2nd October 2018
As I am lying in my bed not feeling very well, I finally have time to do some writing.
The other night I couldn’t sleep. This was frustrating as I had been working 28 days in a row... I was super duper mega tired and I REALLY REALLY needed that good night sleep - if I would ever be able to conquer another 21 days of various work-related activity. But I was there, in my bed, and I couldn’t sleep. When I first did fall asleep, I woke up around 4 in the morning. It felt like I would panic. This was not because it is a disaster to live on a little less sleep for a few days, but because I realised that without some sort of rest to survive the next 21 days, I wouldn’t. I felt like I would collapse.
At around 4.30 in the morning, I decided to message one of my co-freelance-workaholics. She had recently put up a rant on Instagram about allowing yourself to be human for at least five minutes every day in the midst of all the work. Writing her an essay (hehe, thank you for reading it all) about my situation made me realise many things. I want to rewrite these realisations for you guys, as I believe it is important to share.
I had been working for 28 days straight with no weekend, not really any time for just me and not even one day off. Yes, it’s good to do things, but this is definitely not good. And it’s funny, because even in this time with no breaks, I did have the time to be human. Whilst I spent 25 days at the west coast of Norway, I found time to read, had lovely conversations with people about anything between heaven and earth, enjoyed magical moments and endured the routine of doing the same thing almost a million times (it was actually almost a million times). I even made sure I read my Bible and had some quiet time. I had the time to get stuff done and to plan plan plan. I guess in a way all of this was perfect.
I came home from the west coast on Friday night a bit before midnight, went straight to work in the shop Saturday morning, popped home to start unpacking, went to have a lovely dinner with a friend (this was a super-normal-human thing to do), went to a show and did lots of speaking and networking with other dance people. I came home around midnight and got up on Sunday for another day of work. I had a few hours of meetings and was shocked to be ‘done for the day’ at 15.15 - all my other 26 work days had ‘finished’ at around 19.30 at the earliest. So yes. September has been a month of everything. Everything; except for time to let go.
Except for time to let go. Time to let go. Let go. Because even though I have done more than five minutes of ‘human’ every day, it is not enough to balance out life. I know I struggle with myself and my work becoming one. My art and my ambitions are so intertwined with who I am as a person and how I communicate with the world, that it sometimes can be incredibly hard to let go. It feels like I am striving striving striving to make things happen. Really reaching and working so hard to see how well I can multitask everything I believe I need in my life. But multitasking and finding balance is not the same.
This week I had planned to do a workshop that went throughout the whole week, I had plans for three of the five evenings and plans for the whole weekend. The week after I have work in the shop, another workshop to attend, and plans for the remaining time.
It was now 5 in the morning. I was lying in my bed, exhausted from even the thought of all I had to do. I was not able to sleep as I realised that even the ‘not at all work related’ plans still felt like work. I was wide awake and I knew I wouldn’t sleep until I did something about this. If you are still reading my super long text, I am sure you must also be realising that I am crazy. Of course I could not wait until Tuesday 23rd October for a day off. Hahahah. Mamma mia. What is this?? This is not sustainable! I thought if I just had another night of good sleep (since I was so exhausted, I should be able to have a good night sleep, right??), the workshop would be exactly what I ‘needed’ (aka, very helpful for learning something new, connecting with other professionals and moving my body with more understanding).. Hmmm.. maybe not.
Sometimes what might be right is not even adding an extra five minutes of something more “human” in life. I believe it is more about acknowledging that we are ALWAYS human. And humans need rest. They need to burn their schedules from time to time. Because as I have experienced in the past; everything will be alright. Things will continue to happen, and whatever is meant to be will still jump into my pathways when the timing is right. Yes, WHEN THE TIMING IS RIGHT. Not when my agenda has a half an hour extra space for another productive activity (such as planning to plan what I am planning... haha).
A word that has continued to POP out everywhere this past month is the Norwegian word for ‘patience’. I just recently discovered what it actually means. In Norwegian the word for being patient is ‘tålmodig’. I was shocked when I saw that the word can be split into two; ‘tål’ which means ‘endure’ and ‘modig’ which means ‘bravely’. Endure bravely. I believe patience often is related to time; waiting; letting go; allowing what is meant to be to unfold in its time. This requires us to endure in the given time. Enduring in the given time requires us to be brave whilst waiting. Sometimes this waiting needs to happen in quietness, with a bit of space and a dash of positivity.
