Why living your dreams can also be your nightmare
Be careful what you wish for is a warning I’ve always found difficult to heed.
Being Little Miss Optimism, not to mention a joyous Gen Y, I grew up being uncompromisingly positive about what I could achieve in life, perhaps because I was told by my baby boomer parents and my teachers (and Oprah) that I could do just about anything I put my mind to (accept for maybe my eight times tables).
And I believed them.
In reality though, living your dreams — or just continuing to do the one thing in life that truly makes your heart sing — is pretty damn HARD. No one tells you just how hard it is.
What “living your dreams” actually means is that when everyone else knocks off of work and goes home to play sport, hang out with friends, or family, or watch their favourite Netflix series, you’re heading home (probably after your eight-hour day-job) to do another eight-hours of work.
And yes, it's work you might love, but it's still work.
Instead of snuggling into the couch, or having some much needed R&R time, you’re writing three new music charts, learning two new hours of dialogue, or trying to design four new shitty Facebook ads with your non-existent Canva skills before finishing up the night rocking yourself to sleep as you I try to remember the words to Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand for your next show.
“Is it bowery and the slums? What’s a bowery? Who am I? What am I doing with my life!?”
And if you’re not doing all of those things, you’re thinking about how you “should” be doing them, so when you sit down to watch Netflix you don't enjoy it that much anyway.
The truth is, as much as you might love the idea of it, living your dreams — particularly if those dreams involve being an artist of any kind — can be a sacrifice.
It’s a lot of work. It’s hard, it’s tedious, and when the ticket sales slow, and the critics bite, or a line is dropped, or a note is flat, it can quite frankly be soul destroying.
For some reason though, the reality of it all, the difficulty, and the heartache has never been enough to stop me.
After a year in artists purgatory — the ultra-emotional down time between launching one album and planning for a new one — I became so glum (or Pippy as my Nanna calls it) that I decided I needed a “project” to work on, and that the crescendo of this “project” would be a performance at the wonderful Adelaide Fringe in 2018.
Yep, me and hundreds of other artists from all over Australia and the world — what could go wrong?
Well, as opening night creeps closer, and closer, and ticket sales remain stagnant, the anxiety starts to creep in “what have I done?”, "who do I think I am?", "I can't do this!".
And this year, even more than ever before the butterflies are heightened, they're in a fluttery frenzy, because I went and did a crazy thing.
I applied (because #dreaming) to do my show — a completely new show — at one of the big curated venues… just in case I might be lucky enough, good enough, or just “enough” to be accepted.
And as it turned out... I was enough.
I got the gig of my dreams, a one night only spot at the Fortuna Speigeltent at The Garden of Unearthly Delights. YES!
Exciting huh? YEP. I’m excited. I’m so fucking excited.
I’m shitting myself. I'm absolutely freaking out, because now I not only have a brand new show to polish and perform at the Adelaide Fringe in, oooh, just over a month. I also have to sell 570 tickets to show the wonderful people at The Garden that I truly am enough.
My palms are sweaty and it’s not just because it’s summer.
My heart is pounding and it’s not just the three kilos of ham I consumed over Christmas.
My blood pressure is at a constant BPM of 140 and it’s not just because of the double time version of Miss Otis Regrets I've been learning for the show.
Because when you start to really live your dreams, when they finally arrive on your doorstep after years of plugging away at them, a little thing called imposter syndrome sets in.
And when that happens you can either accept that you are indeed an imposter, cancel everything, and go back to enjoying ALL THE NETFLIX (it's tempting, believe me). Or you can gather your strength, put on your big girl panties, face your fears head on, and give yourself some frickin credit.
How much hard work has it been to get here? How many hours of rehearsals, how many lost opportunities, how many brilliant opportunities, how many empty promises, how many breathtaking moments? And still you're here, in spite of, and because of, all of it.
So what am I going to do?
I'm going to stop.
Stop and acknowledge that yes it's hard, and yes it's scary, but also remind myself of how I felt this time last year, when all of my artist friends were planning and promoting their own shows and being wonderfully creative and awesome (and probably quietly shitting themselves) and I was just standing on the sidelines, trawling Instagram, filling their seats and dreaming.
Dreaming of being more like them.
Of being brave, of feeling nervous, of creating something new, of telling a story to a crowd of smiling faces, of hitting a note in just a way that it reverberates into every surface of a room, just for a second.
So, while living my dreams might feel a little like a nightmare right now, the truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ll have what I’m having thanks — butterflies and all.