How Do You Choose to Live?

I think I’ve always been the type of person who, when told I have to do something, especially in a specific way, asked why? This was often perceived as my being rude and even disrespectful, but I simply wanted to understand the reasoning behind things. This is probably why I like history so much, it clearly answers the “why”. This has led to my designing the life I want to live, at least the parts I have control over.

While I’m no longer a practising Catholic, I’d never forget the day the concept of CHOICE sunk into my brain. The priest was talking about free will, and God not forcing us to do anything, and the fact that, at the end of the day, we all had a choice to make. This was meant, I guess, to inspire us to freely choose God or whatever but it did the opposite for me, it showed me that I did not have to be there. You can’t speak about choice without speaking about consequences, but what if you called them something else: Results. All this random babbling is to say that a couple, many years ago I realised I could make a choice with the goal of a desired outcome and get results, and I can do this with every aspect of my life.

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One of my favourite books from studying Literature is Albert Camus’ L’Étranger (The Stranger). I was always fascinated by how much Meursault’s straying from societal norms made people so uncomfortable. He didn’t cry when his mother died so this makes him a bad person. My young mind was fascinated. Since then I’ve been on a sort of personal mission where my actions are not to be driven by what is expected of me, or what I’m supposed to do, but rather by these one or all of these 3 things:

I want to do it.
It makes sense to me and I can justify it (logical or otherwise).
It is helping someone.

I’ve since thrown in additional factors like:

Does this make me happy?
Can I live without this?
How will this improve my or someone else’s life?

These factors guide things from what I wear, to how I speak, to what I post on social media. They also guide what jobs I say yes to, which relationships I allow or maintain in my life and what I consume. Some may see this as a selfish way to live, but at the end of the day, no one else can live my life for me. When all is said and done, I have to wake up every day and not just survive, but live, and hopefully enjoy moments in life and I refuse to let the opinions of “should” and “supposed to” dictate that.

I’ve noticed how much people act and do things based on societal norms and expected behaviour (and don’t seem too happy either) and it dawned on me that how I choose to live may be a new concept to someone, which inspired me to write this post. Even if it’s a lightbulb moment for one person, or something someone just needed to be reminded of, then I’m glad to help.

How will you choose to live today?

V-DAY or D-DAY?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved love. People who know me know me, know of my obsession with hearts. People who don’t really know me may find this hard to believe but that’s life. I also really love holidays or special days to celebrate a specific thing. For my Virgo and sometimes too logical brain, it’s the world giving me permission to be extra, or focus on something fun and exciting. Valentine’s Day has always been my day to celebrate love. I remember going to Long Circular Mall to buy chocolates for my friend to give to her boyfriend…in Primary School! I have always been 100% down for the cause. In college, I met my “wifey” aka my closest friend away from home and we shared an obsession of heart-shaped things and Valentine’s Day which we fondly referred to as S.A.D. (Singles’ Awareness Day). I grew up with my mother as my Valentine. I would always wake up or come home to a greeting card and teddy bears or chocolate, some physical expression of love. I guess the day was an excuse for her in a way too. All this is my way of setting the scene before the contrasting reality that is Valentine’s day today.

Bahumbug!

I’ve become this cynical shell of a human, incapable of celebrating one of my favourite days of the year. When did this happen? When did life and all of its shittiness warp me into this version of myself? I’m selling some cards I designed 3 years ago, and I remember how I excited I was to combine Carnival and Valentine’s, how happy looking at the cards made me and thinking of how special the people receiving them would feel. Now when I look at them, I feel nothing. Is this what growing up is? The inability to enjoy things that once brought you so much joy? Is this what life is?

I am sort of heartbroken today. I was so excited when client edits came in and I had work to focus on so the day would go by a bit faster.

So in a mad attempt to redeem the last 6 hours of this day, using one of my languages of love, here’s a playlist of my top 10 favourite love songs (in this moment, because let’s be honest, this list is constantly changing).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Safe Space for Dark Thoughts

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Photo by Josh Nuttall on Unsplash

On Saturday morning I woke up on my friends’ couch, very hungover, to the news that my old lady neighbour had passed away. On Sunday morning I woke up way too early on a Sunday morning to attend a workshop entitled Poetry as Ferocity which ended up taking me to some unresolved cobwebs in my otherwise not-so-horrible cupboard. This morning  I woke up and attended the funeral of “granny” as I fondly called her and maybe it was the funeral, or the fact that I couldn’t get out of bed on Monday or that I dreamt a song from a play I was in 4 months ago that sings of crossing over, or the fact that my dog was barking at “nothing” at some ungodly hour this morning, but I need a safe space to be somewhat gloomy right now. And as I type this I imagine I’m creating that space on this page not just for me but whoever reads this and needs a moment to be fucking true to the bad thoughts or emotions that you’ve been hiding with Instagram selfies and troll tweets and memes and feigned excitement in a comment under a friend’s post.

I am not okay. I don’t know that I’ll ever be okay. And in this moment, on this page, I’m relieved that no one is telling me “Don’t worry.” or “What’s wrong?” or “You okay?”, that no one is trying to fix anything or say “Move on”, “Keep going”.  In this moment, I’d like to give myself permission to not be okay and not feel guilty about that.

I owe no one a smile and neither do you.

How I Feel after Ti-Jean

I’ve been struggling to process my feelings and thoughts towards my theatrical debut in Derek Walcott’s Ti-Jean and His Brothers. I am from the school of thought that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. I strongly believe that you must do the things that bring you joy and that you’re passionate about. I also believe in personal growth and challenging yourself. So what does all of that have to do with Ti-Jean?

