I’ve kept a journal since I was about 8. In it, scribblings & doodles, words desperately trying to capture time. Dreams. List on list of what I want to be ‘when I grow up’. Archeologist, Singer, Artist, Superhero, Dancer, Fashion Designer, Rally Driver, Adventurer, Furniture Maker, Tattooer, Mechanic, Traveller, Business Owner, Writer, International Gymnast, Lawyer, Surfer, Photojournalist, War Correspondent, Film Maker; my list goes on, depending on my age or what I was into at the time. Admittedly, not all of these stayed with me in the 26 years I’ve been pottering about – Singer didn’t remain a strong contender for very long. Mostly because I can’t sing. And that my mother may have been lying about the fact that I could.See, I had the misguided belief that growing up was a linear process. I was to be a child and then I would be an adult, and that transition would be smooth and painless and A-Okay. Bull. At 26, I feel like I am an oversized teenager still grappling with where I want to be. But, maybe I am being unforgiving to myself. I’m projecting into a future, when I can’t even see where I am right now; instead straddling an invisible space where on one side I am in the past and the other, my future. What of this moment? Earlier in the year I started to “date myself”. Slightly narcissistic, possible, but I realised that the relationship I was having with myself was started to seriously damage what I wanted to be. Where the saboteur in me would relentlessly scream that I couldn’t do anything. By allowing the space to begin a more nurturing dialogue with myself, I began to learn to self love, and in doing so, I connected with who I was (present, awesome me) and who I wanted to be (future, awesomer me), and figuring out how to get there. I’ve began to spend more time in life, rather than getting ready for it.During the last few months, life has followed the chaotic rhythm of trying to figure these things out, and it was then that I met Olivia. In between swapping mutual existential meltdowns, we sat outside a party, smoking cigarettes in the cold with an American guy screaming about how much he loved Liverpool. It was against this setting that she started to tell me about the Before I Die Network, which she founded as a fun and inspiring way for young people to pursue and achieve their goals in life. There are few things that are truly genuine, that hold no facade, than that of passion, and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling listening to her talk. A few months later, I rocked up to my first social, excited to meet new people, but decidedly nervous about what the evening would hold. In sitting down to write this, I looked over my journal after the event, and found two goals; (1) stop thinking I can’t be the greatest version of myself & (2) start my own community space, with the words, “Amazing night, so many ideas buzzing, such lovely feedback. It dawned on me that, that I have embedded deep into myself the need to be irreproachable before I thought I could be good at a chosen career, but in actual fact, this irreproachability is unrealistic and ultimately means, I will never have the courage to get going”. During the course of that evening, intimacies were swapped and vulnerabilities shared. I thought of where I wanted to be in the future, in a year, three, five or ten, and I saw myself sitting on an overnight flight to my first posting as an art psychotherapist overseas. I wore and looked very much the same as I do now, and while everyone around me slept, I smiled.
Since the workshop, I started doing. When I left that evening, I had the same phrase run through my mind again & again: read more, see more, be more. I’ve since signed up on an Art Psychotherapy course. I quit a job that was going nowhere, and on the back of that been offered projects to lead. I started to draw again. Properly, with love, for the first time in…years. I began to play once more, within the public space, with the itsprsnl project. I’ve sat in parks over the summer, drinking iced coffee, reading books and books and books on art psychotherapy in conflict. I’ve been happy, alone, spending time in the chaotic unknown of now.
There are a few things that paralyse me, and two include the question, “what do you do?” and thinking about death. But, death can serve through life to remind us to keep living. Often our own grazes too close to the end of the living, ticking, breathing remind us this, or through the loss of loved ones. The difficulty lies in not forgetting it. And when asked what it was I really want to do with my life, I stutter and stammer until my face glows hot with…shame? Shame that perhaps, I should have a one word answer prepared. I don’t. I won’t have. I am a patchwork of things, making & doing, and that’s the way I like it. My life is messy, unpredictable and wonderful. The fact that I cannot answer that question with a one word answer, makes me irrevocably content. I’m on my way.