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’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.
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.
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.
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).
For a month, I lived crime-free. I was oblivious to all things related to crime. What I mean is I didn’t hear any sirens, ambulance or police. The only time I saw a police presence was at an intersection directing traffic because Bali has very little to no traffic lights. People left their doors open. I walked to and from ATMs in pitch darkness, alone. I forgot my keys in my scooter overnight and found it there the next morning. No one warned me about being a female walking alone day or night. The only message of be careful could be found in the street signs around construction sites saying Hati Hati. Maybe it’s because I didn’t speak the native language, or read papers, maybe I lived in a bubble and something else was going on in other parts of Bali but the comfort at which everyone went about their lives, unbothered, safe, suggests it wasn’t just my ignorance. I experienced living in a place where you didn’t have to worry about bad things happening. It’s possible.
And then I came back home.
Within the first day back, a man felt it necessary to tell me that my walking to my car in front of my home, while making a phone call is not safe for someone like me, for a woman on her own. He told me that I’m making myself a target because I am calling my dad to tell him my car battery died. He told me it’s not safe. I was back home for a day.
Facebook showed me the daily crimes being committed. Who got robbed, or stabbed, or killed, daily. Blue lights blinded me every time I got into my car at night with officers constantly abusing their power on the roads. And then the country blew up with the news of the murder of an icon, in his home, alone. And it hit me: I am not safe here. This is not a place for living. This has become a place for surviving. We used to be a happy, relaxed, laid back island who knew how to have a good time. Now I see tweets about women feeling unsafe to go out and lime after certain hours, my mother worriedly sending me articles and messages of concern and warning, men telling women they shouldn’t dress a certain way, when I was just in a country where women’s cleavage out in a fitted lace top was the appropriate wear for going to the temple! What the fuck am I doing here? And how do I possibly even try to make it better? Hope feels like a disease. Crippling and pointless, leading only to death. How do we make it better? I understand why so many creatives become digital nomads and go disappear in a far away place like Bali, removed from the Trumps and Keiths of the world, not belonging anywhere because home is not what we grow up falling in love with, home has become unrecognisable and unliveable and we’d rather belong nowhere and live at peace than fight for a land that feels lost.
I don’t know what all of this means. But this can’t be it. This can’t be what I was excited to grow up to live in. Fix it! Fix it now!
You’re back from vacation, back to the life you left behind for how ever long and your friends and family start asking the dreaded question:
How was your trip?
How. How. How? Is how the right word? Can you describe the how? What more do you say other than It was great! and hope they don’t ask anymore questions? More importantly, why does this question irritate me as much as it does?
Even Google’s dictionary wants to know how my holiday was.
After being triggered this morning by the question post my Unsettled Bali trip, I realised maybe I was annoyed because I didn’t even answer the question for myself, let alone be able to share the answer with other people. Yes, I wrote about it in 6 parts and described what I did and who I met and how I felt on the trip, but how do I summarise a month, an experience into an answer that will satisfy the excited loved ones who just genuinely want to hear you talk about something that for you, is now over. It’s not like asking How are you? which is an ever changing thing and also has the acceptable response of I’m fine and you?. The trip happened, and ended, and now you have to figure out how to answer the how which is usually then followed by the what and who. Over, and over again.
In a perfect world, everyone would’ve read my blog, told me they saw it and their opinions of it and that be the end of the conversation about the trip. Maybe ask me a more thought provoking question like: So who are you now? But perfection isn’t real and existing with people is part of what makes life so interesting and so here I am forcing myself to sit with myself and really try to answer the question, in a genuine way, not for anyone else, but for me.
The condition and quality of my trip, my month, was ever changing. It was uncomfortable, inspiring, different, beautiful, challenging, teaching and more. It is difficult to describe an experience you don’t necessarily want to share with anyone beyond the 19 Unsettlers who you had the privilege of experiencing the trip with. It feels like it was ours and what we did, who we were and what we learnt was for us, not anyone else and not open for anyone else’s opinions or judgment or views. And maybe this is why the question annoys me, because it feels intrusive, like asking me what I did in the bathroom this morning. It’s personal time, for me, not for you. And maybe my answer to the question is simply, I have shared everything I wish others to know about my trip, I have nothing left to say.
I take very little…zero pleasure in repeating myself over and over, but yet over the last month that’s exactly what I did. What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do? What do you want for breakfast? Where are you staying? I was forced to repeat myself over and over again, answering these questions daily and it exhausted me but I did it. So do I willingly exhausted myself for those I care about? How much should we do for the sake of others versus for the sake of self? Asking questions shows someone you care about them, but how much of the questions we ask are questions we genuinely care to know the answers for? How much of the conversations we have are because it’s what should be done rather than what I am interested in. Societal norms are exhausting. And yes I realise I’m using this adjective a lot and it is because a lot of things exhaust me. Receiving messages exhausts me. Feeding myself exhausts me. But they are necessary parts of everyday life. How do I grow beyond the exhaustion to the fun parts? Maybe that’s the lesson of it all and maybe that’s the lesson I already learnt on the trip.