An important thing I want my niece to know is there is no dishonour walking away from something that no longer makes you happy. A relationship, a friendship, a cruise ship - if it no longer fills your soul with joy then it is no longer of service to you and both parties should be set free. This is why I am writing this break-up note to my long running partner Trying Hard.
Dear Trying Hard
It all began so long ago. From rehearsing dance routines in the kitchen aged 9 to revising for hours for my 13 completely now unnecessary GCSE's you have always been by my side. I thought I needed you to survive. If I was there, Trying Hard on my team, great things would come to me and sometimes those moments correlated. I would put my all into something and something wonderful would be produced but so often I would be left tired and somewhat hollow afterwards. All that time, effort and energy focused solely on one thing, gone in a heartbeat. I thought that was just how it worked. I never considered there was another way. Even after all my years in education, trying with all my might to be top of the class so I could have lots of friends and a great life, I always seemed to end up on the outside and I never understood why because I was always Trying Hard.
That transferred into my twenties, when I was at uni I read lots of plays, worked on my vocal technique daily, learnt dance routines I wasn't cast in because if I tried hard great opportunities would come to me. Yet still I was told 'you're mixed race so you need to belt to get work', 'you can dance but your too big to fit in the line up', 'you do weird things with your face when you act, it's distracting'. So I would try and fix anything I could fix in an attempt to earn what I thought I deserved.
I wrote to 220 agents, directors and theatre companies in the run up to my final year show. I was one of 4 out of a cast of 16 to write to anyone, over half the cast, some who no longer wanted to perform after uni, got signed as a result. This was when it truly hit me, at 25 years of age that even those who have never turned to Trying Hard still got great results. But it was ok I told myself, I was going to continue Trying Hard as my time was coming, it was just around the corner as long as I put my all into everything I did.
Over the past four years I have had some incredible opportunities and had lots of fun creating with great people but any time 'big' chances comes up they never seem to come through. I get so close I can almost smell it but it never seems to be my time this time. No matter how many spreadsheets I create detailing agents, directors, casting directors, theatre companies and share with others , no matter how many hours I spend getting off book, researching the production company, director, script no matter how many skills I brush up on or learn new - it never quite seems my time.
I know some people may call me bitter, that there have been good times why can't I solely focus on them? Well because I have been trying so hard for so long that I not just tired but exhausted. My brain is now so full, I struggle to form full sentences, my days thoughts spilling into vivid dreams of failure, too tired to keep the positive energy flowing, feeling jealous of those reaching their goals sharing them with such ease online. And I began to resent Trying Hard.
Having dinner with a friend last week she said she was no longer going to say 'I am working on' but 'I am loving on' and it rang so true within my heart that I knew it was exactly what I needed to hear to make this step forward. I want to feel free again. I want to feel in love with my career again. So Trying Hard needs to be a thing of the past.
Now don't get me wrong I am not going to become a lazy oaf expecting things to fall into my lap, I am not expecting anything. I am just going to find the joy in everything again. I'm not going to think less of myself if I don't manage to get off book in time for a casting, I'm not going to compare my career record to every mixed race actress out there, I'm not going to feel like an outcast because I am taller and chubbier than those with sustained careers. I'm going to accept every opportunity with open arms and enjoy it for all it is, no expectations, just a chance to experience something new.
Trying Hard, you have been with me a very long time and I have expected so very much from you but now is the time to set ourselves both free. I'm going to spend some time finding out what I'm like without you looking over my shoulder and I think it's time for you to have some rest because you have been Trying Hard for so very very long.
To the future,
fHoly guacamole what a month.
This month has really been about letting go of ego and embracing new people (figuratively not literally). Some people may choose to but I believe you can't go through life alone. Human interaction us vital to the evolution of human existance - gosh that got deep real quick. But its true, I spoke to a world renowned futurist about it. Let me explain.
This summer was rough. Its the first time I momentarily considered walking away from acting. It was because I felt I had no place there, I didn't fit in and with a loving boyf in my life maybe its time to 'settle down'. As I said it was momentarily because the idea of not acting anymore made me feel physically sick that reaffirmed that my purpose is to be a storyteller.
So whilst I waited for the acting job I considered what other jobs could allow me to tell stories. Then one kinda fell in my lap out if my twitter feed. A director I have followed for a while because of his comedy work, posted back in June that they needed someone for a day or two to help with some research. As a grade A nerd I jumped at the chance to learn new skills and learn about new things and loved. Then they called me again and again. Just a day or two here and there then September came around and they offered me a 5 week stint researching 100s of stories for The One Show. That meant I was in an office where not only could I learn about loads of awesome stuff, but write the treatments for them and also chip in here and there on some of their other projects. I was storytelling in a way I never had before and loving it.
And there were respectful and flexible for my acting jobs which I haven't freaked out about this month. I got to a point where I would make sure I was completely off book, new the life story of every one on the creative team, arrived am hour early, cleared my diary for all potential dates and in reality I was basically piling a whole of unnecessary pressure on myself. And telling myself because I had done all that work I DESERVED it. The person who was beat for the role deserved it and me bringing in that attitude to a casting room was so unproductive and possibly cocky. It wasn't me.
So I chilled the fudge out. Allocated time to do what I could in terms of research but made sure I took care of myself first. I allowed myself to have fun in the room knowing that this job was not the be all and end all. And then the work came. Little corporate shoots that were loads of fun, some presenting gigs that upped my new skillset and chances to do comedy. I had shied away from comedy for a while because having been 'the funny fat friend' growing up I associated being funny with being fat and I did not want to be seen as fat. But then I let that ridiculous view point go and began to laugh every day.
I allowed myself to literally go with the flow because of the guidance of those who know me best and I will tell you what I am enjoying life on this rubber ring floating down the lazy river enjoying the view. My relationships have improved as have my career prospects and health. I am creating more time for friends and family rather than 'sorry I cant see you for the first time in a year because I need to spend this entire day on this self tape for a short film that may or may not catapult me into stardom' we hang out. And hanging out is vital! Talking nonsense or discussing spirituality or walking through parks or just watching a junk TV switching off from actor Lauren and being Lauren and friends is wonderfully liberating.
Who knows what's around the corner, I could be cruising for another few months yet but I know connecting with people both inside of work and outside means I am planting seeds in all aspects of my life for the future and you know what, I'm cool with it.