I never thought about it this way before... So, hmmm. Being brave is not just about working hard or jumping into any opportunity given and/or made. Being brave can also be the opposite. Such as allowing space when all you want to do is fill it. Allowing some space even if what you want to fill it with is a very ‘sensible’ workshop.... I had been 28 days without a break, and I couldn’t do three more weeks. I couldn’t. And you know what? I didn't have to. I needed to be brave. Brave enough to not go into my habit of pushing beyond my limits. Being brave enough to accept my limitations. Working with them. As a human.
In one way (contradicting myself here.. hehe), it is like I have all this energy to do EVERYTHING. Like really.. Hahah, but this is not true. It is an illusion I have created in collaboration between my passion and my pride. So well.. the only way I realised I would finally fall asleep was if I wrote (just one more) email and said I wouldn’t be able to make it for the workshop. So I did. I created some space in my schedule. I fell asleep.
Regardless of how much my pride is screaming at me right now, I have to tell you this much; I can’t do everything. I can’t do everything. I can’t reach beyond myself, because this would mean loosing myself. I can’t do everything. But I might be able to do anything. Yes, I can do anything. I can choose to be brave. Brave enough to let go. Brave enough to allow some space, and brave enough for this to be more than just another plan to my schedule. I can choose to be brave enough to reach from within myself and out towards the life I am meant to live. Not letting go of my passion, my drive or that internal energy striving to move, create and ‘get stuff done’, but rather charging some of the energy; letting it transcend from within me and finding myself doing life, rather than simply getting it done.
Having only been officially out in the freelance world for a year and a few months, I don’t know everything. And I do know that my experience changes all the time and that it is not necessarily the same as everyone else's. However, I DO believe that this time after graduation is very little spoken about. So here I am, trying to put some words on what I am learning and unlearning. Because if I am honest with you, it is not easy. Living the dream is not really very dreamy at all. Of course there are moments, truly magical moments, and they make it all worth it.
As a freelance contemporary dance artist I feel like people in general are quite interested in what I do. “What do you do?” they ask. “Well, that is a very good question”, I respond. Because what on earth am I really doing? Well. I do work part time in a ballet shop, cover some classes as a dance teacher, am my own accountant, my own personal trainer, write applications, am my own marketing officer, I am a choreographer and dance artist with so many dreams and ambitions. I sometimes feel like I work every second of every day, I work on new ideas, try to eat the right thing and aim to go to bed at the right time (this hardly every happens). I watch performances, attend workshops and go for coffees. I do everything. Sometimes I dance in a waterfall, other times in a shop window advertising clothes. I do everything. I dance in productions and do research to support my own work. I meditate, pray and think. I am a sister, a daughter, a friend and an individual. I am all this. I am everything. I do everything. And I am not sure if me putting labels on who I am or what I do really clarifies anything. All I know is that I am trying my best to stay on the path I am meant to take; living life as a human. Letting go of the labels. Living for other people. My faith. The art. Is this enough? I want to tell you it is easy. It is absolutely not. But it is absolutely worth it.
However, when people ask me, I tell them the easy truth. Because people in general want to know that I am okay, other dance artists that are about to graduate want to know that they will be okay. So I tell them; it is okay, and it will be okay. They need to hear it. It is incredible to work as an artist, being free, having the possibilities to learn something new every day and to fully follow your interests. I am thankful for the projects I have done and am doing. I have been rather lucky I would say. I would say that there is a path out there for everyone and that your art is as valuable as everyone else’s. I would say all of this. I believe this is also true. But. Yes, but. Sometimes it is good to hear that it is not all magic. Having your dream as your job, makes it a job. The best job in the world, but still, you will not always love it. And that’s okay. Because in the difficulty of living this freelance life on your own, you are not alone, and there are other people hanging in there, refusing to give up. Don’t be shocked when it’s tough. And as recent graduates know; dance education is definitely tough, but let me tell you that the year after graduating is ten times harder.
And also, one last thing.
I am on my second day off in what must be forever. This must sound a bit strange, but when I deleted that workshop off my schedule, and gave myself a week of space, that in itself felt a bit dramatic. Like I should have pushed through, like I needed to prove myself. I don’t understand, because really, it was not that dramatic at all! I guess a part of freelance Maria just needs to make sure that giving yourself some space is not about giving in to what is difficult, it is about accepting that it can be, learning from it, knowing that you are human and that sometimes it is actually okay to collapse a little bit. Collapsing creates space. And I did know in my heart that I needed one week of nothing. Because I am not well. And when humans are not well, they rest. Rest. With a bit of patience. Enduring bravely.
PS. I am very good at giving others the advice I should have given myself a long time ago, so if you feel crushed under massive amounts of work, I am here for a chat (if I find time in my schedule of course..).
Thank you for reading.