Tag Archives: change

Mind-Altering Circumstances

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Hello, reader!  How are you?  Take a seat.  Don’t mind the mess, I’m still unpacking.  Would you like a coffee?

I recently discovered that many forms of urban wildlife like to visit my garden, and in my naive, not-a-real-Londoner state I was delighted.  “I’m living in The Animals of Farthing Wood!” I thought.  (Except that time I saw a squirrel eating a potato waffle – pictured above – which was just baffling.)

Well, waking up this morning to discover that said wildlife had seen fit to POO on the patio made me rethink my position.  I have spent the last hour Googling how to deter foxes, with mixed success.  According to this nice pest control man, “young male urine” will do the trick.  Excuse me, but a) gross and b) I live with my sister.  How on EARTH are we supposed to ask our next young male visitor to oblige us with that particular type of pesticide?  It’s just not happening.

Anyway, vulpine poo problems aside, this last week or so has demonstrated to me that changing your mind is an inevitable part of life.  It doesn’t even take an unwelcome surprise (as it were) to create the change: as we experience life, we discover that our feelings about the world change accordingly.  This is a good thing, because it shows that we are not closed-minded people, but it’s also a bit disorientating, because our opinions form an integral part of who we are.  Here are some of the things I think we worry about too much in terms of where we stand:

The Career Conundrum
I won’t lie to you: pursuing a writing career is hands down the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who’s been to Hackney at night time.  Sometimes our choice of job or pursuit of passion leaves us feeling a bit lost, and we start to wonder whether we’ve made the right decisions.  This week I genuinely started to panic about the writing thing, and even though it’s sort-of on the wane now, it was weird how unappealing my lifelong passion started to look.
I really don’t believe that it is ever too late to change your mind about what you want to do.  I have a friend who is doing a degree course at the age of 26 (and getting insanely high marks as well, the jammy madam).  A lot of people I know – especially those lovely creative types – are constantly turning their hands to all sorts of endeavours, and it makes them much more rounded and fascinating people.  Society tells us that we must introduce ourselves with our job titles, as though our careers defined us.  They don’t, even though they do take up a lot of our time.  It’s not worth wasting time worrying about what your job title sounds like when the main thing is to be happy.  If you change your mind about what you want to do, that’s your business.  As far as I’m concerned, you should be allowed to introduce yourself as Grand High Master of the Universe for all that your job title actually matters.

The Marriage and Kids Debate
“I definitely want to get married one day.”  “I want lots of kids, but not marriage.”  “I would never have a church wedding.”  We’ve all had these conversations, haven’t we?  Especially once you hit my age, lots of people start to seriously consider what the long-term landscape of their personal lives is going to be.  At this point, particularly if you have a serious boy/girlfriend, it becomes very important to be completely honest with yourself about what you really want.  You may have spent your entire life saying that you categorically MUST be married by a certain age or have a minimum number of children, but of all things your vision of familial happiness has to be allowed to change.  It’s nice to have a hypothetical idea of what you want, but you have to be able to adapt to what your heart tells you as you get older.  At sixteen you may have been adamant that marriage was not for you, but if you meet the man/woman of your dreams at twenty-six and you change your mind, don’t fight it.  Your past self had no idea what life had in store for you, so why does s/he get to dictate your decisions now?

The Really Big Issues
It is a truly excellent thing to have an informed opinion about Syria, Scottish independence, euthanasia and how we can persuade David Cameron’s home planet to take him back.  The key word in that sentence is “informed” – new information and updates about all of these issues appear on a daily basis, and if situations change we are supposed to readjust our views accordingly.  It takes a much more intelligent and honest person to change their mind about huge political problems than it does to stick to narrow-minded guns.  Consistency is all very well and good, but have you noticed that the news is not consistent?  It changes every day, in fact.  We need to keep up, otherwise we’ll end up like those eejits who think that gay marriage causes hurricanes or whatever.

The main thing to remember is that changing our minds once doesn’t mean we’ll never change them back, or that we won’t form a new opinion entirely.  My writing worries will go, I’m sure, as soon I get stuck into my next play.  If they don’t, I could always retrain as an accountant or something.

