Recently, while sitting in the big bay window of a crowded downtown coffee shop, I told a friend that I felt a bit like a bouncy ball let loose in a frictionless room. Its not an image that I had thought about or conjured up before. But in my attempt to encapsulate the ‘off’ feeling that I’ve been experiencing as of late, it’s what came to mind.
Our conversation moved on to other topics, but in the days since I’ve been going back to this image. Why it came to mind, what exactly I meant by it, and what, if anything, it means for my current context.
To start to unpack this image, there are a couple of things to get past. The first, is the feels as of late. Have you ever felt…like your head is simultaneously empty, and incredibly loud? This has been my dominant state the last few weeks. At times when it’s present, it feels like no matter how hard I try I can’t produce any thoughts. But in that void, the silence rings out like church bells, striking by the minute instead of the hour. And in that silence, I know that I need to work through whatever is behind the feeling, but my brain has stopped functioning, and so I can’t work through anything, and the silence only intensifies. The result is my entire inside feeling empty.
Somehow, this hasn’t had much of an effect on my general levels of productivity. It just feels like shit.
Thing number two, is the last year and a half. Which has been…interesting. Going from September 2014:
- I was the Fundraising and Communications Coordinator at Engineers Without Borders Canada
- I was unemployed
- I put on an art show
- I was pretty sad
- I started doing some storytelling performance stuff
- I managed a baseball website
- I was unemployed
- I was a Squire at Medieval Times
- I moved to St John’s
- I started working at Food First NL
- I committed to doing lots of climbing
- I put on a comedy show (twice)
- I put on another art show
- Most recently, I’ve decided to take up cross-stitching
This is where the bouncy ball feeling comes in. With the exception of climbing, life since September ’14 has been characterized by a feeling of being all over the map. Even the moment that started this entry—the bay window in the crowded downtown coffee shop—was a discussion about some podcast work that a friend and I are starting to get into. So when I said that most recently I’ve decided to take up cross-stitching, that wasn’t really true. Podcasting. Podcasting is the most recent thing.
On paper, all of this is great. On paper, I’m keeping busy. Trying new things. Exploring new potential passions.
In practice, though, it’s different. Which is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed all of this—the list above. The comedy show was fun and allowed me to tell a story I felt like I had been holding in my chest for some time. The art show was satisfying—and though I didn’t sell a lot—I felt proud of my work. The podcast stuff is new and exciting, and puts me back in touch with the storytelling work I’ve been circling around in different forms over the last several years. Even cross-stitching, which promises a return to the kind of concentration intensive, patience heavy artwork that I used to be into, when I was doing screen printing.
But at the same time, all of these one-off endeavours feel a bit…draining. Like, each one is a tentacle I’m shooting out into the world, and then dropping. Like a salamander that loses and regrows its tail.
For example. I did this comedy show, but I have no plans for doing anything with comedy. I did this art show and now I have all this left over art, without any idea of what to do with it. I have a photo website that I will occasionally and half-heartedly try and push. It goes on. And unlike an increasing number of friends who are actively pursuing ideas or careers they’re passionate about, I’m just sort of bouncing around from one opportunity to the next.
And again, none of this is inherently bad. None of it is inherently anything. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not passionate about what I’m doing. I like Food First NL a lot (the job, the org, and the people). The comedy show was fun and allowed me to tell a story I felt like I had been holding in my chest for some time. The art show was satisfying, and though I didn’t sell a lot, I felt proud of my work. It goes on.
None of this is inherently bad. None of this is inherently anything.
But that’s what I’m trying to figure out right now – how I feel about it. Whether I think it falls one way or the other. Whether I’m okay with it.
The last few weeks, and the image of the bouncy ball in the frictionless room, would seem to suggest that maybe, or at least, increasingly, I’m not.
The questions that logically follow, are where this tentacle approach to life and creativity has come from, and what, if anything, I do about it.
Both are challenging for different reasons. The latter, because that’s a very large question with a multitude of possible answers, and the former, because the answer is more clear, but harder to face.
The answer, I think, is fear.
It’s here that I think about my friend Ray. A couple of years ago Ray started pursuing a solo music career. In the time since we’ve chatted a bunch about how this endeavour is large and nebulous and challenging and, at times, frightening. And yet, she’s been killing it. In the last year, for example, she has completed a residency at the National Arts Centre, played in a variety of festivals, released her debut EP, had her US debut, opened for Esparanza Spalding…it goes on. Next month, she’s opening for Coeur de Pirate (WHAT). Her dedication is nothing short of inspiring. I am constantly in awe at what she’s able to achieve, and look up to her a lot.
When I think about the jumbled list of projects and endeavours I’ve been embarking on, I know that they too have their merits. I know that they, too, contain an element of fear and uncertainty conquering. But there’s a gulf that exists between doing a comedy show, and making comedy the thing you do. Between hanging some art in a coffee shop, and making art how you make your living.
And maybe neither of those things are the thing I want or am meant to do. And so maybe it’s fine that they’ve been one-off experiences. But I feel like I’ll never know, because I’m afraid to try.
I’ve been okay with the idea of taking on a manageale level of risk. Enough to move out here, to St. John’s. Enough to potentially look like a goof in front of a room full of friends, while performing a comedy show. Enough to potentially lose a few hundred dollars on art supplies.
But never enough for anything more than that. Never enough to commit to a world view and then risk having that world view crumble. Keeping with the flip-flop no-questions-answered nature of this blog post, maybe that’s okay, too.
But maybe that’s why I feel like a bouncy ball in a frictionless room.
Maybe that’s what I need to change.
I’m still working on figuring that out.
Until next time.