A while ago, I was a year out of drama school. Depressed. Needy. Crying into co-op Kashmiri chicken pizzas. Scoffing down frozen apple strudel. Agh, discovering strudel is one of the most delicious downfalls of my life so far...
My partner at the time didn't know how to deal with their own emotions never mind mine, so I clung on to her like a mussel on a Scottish rock and hoped something would change. It was only in a phone conversation with my Grandparents that I crawled back out of my pit. I loved how they used to answer on different phones in the house so we could talk as a three. I miss those calls because I took for granted every moment of wisdom they would impart.
Back to the call. When they asked the inevitable, I slowly revealed how miserable I was feeling. I remember climbing up a hill post-gym with my partner ahead of me and I started quietly crying. I called myself insert-insult-here and admitted I was thinking about giving up acting and becoming a gardener (just one of my huge list of alternatives). And my granny in that moment gave me some advice.
"Help other people. Whenever you help others, it stops you thinking about yourself."
As soon as she'd said it, I felt relief. And then shame. Shame that I had fallen into such a funk about my bullshit career, ignoring the bigger picture. The next day I signed up as a volunteer for a project working with food waste, which turned out to be dodgy af and provided a lot of comic entertainment but not a reason to return. I only did one session and shrank back to self-pity again. However eventually, the shame about my low mood started to wash away.
Who can blame anyone for their fixation on external success? Our society thrives in the perpetuation of ridiculous beauty standards and accomplishments in order to run like a hamster on a wheel to nowhere. We are encouraged from a young age to compete and box each others ears for glory. It could be participating for the connectivity, but it always comes down to an accolade. Act for an Oscar, act to receive love from your parents, act to get a girl crushing on your talent because without that there's nothing more. I find myself refreshing my fanfiction writing to see how many views it has, checking Instagram likes and measuring up to the next Tom Dick or Susan.
Then to top it off, I work around "The Industry". Ugh. Shudders down the spine.
When I was really in it, it would go something like this. Wake up and check social media to see who is doing what. Fixate on expanding my skill-set to an unmanageable degree. Work out who I can invite to the show to secure the NEXT gig without taking in the performance right now. Unable to be present with anyone if I didn't have a job at that moment. Sitting at home looking on Facebook at other actresses and losing my mind. Can they play the guitar as well as I can? Can that other girl do accents? Does my hair look curlier than hers? How did they get that gig? There I was preaching about kindness and compassion in my spare time to mates, whilst looking out of the corner of my eye to some other tall Geordie and wanting them to collapse in a heap.
So to come back to connection and community is an anchor and a reminder that the powerful change we want to see in the world can only come from collaboration. Working together in co-creation is SO POWERFUL. I see this in the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. People came together peacefully and risked their lives for this change. I see it in Oprah's mission to reach out to others through her OWN community. I see it in the little church my granny attends that is crammed full with old farmers who have taken care of each other for over 40 years. It tunes me into a deep sense of calm.
Tom Shadyac's documentary 'I Am' is beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone looking to revitalise their sense of purpose. It features Desmond Tutu, who uses the analogy of eating an elephant a piece at a time. It's the small purposeful action that impacts in a huge way. And if we start small it can snowball to a larger level to create global change. Injustice in the political sphere will start to dissolve. This isn't just optimism. It's truth.
If you give someone a hand without wanting anything in return, you leave on a high. A restoration in your knowledge that humanity is decent. We just get lost so easily in Capitalism and bullshit. If someone assists me with my luggage on a train, or chats to me with small talk when they can sense I'm feeling low, it lights me up. I'm determined to light up myself and others too. So the world can be a little brighter.
I just need to discover where my flame is going to burn next. So I can be part of a fire heating up humanities vibration of love again.