Ok, that will NEVER happen.  But the point is that we can and should keep our options (and minds) open.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Thursday.

Bye Bye, Bag End

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Hello, you lovely thing.  Are you excited about your weekend?

This post is one that I’ve been avoiding for a while, because I think it’s going to be pretty difficult to write.  The subject matter makes me want to cry and stamp my feet, so do bear with me.  If I start getting hysterical just throw a biscuit at me or something.

At the end of this month, Ash and I will be vacating our beloved flat.  We’ve been living in Bag End for a year, and we’ve had an amazing time here.  We have had lots of lovely friends round to visit, hosted parties that defy the (minuscule) proportions of the floor space, danced around the kitchen to cheesy music, spilled coffee everywhere , had heart to hearts in the middle of the night and eaten unholy amounts of cheese.  It’s been bloody brilliant.

When we leave Bag End Ash will be moving home to save up for her trip to New York, and I will be moving to South London with one of my sisters.  Both of these are excellent and exciting things, but they are big changes.  I freaking hate changes.

Change is difficult for a lot of people to cope with because it involves uncertainty, which is something that humans are not wired to cope with very well.  We fear things like death and the dark because they represent obscurity: we have no way of knowing what they contain.  It’s the same with big changes.  How on earth can we be happy about them when we don’t know what they’ll entail?

It also comes down to a control and participation issue.  When we voluntarily make decisions that affect change, we can be happy because we’ve elected them.  Booking trips abroad, starting a new job and getting into relationships all fall into this category.  Being forced into change by other people’s decisions or circumstances beyond our control creates the opposite feeling: why should we have to participate in changes that we never wanted?  Why should we be forced into changing jobs, moving house or changing our relationship status?  If I may paraphrase William Ernest Henley’s poem slightly: “I am the master of my Facebook profile; I am the captain of my post code.”

I have realised that the trick to dealing with unwanted change is to look at it as an adventure rather than a crisis.  Bilbo Baggins didn’t want to leave Bag End any more than I do, but he went on to have a very jolly time.  (You know, except for the orcs and the massive spiders and stealing treasure from a dragon and everything.)  If we are never forced out of our comfort zones we never get to explore who we are or challenge ourselves, and both of those are very important things to do.

The other thing is that if we choose to look at enforced life changes in a negative way, it won’t affect any of the outcomes.  When we choose resentment over optimism we are only hurting ourselves.  Universal justice, fate, God or whatever life-affecting force you believe in probably doesn’t respond to sulking.

With that in mind, I’m going to start packing up my stuff.  I am choosing to look at this as an opportunity to re-alphabetise my books (which may sound like a pretty tremulous silver lining, but that kind of thing genuinely matters to me, because I’m a nerd).  Have a glorious weekend.

There And Back Again

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you doing?  

I have now returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, exhausted and a bit bemused, but very happy.  I also feel more than usually hobbitish: I took something important to a faraway land; my friends were all there but a lot of us had to do our own thing (and wear different costumes); I climbed a massive hill, and I have even returned to a flat called Bag End.  Elijah Wood, eat your heart out.

Coming home after a big adventure is always tricky, even though there are always people and home comforts we miss on our travels.  It’s tricky because of two things: firstly, once we’re back the adventure starts to fade and feel like either a distant memory or a seriously elaborate daydream, and secondly because we feel like we’ve gone backwards.  Weird, isn’t it?  

For example, I’ve spent two years working on Chris is Dead, and a year working towards this specific production.  There have been countless emails, dozens of meetings, hundreds of rehearsals and a lot of rewrites.  The show went down really well at the Fringe: we had great audiences and lots of nice feedback, and we all had a blast performing it.  So why do I now feel like coming home is taking a step backwards?  Is it just because Jon and I sat in backwards-facing seats on the train yesterday?

