It’s a funny business we are in as artists. Sometimes we are busy and sometimes we are not. Sometimes we get paid what we’re worth and most of the time we are not paid at all. I find myself in constant flux. One thing I know is that I am continuously learning about myself. There is never a moment where I feel like I’ve got it all figured out. I oscillate from feeling like I couldn’t possibly be doing more with my time, to what the heck am I doing here and how will I ever make a living from this…
When I was in high school I decided I would become an Equine Vet. I love horses and I would love to work with them everyday of my life. I thought because I had a scientific mind and an aptitude for learning the ins and outs of biology, that this would be a good fit. This inclination however was more based on the notion that I would look smart and be a verifiable contribution to society.
In grade 12 Cornell was my top choice in school. I wanted to live in the finger lakes in Ithaca, NY and go to The Moosewood every night for dinner. I would join the equestrian team and learn how to treat these fabulous animals. I never really imagined my life as a vet or even the schooling or the learning that would have to take place…it was more like an image I had created in my mind, from a game in career studies.
I was pretty much a straight A student in high school, with exemplary work and volunteer experience, as well as a stellar athlete…after only one real season of training on the track with a club team, Phoenix Athletics. I did the SAT subject tests and ACE test late with relatively no previous study (as Americans have throughout their whole high school career), I didn’t do as well as I could have and only made Cornell’s wait list.
I ended up choosing UBC for my post-secondary schooling, and got as far away from Ontario as possible. I chose UBC over SFU for reasons I can’t remember. In hindsight SFU had a stronger women’s track team and I would have received a scholarship upon enrolment. But alas the connections and friendships out of my short stint at UBC, have remained invaluable. UBC is where I met my best friend for life…so how can that be wrong.
When I was at UBC I ran cross-country and track, competing down the coast and across the US in regional and national meets a part of the NAIA, I worked weeknights and weekends at East is East and Chai Gallery, volunteered on a semi-regular basis, and was a part of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, where we put on musical theatre shows. How did I do all these things??? I get tired just thinking about it. It is no wonder that I failed a course a semester pretty much! I don’t think it’s humanly possible to do all these things well at the same time.
While at UBC running was primarily my focus, designating roughly 30-40 hours a week to training (including physio, travel to and from practice, weights, water running, swimming, cycling, yoga and anything else that I could fit in). It was an amazing experience and during this time my coach had even told me that I had improved more over the course of the first year from Cross-Country (in the fall) to Track (in the spring/summer) than any other athlete he’d coached. So in the area with which I decided to ‘focus’ I more than achieved my goals. However my health severely suffered.
Although my time was divided between all these activities, the majority of the cut went straight to my eating disorder. It’s crazy to think that there was any time left, but sure enough most of my energy went to my disease. It dictated almost my every action.
To look back now I wonder how I did not have more health complications at the time. As athletes we are already putting our bodies in extreme situations all the time. We test our limits on a daily basis. This paired with severe malnourishment and constant binging and purging could have and probably should have led to heart problems, stress fractures and more. I barely even got injured though. I realized in retrospect, that my body is fucking resilient, and today I cherish it even more because of it.
It’s interesting too because I experienced more health problems, digestive issues, mouth sores, acid reflux etc. when I actually started eating again and keeping food down. Which of course didn’t help in my recovery.
But back to today’s subject of laziness. We often associate mental health and illness with inefficiency and inability to get things done. For me however and others that I’ve met along the way, it can be quite the opposite. The time and energy I had, seemed to supersede any need for rest, relaxation and ultimately balance. For me my mental illness took me to the another extreme of numbing through being busy.
Over the ten years you could say I developed not only an eating disorder, but an addiction to staying busy. This is something in our society that is greatly rewarded and highly praised, and in my opinion shouldn’t be. There are many business execs that I have come in contact with, that I have asked the direct question “How do you find balance?”, and their response has been, in so many words, “I don’t and I have no intention to, all my time goes into my business.” Not only is this a messed up response, but most of the time they neglect to even understand the question. As you can probably understand, for more reasons than one this aspect of my illness has been very hard to shake.
To this day I still juggle with the concept of balance. All you artists, entrepreneurs, and freelancers out there know too well what I’m talking about. We often must take work when we can get it, and if it all comes at once we don’t necessarily have a choice to refuse it, as it might not come again for awhile. The ups and downs of our lifestyle directly relate to our well being and we must monitor and be aware of our mental state on the regular if we want to stay healthy.
It can be quite a roller coaster, and not always pleasant. Some days when I have less to do I feel like a lazy lump and totally deficient as a human being. In addition rest can be hard to enjoy because the stress of not knowing when the next job will appear, looms in the foreground. I have to remind myself of the ups and downs, and that I am not always in control of when I get to rest and when I get work, but I must role with the punches and embrace both equally.
The way I used to deal with unscheduled time, was to binge and purge. I would buy endless amounts of food, stuff it down, throw it up, and then start the cycle again. Since recovery it has taken me a good four years to learn new ways of ‘doing nothing’. I had to relearn how to ‘relax’. It had become a foreign concept and to be honest provoked anxiety.
In a recent conversation with an awesome friend of mine, she mentioned that activities fall into three categories; 1)productivity, 2)leisure, and 3)self-care. In order to be balanced we must have these three types weighted equally in our lives. I think about my past, and realize that not only the amount of activity, but also the type, 90% of the time fell into productivity. In many ways these are often the only activities we learn about, and when we indulge in the others we feel bad about it. I have come to understand how each type of activity plays out in my life. A lot comes down to the attachment I have to said activity, but it is also an ongoing process of discovery. I encourage you to look at the types of activity you take part in and how they effect you.
It’s a funny business this thing called life and I think especially as artists we face the unknown on a constant basis. One could say it’s because we choose this lifestyle, however I often feel that in fact this lifestyle chooses us. Somehow the only choice I feel I get to make is the one of how close to my true self do I want to get? How much digging and how much work do I want to do to uncover my deepest emotions and vulnerabilities? Ultimately for me I find the deeper I go, the better and more individual my art becomes. The deeper I go the further from humanity I feel. Again I must come back to find the balance and meet all I do half way.
Without full knowledge of what’s next, I continually strive to become better at indulging in every moment, busy or not, chaotic or still. Finding the space in between the spaces, and in the end finding the middle ground that will allow me to move through life in a powerful and healthy way. I guess if you where to ask me, this is what life is about…finding our balance and not judging the things we do and the ways we feel.
Share with me your thoughts!! I always love to hear them!!
Till next time…