So, it’s been a strange year all in all. It started off very badly with a lot of personal and creative apathy and stress. Slowly it’s improved, although I still found it very hard to get myself motivated and I found that the more I stressed bout things, the less I was to actually get anything done. I found also that the more time I had on my hands the more I spent staring at blank pages without doing anything -a very common problem among creative types I’m told.
Now, a year on, and I’m inundated with more work than I can cope with, and am fully embracing life and it’s opportunities. And while I seem to be doing so much more than ever, both professionally and socially, I also seem to have so much more time to do the little things that matter.
So, what happened?
Well, 2013 was a tough year. After a very difficult start I found my energy levels were low, as was my self esteem and my beliefs in myself and what I can do. I found that I just didn’t WANT to do anything. I was, I realised, wallowing.
I was blaming other things for my own procrastination. Other people, events…things. I wasn’t taking responsibility for myself because it was easier to blame everything and everyone else. It was making me apathetic and bitter. And I was using it as an excuse for my own failings and situations. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and most of us do it at some point, whether we blame out friends’ partying on our own dismal exam results, or blaming your poor performance at work on a colleague, a failed relationship on your mother in law, or stifled artistic progress on a difficult love affair.
But there comes a point when you need to take a good look at yourself and have a moment of self-realisation. Your friends aren’t MAKING you party, that’s your choice. You could chose to stay at home and study. Your colleague is not responsible for the quality of YOUR work, so sit your ass down and do it properly. The only people who should be in any relationship are the ones who are in it, so tell interfering relatives and friends to fuck-off and mind their own business. And work on that difficult love affair to improve things – he/she is not to blame for your lack of creativity or output.
And this was the moment I had in spring 2013. It was at that stage that I started to do things that made me happy. I started to slowly work on things again, small projects, articles, craft and cookery. I realised that no one else could make me happy and no one else could get me where I was going, I would have to get there myself.
Things hit a bit of a low in early summer following a very difficult personal loss, and I found myself hitting that low again. I ‘could write because I was upset’ or I
couldn’t go out ‘because xxxxx’
And again, once I realised that’s what I was doing, I had to have a change in mindset. I was approaching 31 and while I have achieved a lot in my life, I was starting to feel a little frustrated. After a rather stellar period in my 20’s, I had settled down with a family and a quite high profile and responsible day job, and I found that my day to day was occupied with other things that didn’t leave a lot of room for me to be me. Looking back I should have quit my job sooner, if I had done that I would have been taking responsibility for the way my job made me feel and it might have removed a lot of the other associated issues – exhaustion, stress, anxiety and frustration which I allowed to bleed over and damage personal relationships, some of which did not survive the flood. But it was not my job, or even the effects of my job that caused that, instead it was me ALLOWING them to do that by not doing anything to change it. Lesson learned. Too late for some things perhaps, but learned nonetheless.
The run up to Christmas was a hectic one, which saw me starting my own business, something I had been talking about for a long time, but always put off, blaming it on ‘not having enough time’ or ‘not having the money’ – see a pattern here? The dream wasn’t being put off because of those things, but because I allowed them to put it off. So, I realised that if I didn’t do it now then I never, ever would. I would still be sitting here talking about it in five years time, just like I’ve spent the last five years talking about it. Lesson learned.
It was then time to address other issues. I’ve always wanted a big family, and since the birth of my daughter seven years ago I have been desperate for another baby. But I put it off because either the time wasn’t right, or the relationship wasn’t right, or there wasn’t enough money, or I wasn’t in the right job. And it got to the stage where that desperation and longing bled over into resentment and jealousy which ended up causing a lot of permanent damage to several treasured relationships. And so I did what I do, I blamed other things – other people’s reluctance, my job, my age, where I was living, how much I was earning, what time of the year it was. In the end I realised that there is never going to be a right time to have another baby, and, in hindsight, I should have done it when I wanted to instead of looking for excuses. Perhaps if I had then things might have been different, I might have chosen a different career path, ended up in a different place, and perhaps saved some friendships and relationships that have suffered, and I might not be in the situation I am in now with questions over my fertility. It’s my own fault that I don’t have what I want, and that I might not get it now. Lesson learned.