Seriously, though – the big experiences in our lives make huge impressions on us, partly because they are important, but also because they are transitory.  When our eye-opening adventures are over we are understandably confused and a bit shell-shocked.  The trick is to appreciate what was good about the experience, but has to be transitory in order to always be a good thing in our minds.  For instance, I love being on the Royal Mile for two or three weeks of madness every year, but that would become hell for everyone if it carried on indefinitely.  Think Alfred Hitchcock but with flyers instead of birds.

The other trick is to find the things that aren’t transitory about your experience, and keep hold of them.  Whether they are physical objects (tour hoodies, photographs, souvenirs and suchlike) or nebulous ideas (a sense of well-being, a feeling of achievement, increased confidence etc.), there is always something from our transitory times that we get to keep.  In my case, this year I made new friends and reconnected with some very dear old ones, so I will hopefully be keeping hold of them for a while.

Last but not least, make sure you have something nice to come home to when your travels or adventures are over.  I will be spending today with the glorious Laura Lexx, so that’s me completely sorted.

Have a beautiful day.  Make sure you have some vitamins and drink lots of water.

Get Off the Roundabout

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Hello, you lovely thing. How’s your Wednesday treating you so far?

Today is a sad day. Today I have decided to give up on a book, which never happens.  The book in questions is Howards End, and I’m having to give up because so far I hate pretty much all of the characters. Also, E.M. Forster’s writing style is incredibly long-winded and patronising. The story might actually be quite interesting, but I wouldn’t know because the narrative is sending me to sleep.

Anyway, giving up on a book made me question my personality, my priorities and the inner workings of my very soul (or perhaps something a little bit less melodramatic). I’m being silly, but the truth is that when we choose to give up on something that we consider a big part of who we are, it does tend to make us stop and think.

A friend of mine who loves cheer leading is having to give it up due to health problems, which is a huge shame. When we are forced by circumstance to give up on something we love, there can be an element of resentment and feeling hard done by.  Is it better, then, to be able to choose to give up?  Is there more dignity in a decision than there is in obligation?

Yes and no.  Making the decision to give up something – a vice, a pastime, an unhealthy relationship – gives us a feeling of control and self-discipline, which can be very good for us.  Having said that, we are only making the decisions now because we know that later on the decision will be taken away from us, and it will become a case of necessity rather than independent action.

The other thing to consider is that you are not defined by the sort of things that you might find yourself giving up, even if it was a potential (or current) career.  I am not defined by the fact that I read a lot, any more than you are defined by your typical Saturday afternoon activities or your preference of hot beverage.

Besides, people change all of the time.  You are not who you were a couple of years ago, and you are not who you will be next week.  You never know what life is going to give you, and if you have to give something else up in order to move forward, so be it.  You might spend years thinking of yourself in one way, and then find that you’ve been going round and round and getting nowhere.  Get off the roundabout and find something new.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Wednesday.  May your lunch be truly worthy of Instagramming.

The End is Nigh

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Good morning, my dear and lovely reader.  I hope that you’ve got some excellent and relaxing activities planned for your weekend.

Today is my final day of working front of house on a kids’ show in Greenwich.  In a week the show starts up again in Richmond, so I’ll be back to keeping ludicrous hours pretty soon, but for now it’s so long and thanks for all the prams.  Unfortunately, not all of my beloved colleagues are coming with the show to Surrey, so it’s goodbye to a few of them today.  After three weeks of early starts, tantrums, in jokes and camaraderie, we will be sad to see each other go.

Even though today is a bit sad, it’s also very positive: we are moving on to other things, we have all made friends whom we will keep for long time, and we are freaking knackered, so we need a break.  Like most people I am not massively fond of change, but in this case it’s ok that the end is nigh.

We don’t like the idea in general though, do we?  We don’t like to close a door on something and say that it is over.  Especially when it comes to our relationships with other people, the idea of categorically stating that we are finished feels weird, wrong and difficult.

