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,