You Can Always Start Again
Recently a good (like good-for-the-soul good) friend came to visit me, we hadn't seen each other (properly anyway) for a while and we spent the whole weekend catching up and it was marvellous. She is a friend from my time in Bristol; the place I grew up, have many friends and still love going back to.
When I left Bristol for London, one major and a few minor panic attacks were probably a good indication that I was scared as Hell. But I knew I had to do it. Bristol wasn't cutting it for me anymore. I'd decided to chuck in acting for photography and London was calling (if you've met me you know I used to act, I'm loud and I like to harmonise).
My good-for-the-soul friend, it turns out, was feeling a similar frustration. Bristol was (is!) lovely, full of friends and great memories, but it just wasn't quite the right place anymore. We both remember a time when it was the centre of everything for us, exciting and thriving, creative and inspiring, but times had changed, or more accurately, we had changed. My good-for-the-soul friend was worried though, like me she had become jaded with acting but wondering if it was right to move on, to move away.
“What if I regret the move and what to come back? What if the path I choose isn't right one and I get bored and want to change again?” (The last in particular is one I sometimes still ask myself – “What if I get bored of photography and find it unfulfilling like I did, ultimately, with acting?” And for a while it worried me, but now every time this question pops in to my head, I give it this answer - “So what? It's working for now. Stop questioning it so much and just enjoy it while you enjoy it.”) The advice that came out of my mouth (isn't it funny that sometimes we don't know what we think until we're telling someone about it?) was that it didn't really matter which way she went – if she was frustrated standing still, she should move on.
There's a lot of pressure from a lot of places to choose what you want to do and stick to it. That's your career, you picked it, no swapsies. And if you decide that what you've picked is just not for you anymore it's easy to feel like those years have been wasted. But just because you decide to change direction, that doesn't mean the knowledge, experiences and relationships forged in that time amount to nothing.
What I learnt and the friendships I made during my years working in the theatre were all invaluable. Just because you aren't working on EXACTLY your passion, or EXACTLY what you end up doing, doesn't mean that you're not learning, growing and developing those ever useful and always transferable LIFE SKILLS.
What's that saying? “It's only a mistake if you don't learn anything”? I could basically delete this whole blog post and just write that in big, bold font, but I love the sound of my own voice, so I'm not going to. I could also delete it and write “JUST STOP WORRYING AND DO IT”, but again, sound of my own voice etc. etc.*
One last quote (and then I'm done, I swear) “We only fear change because we think more of the things we might lose instead of the things we will gain”.** Moving from Bristol to London I was worried I'd lose contact with friends, not see my family as much and be generally miserable and although all of these were true at some point or another, I gained much more than I lost. Similarly moving to London from Brighton, I was worried about losing work that I DIDN'T EVEN LIKE DOING, just because the thought of change was more scary than staying put and keeping on, even though it was making me unhappy.
I'm not saying don't consider your choices carefully, definitely do that. I'm not advocating never finishing anything, you can tell the difference between being stuck in a rut and when you're just making excuses to run away from hard things (hello me). And I'm not saying you should move or change career if you're feeling fulfilled and perfectly happy where you are, thanks very much.
But, if you get the feeling you need to change, to move on, don't feel like you owe anything to what came before. You can always start again. And if that doesn't work out you can start again, and again. It's not easy and it's not comfortable, but it's better than being bored and frustrated. You're not really leaving anything behind, the things that are important will always be there, you're just adding new stuff, new places, new people and new opportunities.
I would like to caveat this post by saying that I have the immense good fortune to be surrounded by people in my life that support me in what ever I do. Recently I've been thinking a lot about privilege and how it's all too easy to give advice based on your experiences and not take in to account other peoples circumstances. It has been comparatively risk free for me to start again because I know that if I truly f things up (or if life just fs it up for me) I have a safety net in the form of friends and family that will catch me. A lot of people do not have this privilege and I acknowledge it's not as simple for everybody as I have made it sound.
* maybe this should be "the look of my own writing", but it just doesn't have the same ring to it
** I read this somewhere and I can't remember where... also you don't have to get this one tattooed, don't worry