Do you remember when you were about to leave school/college/uni?  Do you remember feeling that your time had come, that you were ready to get out there and do your own thing?  That you had taken as much as you could from a situation, and that you were now prepared to go out and do things your own way?  Right.  It’s the same with people, bizarrely.  We know when we are truly ready to end a friendship or relationship that is not good for us or has reached its natural end.  When we make a friend we tend to assume that they will be around for a long time, possibly for the rest of our lives, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  It’s nice to think that everyone in your life is there for a reason, but sometimes it seems that that reason is to give you a short, sharp shock, and then skidaddle.

I won’t tell you to live every day as though it were your last, or to treasure the people who matter to you: not because those aren’t worthy sentiments, but because you’ve heard them already.  If you’re not adhering to them by now, there’s nothing I can say to change that (except possibly bribe you with biscuits).  What I’m going to suggest is that we try to embrace the endings of things, because we never know where these endings are going to take us.  I’m also going to suggest that we make an effort to be nice to the people we care about, because we probably don’t want to face change and endings without them.

Have a spectacular Saturday.

Shameless Plug Alert

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Good morning, you lovely thing!  How’s your weekend going so far?

Life takes you to some very strange places.  For example, my first play was written in a blind panic over two days because we needed a play to perform for an assessment, and we ended up doing it at the Edinburgh Fringe.  A few months ago I sat down in a sulk and started writing a scene that is being performed tonight as part of a new writing showcase.  Who’d have thought that having a hissy fit would be so productive?

It’s not as simple as that, of course.  Life is full of twists and turns and very confusing states of affairs, all of which combine and conspire to get us places.  The scene that’s being performed tonight may have started off as my exorcism of a bad mood, but it’s turned into something very different.  The actors have definitely made the characters their own, and the original source of inspiration is all but obsolete.

It can be very difficult to let your ideas change, but most of the time we have to trust that they are changing for the better.  As time goes by your attitude changes, you hear other people’s opinions, and you adapt to circumstances.  For example, the piece that’s on tonight (and tomorrow and next Sunday, just by the by) is called Irresistibly Drained, which is a reference to a Conan Doyle quotation that sounds a lot more emotionally fraught than it was meant to.  When I originally came up with the title I thought it was fine, but as time passes I feel less and less comfortable about it.  It kind of sounds like I’ve written a romantic melodrama worthy of Mills & Boon.

Letting your ideas change is something that comes up a lot for writers in particular, because you can imagine a line being spoken one way, but then an actor will interpret it completely differently.  Lines that I didn’t realise could be amusing in Chris is Dead (which will be on at the Edinburgh Fringe in August, just FYI) were made hilarious by the actors’ performances, and I loved that.

The main thing about letting your ideas change and develop is that you have no way of knowing how much better it could be.  Letting other people make their mark on your work could open it up to all sorts of possibilities, and you might unlock a huge amount of your own potential.

Whatever you’re up to today, have a glorious Sunday.  If you’re around in Kennington at 6pm, do swing by and see the new writing festival.  Details are here.

Percy Jackson and the Inevitable Sequel

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Good morning!  How are you feeling?  All set for a new week?

Yesterday I wrote a fairly heavy entry where I ‘came out’ (if that’s the right term) as someone who lives with mental health issues, and to compensate for showing my darker side I promised you that today’s blog would be full of whimsy.  Let me see what I can do…

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Over the years this nugget of wisdom has been attributed to Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, David Cameron, my Year 2 teacher and probably you at some point.  (If it WAS you, well done.  It’s a very good piece of sagacity.)  It makes an excellent point that human beings, despite our incredible evolutionary achievements, do not always perceive bad consequences of an action to be a deterrent.  Drinking too much leads to hangovers, eating too much makes us fat and sneakily checking your ex’s Facebook profile is always going to put you in a bad mood.  We know the consequences, but we keep at it anyway.  What’s that about?

It’s the same sort of thing with sequels to films: we think that we’ll like it if the sequel has the same characters, the same actors, similar situations, in-jokes from the last film and a similar narrative structure, but when we get those things the feature always falls a bit flat.  We assume that the reliability of familiarity is enough to keep our attention, but is isn’t.  We like it when sequels introduce new characters, have new perilous circumstances and don’t rely on in-jokes from the first movie in order to make us laugh.

