I want my cake and I most definitely want to eat it. We all do right? However, this is not the way the world works, or so that is what everyone everywhere wants me to think. These are the people that are looking out for my best interests – no – really. But, my question is “Why not?”
I’m trying to get my SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) sorted for my website and finding it very frustrating. What is my site all about? Is it an artist portfolio, design portfolio or shop? But as I think about it, it goes deeper. I am at a crossroads of figuring out who I am and what I’m doing – sort of having an Identity Crisis at the moment. Am I an artist? Am I an actor? Am I a teacher? Am I a carpenter? Am I a theatre director? Am I a puppet maker? Am I? Am I? Am I? It really does make the head spin. I’m trying to keep it light here, but there are some deep dark introspective questions at the heart of the issue. Really, Why do I have to choose? The world seems to think that in order to be a success, a person must choose one thing and pursue that to the Nth degree and the choice at the top of the list must be the one that brings the most financial gain.
Full disclosure here: I have been dealing with depression for several years now and starting to discover aspects of Complex PTSD. Not the subject of this post, but relevant for the issue of identity. Several years ago, I started having some problems with some of the clients I was freelancing for. Not the immediate face to face people but their superiors who liked to meddle. I became increasingly frustrated that I was trying to use my creativity for someone else’s financial gain and receiving no personal fulfilment myself. I was also designing and building furniture for several people that were paying very well but not really what I wanted to build. I was doing basic carpentry for a variety of outlets as a means to get by. I was also teaching design, acting and movement but the teaching hours decreased significantly after the credit crisis and with the current austerity and immigration policies. Occasionally I was building puppets for shows but being paid pennies and a few times, I was worked on projects for free just because it was interesting.
The thing is, I am a very good actor, very good teacher, very good designer, very good artist – all of which are not high on the list of profitable careers – Carpentry, organisational skills, corporate design all are. This is when I started to slide into depression. I became more aware of the widening gap between personal fulfilment and financial stability. All of the things that brought me joy I couldn’t seem to make a living out of and the things that are lucrative were sucking that joy right out of me. After I fired my corporate client, I actually created more art in six months than I had done in the previous ten years.
When I am performing it brings true personal satisfaction. When I am drawing or painting I lose myself in the activity. When I am building puppets or puppeteering I connect with the wider fascination of young and old alike. I enjoy teaching very much, sharing my experience and expertise with others – expressing my passion about art and theatre in such a way that it excites people to reach their own goals. In therapeutic circles they refer to this as “Flow” or maybe “being in the Zone”. Isn’t this what we want from life? To live in the moment? Find joy in the journey?
People also have very short memories. They tend to only see the most recent thing you have done and forget the rest. If you have built a table they see you as a furniture maker and forget that you also write poetry. I their eyes you are your last product and when you would like to do something else, they don’t have faith that you are capable of accomplishing that.
But the thing is, I love to do it all. I am a creator. In order to do that, I need to be able to act, teach, paint draw, build things, sculpt things, move things. I cannot be limited to one activity, to one vocation to one job. Must I really choose one thing? And why can't I be paid for doing what I love? Why can’t I have my cake and eat it too?