|Posted by Barnaby on January 4, 2014 at 7:30 PM|
I've just read the news on Facebook that a friend of mine has become an Associate Playwright at the Old Vic theatre in London. My heart sank. But not for him. His name's James Rushbrooke. Check him out. He's going to be huge, I guarantee.
You know what, I'm not a competitive person. At all. I believe in helping others and that's what I've tried to do. I spend my time passing on projects, bigging up friends and making sure that - if I'm doing some sort of creative project - I get as many people involved as possible to help them in their career (or just have fun).
But, this is different. I'm really very excited and chuffed that he's got this far, so this post isn't about him in he slightest. He deserves it. He jumped from one creative group to another, honing his skills, crafting his creative quarterstaff, losing any deadwood that followed him, and - within a very short time of moving to London - has jumped up several rungs on the 'success' ladder. I am genuinely pleased for him.
I'm just not pleased for myself.
I can't write witty or entertaining blogs. My inner self isn't as witty and/or as entertaining as my outer self purports to be. I've been stricken with a life-changing illness since I was in Sixth Form, twenty years ago. At that point in my life, I was all ready to go to RADA in London, become an actor and work in a career I really lusted after since I was young (not to be famous, heaven forbid. I just wanted to do what pleased me most and that was acting). Sadly, being struck down with M.E. (at a time when it was dismissed as a 'fake' illness - tell that to my family, who supported me and worried constantly over me) put pay to any of my aspirations. I continued to jump between creative projects. I never got particularly good at any of them but I sort of took comfort in that anything I tried my hand at I was successful in. I never put on a comedy show that didn't get a laugh, I never wrote something that people didn't like, I could always do these things in a quarter of the time other people took. In a nutshell, everything came easy. So, I often thought my illness was a punishment for not having to work at anything. I expected to be an actor, I didn't think I wouldn't be. In the same way as, I suppose, I expected to get a book or poem published or whatever it was I turned my hand to.
In the twenty years since being unwell, I've stumbled through creative things. I've worked twice as hard as many people to get things off the ground and I've never, ever had an ounce of luck to help me on my way. I consider myself lucky that I've met and created some amazing talented people on the way. I consider myself lucky that some of these people are still my friends and didn't seem to cut me off when their success outshone anything I could attempt to do, or simply got jealous of the fact I made things look easy (I've had that accusation levelled at me loads of time). It's not egotistical to know you are a good at something. It's egotistical to boast about it and I never do. I know I don't have the time or the energy to get where I want to go (or possibly the time spent to improve my talent).
I know that other people, with no illness and no commitments and with more of a focused, dedicated or ruthless streak, can achieve what I've always wanted to. I'm never cheesed off about that, about them or wishing they never had that success. No. That's not the way my mind works. I just look back and wish I could have trodden a different path.
Please, this isn't self-pity. This isn't me moaning. I've had an AMAZING life, pushing at the limitations of what my limited self will allow me to do. I think I've achieved incredible things against a background of very poor health and the associated structure that that puts upon my life. I've got a loving, supportive and understanding wife. I've got two little daughters who light up every day with a hug, a smile or a well-timed uttering. I am very lucky in that respect.
But, I'm not where I thought I would be creatively and professionally because I can't chase opportunities or breaks or contacts or anything. I can't up-sticks and move to where there's a better chance of competing in the field of creativity that I wanted to be in. I call myself a writer, an actor, a musician and a poet. I am all of those things because I can and have done them. I'm just not enough of them to satisfy my inner muse. I haven't done enough, achieved enough or left enough mark to make me happy with my lot. I know a million other people live their lives in the same boat as me. I'm not decrying their plight or saying that somehow life owes me a favour. All I'm saying is, please live your days as if everyone is your last. Chase your goals and realise your dreams. Some of us can't and, as much as I'm happy for others success (especially when I've had a small hand in it), I'm often very sad for myself.
However, the next project is always just around the corner (however small that may be) and I only have myself to rely on to keep creating and moving forward. I've never had anything done for me or a door opened by someone I know or a favour returned or a helping hand. I just push on in the hope that one day I'll get to a creative place where I'm happy. I know it's vaguely unattainable but it's something to strive and push for. Like my family, it keeps me going.
And, in this life, everyone needs something to keep them going. The bright lights of London called to me when I was a teenager and still call to me now. I know I'm not going to see them but I still walk towards them like a moth towards the light.
Keep shining. Shine on.