It must be the same in life: we say that we don’t like change (especially given that ‘change’ in this day and age tends to be synonymous with ‘expense’), but if our lives stayed the same we would get unbelievably bored.  Can you imagine if you never met new people, changed jobs or went abroad?  (Please note that I have heroically resisted the urge to make a joke about Americans living in the Bible Belt at this point.)

We don’t always like change but we need it, and if we embrace it we might find that the sequels (or new sections) of our lives are just as good as the original. They could even be better, like Toy Story‘s sequels.  Only try not to fall into a furnace.

Have a wonderful Monday!

I’ve Got “Changes” Stuck in My Head Now

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Happy Friday, lovely reader!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?

Last night I watched the season finale of My Mad Fat Diary on that absolute blessing of a website, 4oD.  For those of you who don’t watch it, don’t worry: I’m not going to go into any massive amount of detail about it (although it’s well-worth watching just for Nico Mirallegro, who is beautiful, as you can see).  For those of you who do watch the show but haven’t seen the finale yet, also don’t worry: I won’t spoil it for you.

The reason that I brought it up at all is because one of the key messages that came out of the episode is that you really never know how things are going to change.  You might think that you know how you feel about something, and then find that your opinion is entirely turned around.  (For example, I live in hope that one day I will wake up and discover that I like olives.)  You can think that you know how you feel about a person, and that can change without you even noticing.  That’s how old friends fall in love and old couples fall apart; sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s terrible, but it does happen.  You never know how you might change.

I’ve just typed the word “change” so many times that I’ve now got Bowie’s Changes stuck in my head.  (Weird fact about that song: when it was released as a single in 1972 it never reached the Top 40 in America or the UK, but it got great reviews and has since been listed as #127 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.)

Lots of us think that things happen to us, and that we are forced to adjust to them.  Sometimes this is true, but a lot of the time we actually have more of a say in how we feel than we realise.  If something changes that you genuinely can’t help, you can always find a way to adapt to it.  For example, when I lost my job a month or so ago I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself, but I didn’t.  (My friends and loved ones would never have let me do that, because they’re brilliant.)  I have registered as self-employed, I’m writing this blog and articles on other websites, and I’m finally giving my theatre company some much needed attention.  I have time to see my friends, and I can appreciate living in London for what it is: a bizarre adventure.  Sometimes it can be confusing or a bit lonely, but mostly it’s bloody good fun.

I decided to take that course of action.  I chose not to accept “Episode 7: The One Where Vicki Loses Her Job” as the season finale.  Think about times when something’s gone wrong for you in the past.  Did you sit around and feel sorry for yourself?  Maybe for a while.  But where are you now?  Are you still sulking?  Of course not.  You’re a wonderful human being with a lot of brilliant stuff to do.  You chose to respond to that situation by getting the flip on with your life.  You, my friend, have been commissioned for an additional twelve seasons at least.  (I don’t know why I picked twelve.  I have no idea how the television industry works.)

Most of this week (as you may have noticed from previous posts) I have been in a bit of a strop on behalf of myself and my friends, because we think that having feelings for people makes us vulnerable, and we don’t like that at all.  No siree.  But I had a truly enlightening conversation with a friend the other day, who told me that loving someone (in any way, not just romantically) is not just something that happens to you; it’s something that you decide to do.  You can fight your feelings and you can hide them, but they’ll still be there.  Isn’t it better to use them for something positive, even if you don’t know what will happen?  You don’t necessarily have to make massive declarations of eternal devotion or (God help us all) some kind of huge gesture worthy of a Hollywood rom-com.  You just have to be brave.  You have to admit to yourself how you feel, and then see where it takes you.  I suppose that’s an example of instigating change rather than being a victim of it, which can only be a positive step.

I think that that’s a big ask (especially on a Friday, for crying out loud), and I think it takes most people a while to be able to do that.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite there yet.  Although surely if I can master that bit, the olives thing will just happen automatically?

Have the Friday to end all Fridays.