“She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong.
Passion flows through her like a river of blood.
She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell.
All your tomorrows start here.”
– Neil Gaiman
I’m not sure whether it’s coincidence or the spirit of the season, but along with the new year has come a new spirit. I think it’s one that was always there, but one that got shattered due to an unfortunate event which continues to hang about me like a murky sky full of purple clouds, swollen and about to burst with the coldest of downpours. With that awful event, and its lengthy affect on my life, came a lot of emotions. Loss, anger, sadness, despair, fear, and incredible frustration. But those emotions have become the building blocks for my return into the real world. I’ve been hidden away for months, watching as the world spins on without me, and as hard as it’s been, I have to firstly accept that those emotions are normal, and secondly, use them to fuel a determination to not only have things return to the way they were, but to build a spirit of strength and resilience and sheer adamance to be confined any longer. I was on a journey before it was interrupted, and that journey has to continue, and I absolutely refuse to take steps backward instead of forward.
In my last post I addressed how it’s felt, going back into some of the things I did with such ease before. I’ve felt like I have the determination, but something within me, the doubt and knowledge that my physical ability is not what it was, has manifested in the form of mental restraints to match. I don’t have a choice right now as to how high I can lift my arm or how well I can move, but I definitely have a choice to go into everything with the same fierce spirit I feel I’ve cultivated over the last few years. People always asked me why I set myself goals that scared the crap out of me and wanted to know why I continued to voluntarily put myself in the most terrifying and potentially uncomfortable of situations. My answer has always been twofold: one, because if I feel a pull toward something, a desire to do it, then that’s not inside me arbitrarily, and probably means it’s something I should be doing; and two, because of our finite amount of time on this planet to actually spend doing things that matter. If you have two minutes (yes, I’m pretty sure you do) and haven’t seen this already, please watch it. I showed it to two people recently who cried when they saw just how little personal time we have in our lives outside of work, sleep, chores, etc. How much have we already used up? I refuse to go to the grave without having lived, even if in throwing myself off beaten paths and in deep ends leaves me battered and scarred. At least I’ll have had courage, and hopefully, a life full of stories to tell.
So mentally, I feel like a beginner again. I feel all those goals and all that progress was a lifetime ago, and like I’m starting from ground zero. But something inside me tells me although I feel that way, logically, those experiences are all still there. I just have to tap into them, remind myself of past success and the joy of trying, as well as the reasons for being so set on continuing. I haven’t felt as though I’ve done a good job with my first few steps back into the world of creativity – my writing hasn’t been touched, I don’t feel as though a couple of recent photo shoots went well, and I don’t think as a musician I performed as confidently or as well as I have in the past. But these were things I ADORED venturing into six months ago. Things that had results I was really kind of proud of. Things I wanted to carve into my existence as a human being.
It distressed me to no end watching people continue their journeys as I had to halt my own, because my head was filled with the same ideas, imagination, and passion for creating that it always had been, but my body wouldn’t allow them to exist. But at the turn of the year, I was forced to get outside, get back to work, and put positivity back on along with the first set of professional clothes I’d worn in months. I don’t know if it was “faking it ’til you make it” or realizing that I was re-entering an atmosphere devoid of anything I was passionate about, but these first few days of the new year have filled me with a renewed spirit of moving forward to create the life I’ve always dreamed of. The frustration has become the fuel.
There are things inside all of us we wish we could do. Three years ago, before I turned 26, I made a list of all the things I was going to do that I was ever afraid of. I was sick of living with an anxiety disorder, sick of the label, sick of feeling like a prisoner with every dream on the outside of the jail bars and sick of my own mind being the only thing holding me hostage. I wanted to dance and sing and learn to play an instrument so I could make music. I wanted to write and let my imagination create worlds and characters that could be immortalised in writing. I wanted to tackle my physical insecurities and venture in front of a camera lens, and in doing so, discovered for a love of conceptual photographic storytelling. I wanted to speak my mind and do the right thing and be a voice of good in a world of what often feels otherwise. I wanted to create, to see faraway places, to learn new ways of thinking and feeling so I could be a positive force in my own life as well as the lives of others. I was just sick of being scared, so I dived in headfirst. It was one of the most terrifying yet rewarding things I’ve ever done, but even though I did it, I don’t think that’s where things should end. I don’t think it changed me as a person at the core level. I don’t know if it should. But it did change some negative behaviours, and built new pathways in this old mind that allowed me to be a little more brave. And in doing so, I’ve confirmed what I always suspected: that I am here to create. Things, ideas, attitudes, projects, music, art, writing, storytelling… things that bring something good into the world. What use is a flower that never sees the sun?
I can’t change the world, but as a large pink rhinoceros once said, “you can make a dent”. Every single moment, every decision you make, every action you take… is a choice. Big or small. That pile of jellybeans is continuously diminishing every single day. Are you investing yours in a life you’ll be proud to look back on?
I believe we’re filled with hopes, dreams, talents, and desires because those pave the way to the life we should be living. But the world has carved out the accepted norm of what that life should look like. School, university, car, marriage, home ownership, kids… all of which result in being shackled down by the firm grip of debt. We enter into this routine and once we’re in (and invested), it’s hard to escape. Our lives become routine and our dreams remain caged. But I’ve met people who’ve had the courage to break free. To make their dreams their reality. And in being able to live passionately and do what they love every single world, they spread an uncontainable, infectious joy to everyone they encounter. They create moments. Memories. Legacies. They create art that hangs on walls across the world, or perform pieces that came from their own imaginations that people flock to to support and enjoy. They write impossible and fantastical stories because they choose to let their imaginations pour onto a page, or they tell a first-hand account of their experience that can inspire someone to change their life. They turn their hobbies and passions into their day jobs. They make music that unites and touches souls. They take it across the planet, and the planet gives back a life of adventure and wanderlust. A life well-lived.
But in order to transform those buried dreams into something real, we have to do the legwork. It’s hard to break free, but any adventure begins with a single step. If we take another, then it may not be so hard to take another after that. And before you know it, investing in your own jellybeans has taken over as the routine because you’ve given yourself permission. Don’t grind them away. Take action now. You don’t have to give up everything you’ve ever known and set sail for unchartered waters, but you can dip your foot in. So the first few steps, yes, are proving a little challenging. But I know first hand that they get easier if you keep trying. This year, I’m focused on using my time to do what I’m supposed to be doing. What I’m good at, and what I’ve always wanted to do. Recognising that we ALL have the same amount of time given to us each and every day, and choosing to make time for what matters. Google calendering time for writing and music, choosing to keep doing photo shoots and keep getting better, setting goals and making spreadsheets that force me to get back onto a stage and develop the music within. I found the something as simple as unplugging the router for the internet can do wonders for an evening of creative productivity, and those nights, by the time 2014 draws to a close, are going to have led me far closer to my dreams, and with tangible, real-world results, than ever before.
Let this journey recommence with a single step. “Forever is composed of nows,” as they say. And now’s as good a time as any to take charge.