It wasn’t until I was filing some paperwork and I realised that I hadn’t published anything properly since 2011. Looking back I could see that I was feeling stifled and exhausted, and mentally drained, which led to me preferring to veg out on the sofa with a bottle of wine and some crappy TV rather than try to create something. But again, I didn’t do anything to address those things, I just let them become excuses. So I cut out other things, made more time, moved house to reduce money stress and commute, and suddenly I was feeling more creative again and started to write, started to paint and craft. I’ve since booked into several craft fairs and expos where my speciality blankets are proving to be a big hit, and I’ve been bold enough to start putting together an exhibition, something I’ve always wanted to do, but kept putting off. Lesson learned.
It wasn’t until I was asking a friend her opinion on a dress, and putting it back on the rail when she said she didn’t like it, that I realised how much I had been allowing other people’s opinions to sway me recently. I LIKED the dress. It wasn’t for her, so it shouldn’t matter if I bought it or not. Following that moment of realisation, I started to notice how often I allowed other people to influence my choices, my thoughts and my opinions. It was quite shocking. I’ve always been very clear in what I thought and what I wanted, so to suddenly realise what I had been doing was a horrible moment. I know now that as fuelled by self-doubt and stress caused by other things. But I also realised that I was, subconsciously, I was seeking approval from people, and by allowing them to influence what I did, I was guaranteed that approval. I’ve seen this in other people too, and it generally always ends in resentment – people choosing university courses to keep their parents happy, people not taking a job of a lifetime because a boyfriend doesn’t want them to move away, people allowing their friends or family to influence who they date or marry, people allowing other people’s approval to dictate their wardrobe choices. Eventually, when you realise how you have allowed this to happen, you’ll feel resentment, and that can impact your relationships with people who meant well and perhaps didn’t even realise how my they were influencing you. It was time I took responsibility for my own choices. If I wanted a particular dress I was going to buy it, even if my best friend said it was the colour of vomit, if I wanted a particular relationship to work then I would fight tooth and nail for it rather than be talked out of something potentially amazing by someone else, and if I wanted that great job then I would take it because I don’t want to waste the best years of my life being a waitress. So I started to think about what I really wanted. I still asked advice, but I was careful to separate the good advice from the bad, and still reserved the right to not take any of it at all if it didn’t feel right to ME. I’m now happier most time, sadder sometimes, and I have some rather interesting items in my wardrobe. Lesson learned.
I used to complain that I never did anything, never went anywhere. Allowing money, or distance, or time to become excuses, when in reality all I had to do was get off my ass and do it. So I called up some old friends that I haven’t seen much off, and have started to go to every event that comes my way – and I have found myself in some very strange places over the last few months. But it’s been wonderful, and something that I can’t believe I allowed myself to talk myself out of. Lesson learned.
I realised, too, that opportunities weren’t going to come to me, and that I’d been spending far too long waiting for something perfect to come along, for someone else to spot my talent. So I decided it was time to shove it in their faces. As a result I’ve taken part in some things I never thought I would have, including modelling, TV auditions, attending film premieres, taking courses in subjects I know nothing about, submitting writing and pitching scripts (yes, scripts! I know) to places and people I would never have allowed myself to feel confident enough to do before. I’ve even written a stage play, something I never imagined I would do, which is getting a lot of attention from several small theatre companies, and I’m even pitching a script to the BBC this month, which is something I’ve always wanted to do, but allowed ‘no experience’ and ‘not having an ‘in’ there’ and self doubt, or not having the time to become excuses. So, if you want to do something, do it. Lesson learned.
I’ve made other excuses for things too, like my weight, blaming it having ‘just’ had a baby. When in reality it’s been ‘just’ cake. And have lost almost 2 stone since Christmas. I also cut off all my hair and had a full wardrobe and lifestyle clean out.
I’ve also brought all of my fanfiction out of storage and have been thoroughly and openly re-immersing myself in fandom and geekology, strewing the house with all my m/m slash rather than reading and writing it furtively in my study when the house was empty. Now the long phone and Skype conversations with likeminded friends have returned.
I hit a difficult patch, and in hindsight I can see that it happened a lot longer before I initially realised. And I allowed that to carry on into other areas, and it had such an impact on he next few years, an impact that can never be undone. But I’ve learned from it. And I’m not making excuses or things anymore. I’m feeling more like myself now than I have for a long time, and I just wish that everyone could see that, but sadly, I fucked a lot of things up with a lot of people. Lesson learned.
If you don’t like something, change it. But make sure you are changing the things, and not the excuses.
Now, go forth, take a look at your own lives and see where you make your own excuses, apportion the blame, and then have a good, long hard look at yourself and try to see what the real issues are, and how you can change them.