Being a part of the production was an accident of fate. I didn’t know about the play, I didn’t know about auditions, I happened to be there at the right time and I happened to say yes. I did not intentionally go seeking it out. So why did I audition?

I just returned from a month long trip to Bali, a trip I went on to challenge myself and be uncomfortable and discover new parts of myself. I wanted to continue that journey back home, I wanted the challenge of doing something new and different in Trinidad.

And then I was chosen.

How do you accidentally show up to an audition, with no real experience and get cast for the role? I honestly don’t have an answer but I took it as a sign that this was something I had to do. And what an experience it was.

I suppose it’s easier to get along with 19 strangers from different parts of the world because you allow for cultural differences and are a bit more open and patient with them. But 16 of your own people? From the same place, with a variety of emotions, personalities, methods of communication, and energies, at different places in life? That is a real challenge! And I underestimated it drastically. I thought my challenge was going to be acting, battling my fear of being uncomfortable in my own skin and standing on a stage in front of audience. And I did deal with all of those things, but that was the easy part in comparison.

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Backstage after our first school show, with one of the schools that thoroughly enjoyed the play.

I’ve been asked if I enjoyed my experience and if I’ll get on stage again, what’s next?

I can finally honestly answer:

I did not enjoy the experience, but that was not my intention. It was meant to be a challenge and it was meant to be uncomfortable and that is what it was. Of course, I didn’t help myself at all by also agreeing to be the designer for the production and adding social media and promotional marketing design to my to do list. But not everything in life is meant to be enjoyable. Some things need to be hard or else how do we grow? I am extremely grateful for the experience, I am extremely grateful for the growth, for the people I met, for the new energies I’ve experienced. And I truly loved it.

Acting is not my passion. And I know that now. However, this has reiterated that singing is. The parts I would say I “enjoyed” were learning the songs, singing the songs, and I’m sure the fact that this was a musical and not a regular play was no accident.

Will I get on stage again? For another musical, in a chorus rather than a lead role, definitely yes. And I will look out for other opportunities where I can keep singing, because I truly enjoy that, always have and probably always will.

The family and Bolom
On stage with my 3 sons and Bolom. Image by Abigail Hadeed

I’m coming to a place of acceptance that I experience things differently from what is expected and that it’s okay. I went through a couple of days feeling guilty for not enjoying this amazing opportunity I was given, that other people dream of. I felt that my lack of enjoyment meant ingratitude. But far from it. I completely acknowledge the privilege to be on a stage with Cacique award winners, talented and experienced actors and dancers, people I’ve watched and admired in other plays, productions and movies. The privilege to be choreographed by Abeo Jackson and directed by Wendell Manwarren. The privilege to be cast as Mother in a Derek Walcott play, a role that my History and Thespian teacher played in 1995, Ms. Mairoon Ali. The privilege to walk in her footsteps has been magical. I am so extremely grateful for this privilege. And I look forward to the next random opportunity of fate that comes my way.

the cast
The Cast of Ti-Jean and His Brothers 2019. Photos by Abigail Hadeed.

Happy Birthday

HAPPYBIRTHDAY

Every year, when the many greetings and Facebook posts and What’s Apps and phone calls come in, I feel the pressure to be happy on my birthday. It’s an odd thing to say and admit out loud because why would you feel pressured into being happy? As an only child, single female, Virgo, introverted extrovert with depressive tendencies, birthdays (and holidays) are rough times. It’s usually spent alone, because asking for company seems like too much work, also like something one shouldn’t have to ask for (I know this is a problem…I’m working on it). It’s also spent inside the brain of an over-thinker and overachiever, which isn’t always a very happy place, especially on days like a birthday when you haven’t reached any* of the goals your younger self set out. (*Read some.) The multitude of greetings also somehow exaggerates the loneliness of the situation. All these well wishes and kind words, with zero company. I read all of these messages, alone, usually on my couch, sad AF. And don’t get me wrong, the heartfelt greetings do make me smile and make me feel loved but the pressure to respond to each one, and be happy and feel some sort of special way on this special day usually overpowers the little joy each message brings. (This is why I never respond or respond a day to a week later. Sorry!)

Introducing planning. This is why I plan big festivities and invite people to them. I got tired of not enjoying my birthday and now, I use the day as an excuse to be a Leo, if for a brief moment. (For my non-astrology aware readers, this means I get to be attention seeking for a day. It’s all about me.) In 2017, for my golden birthday, I rented a yacht and had a Great Gatsby themed party. Last year, I went to Afropunk with friends. I plan so I can try to control the feelings and ensure I actually do have a happy birthday. But here’s a secret, I hate planning. My brain is wired to plan, I know this and accept this. I plan for clients, I plan for my business, I think of every detail for everything every, single, day. And it is truly exhausting to do. I would love for my birthday to be a day off from planning. Do you see my problem? My solution to having a happy birthday involves my doing something that does not make me happy. In an ideal world, I would have this truly amazing best friend or significant other who understands all of this, understands the mystery that is me and plans the day for me, filling it with special small things that matter and just on that one day, I don’t have to think about everything. Just for one day. But ideal isn’t reality and so this year I’ve planned another big party, but I’ve handed off the actual execution so I don’t have to do anything. I’m learning that wishing for the ideal but doing nothing in the meantime is stupid, and asking for what you want (as painful as it may be) really is that simple and will get you what you want, or as close to it as possible.

My party falls after my birthday so I still run the risk of being sad and alone on the actual day, but I think writing out loud may help dispel some of the blues (and maybe help someone else out there know they are not alone).

I’m curious, how do you celebrate your birthday?

Photo by Mehrshad Rajabi on Unsplash