because I have an endless need to buy clothes, but I have travelled. I have experienced places I have always wanted to experience and I have experienced places that I never intended to experience. Specifically, I’m currently experiencing and I’m about to experience EVEN MORE of a part of the world that I wouldn’t have dreamt of visiting if my job hadn’t have brought me out here. And boy, am I glad!

I’ve tried endlessly to write a piece about Manila, I think this must be my fifth attempt, and now I can finally weave it into this magical piece about perspective.

Because my perspective has changed.

Important things I have learnt from living in Manila:

  • We are just a tiny little human on a HUUUUUUUUUGE planet. No-one is more important than the next person. No culture is more important than another culture. Respecting other people’s cultures makes life easier for everybody. The filipinos are some of the kindest, most patient and most generous people I have EVER met, being a little more like them can surely NEVER be a bad thing? So yes, mutual respect IS everything. You can ALWAYS learn from people. If we all pulled our head out of our arses more often, we’d probably learn A LOT.
  • Poverty is much more than you see on TV or in magazines. Poverty is well and truly alive. I thought I’d experienced extreme poverty before. I’ve witnessed homelessness on the streets of London. Hell, I’ve felt so bad that I’ve bought things and handed them to the homeless people on the Strand before. But I had NEVER experienced a small child tugging at my skirt, begging for money, before I came here. I’d never seen a grown woman cradling a baby in one hand and holding an empty cup out in the other, under a lamppost on the corner of a street, asking for money to feed herself and her family. I’d never had a teenage boy asking me if I could give him my smoothie. But what really REALLY freaked me out about this whole thing is that, after about three weeks of being here, it felt normal to see all of the above. It was like I’d become immune to it. How on earth does it get to a point where you become immune to something like this? How is ANY of this normal? And how on earth did I not think this was a big deal when I was back in London, lapping it up and complaining about having to be waitress for a short time whilst being out of work? It BAFFLES me to this day.
    Yes, there are BEAUTIFUL areas of Manila, I’ve eaten the most delicious meals in awesome places. Which is what makes me sad. Because poverty is truly alive. And I feel like it’s important that everybody should be aware of this. It’s helped me to feel extremely grateful for what I have, for my wonderful family and friends and for the opportunities that I have been given.
  • I do indeed, have a fantastic group of people waiting for me at home, boosting me up from afar. Being here without them only strengthens my adoration and gratification for them. They make me who I am. I would happily take being short of money and unemployed but having a life filled with these amazing people over being successful, famous and alone ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

Now, I find myself not putting so much focus on ‘being uber successful’, ‘taking over the world’ and ‘having enough money to live comfortably’. I want a life filled with love, being creatively fulfilled and following whatever path that’ll take me to creative ventures, knowing that I have done everything in my power to understand and respect other people and their own perspectives. I want to see this beautiful world and what it has to offer. I want to come home to London at the end of it all and feel GRATEFUL for it, not complain about the shit transport system or Oxford Street being packed full of tourists, leaving me unable to busily power walk to my destination. Believe me Londoners, you haven’t experienced bad traffic until you’ve experienced Manila traffic, I’d take five hours of driving in Central London over driving ten minutes in Manila.

But most of all, I want to have exciting stories to tell my children. I want to have gotten the most out of what this wonderful life has to offer, while I can so I can tell my kids to do the same… because it’s so worth it. Like anybody on this planet, I want to love and be loved.

I cried at the sight of a Marks and Spencer’s packet of biscuits a few weeks back because I hadn’t seen them in so long. That night, I introduced some Aussy workmates to them and we ate the packet during the next few shows. How is that for cross-culturing behaviour?

I do miss a good old cup of Yorkshire Tea though.

Palawan

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.