Saturday, 23 August 2014

In Defence Of Our Dreams: JARED

Ha. I wish I had interviewed him for my little project, but alas, that’s a dream that will probably never come to pass. Note that I dropped the ‘probably’ in there because we all know what he’d say to that…Dream as big as you want to because anything is possible, no matter how bizarre.

No, this is an interview that he did recently with ‘TimesTalks’ in NYC (August 14/15 depending on your timezones). I’ve just been watching it again (of course), and I wanted to write down some of the things he said to drill them into my brain. And as you know, basically everything he says is inspiring and motivating, so I decided to turn it into a blog post. This way, whenever you need a kick in the creative pants, or whenever you are feeling doubtful and fearful about the path you've chosen to take, you can come here and be filled with a fire to create and make your dreams a reality. That’s what he does for me. He makes me believe I can do anything and be anything. I have never met a more inspiring and amazing person, and to be perfectly honest, I doubt I ever will.* There is no one who inspires me like he does. No one. Here are some highlights from the interview, which you can watch in full here. I highly recommend you do that. The whole interview is just over 90 minutes, so this is just a small taste of the beautiful and inspiring things he said:

On deciding to do something special with his life ~

“It’s not such a safe, or predictable, or gentle career path, being an artist. It can be very challenging.”

“I was already dead set on doing something special with my life, come hell or high water. I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me from doing that, because I figured out early on that most people never really try, and if I just tried I had a good shot at making the impossible possible. And I tell people that all the time, you know; taking that first step is the one that most people never ever take. Which is a shame, because great dreams are possible. Do I sound like Anthony Robbins right now?”

On learning from the best film makers in the industry (and inadvertently describing exactly how I feel about him) ~

“I don’t watch David Fincher just to learn about film making, you know; I learn from David Fincher about execution, about planning, about follow through, about perseverance, about having a vision and bringing it to life, and that can be applied to anything…What I found in David Fincher is excellence and not being afraid of ambition.”

I don’t listen to Mars just to listen to music, you know; I listen to Mars to learn about following dreams, about believing in myself, about taking the road less travelled and about fighting for what I believe in. I learn about execution, about planning, about follow through, about perseverance, about having a vision and bringing it to life, and that can be applied to anything. In fact I do apply that to most -- if not all -- aspects of my life, as regular readers and my friends and family would know. What I found in Mars, in Jared, is excellence and not being afraid of ambition. A role model. A role model who makes me want to be better in every single way. A role model who makes me better.

On being committed to your dreams ~

“In order to be an artist, you have to be committed beyond a reasonable doubt. To be a writer, you have to be committed beyond a reasonable doubt…I think that when you take the road less travelled, you have to have that commitment.”

“I think I have an insatiable appetite to make things and share things with the world. I have…You know, I’m compelled beyond a reasonable doubt to do what I do. I don’t think that it can be reasonable or a logical choice. I think at a certain point you’re compelled to do it. It’s too painful, too brutal, too neurotic of path to take otherwise. So I think that that compulsion has to be there. It has to be something that you…You can doubt all the time, but deep down you know that this is something you HAVE to do. And uh…I think that’s I’ve dealt with some of the adversities, some of the challenges – of which we’ve had many. You know, I started a band and the world laughed at me. Literally laughed at me. Kicked us around, talked shit about us in the press for years, and still do. Uh, you know, but we hunkered down and we worked and we worked and we worked. We play arenas all over the world; we have the most amazing brilliant beautiful ‘fans’ one could ever ask for, and we’ve had an incredible life as a result. So if I had listened to the choir, to the chorus of everyone, I would have stopped. Because that’s what people want you to do. For some reason, some people would rather kill your dream than see you succeed. I don’t know what that is, you know. I mean Ayn Rand talks about that as the ‘looters’, you know, we can debate her and that some other time, but, it, you know, I think it’s important to be stubborn and to, to follow your dreams no matter what.

“I’m a maniac about what I do. I LOVE what I do. I would choose my work – which is kinda hard to call it ‘work’ – over my play any day of the week. I’ll work on a Saturday or a Sunday happily. I’ll skip the vacation…If you love what you do, it makes everything easier.”

On music (and again inadvertently describing how I feel about Mars) ~

“That’s what music can do for us…It can be the glue that binds us together. Friends, family, community. It can heal us, it can inspire us…It can change us.

On failure ~

“The great thing about standing in the shadow of failure is that you learn a lot.”

On pushing through the doubt and fear ~

“I always knew that I wanted to do something different, something special, something creative with my life. But I certainly never knew that it was inevitable. But I knew that certain parts of it were; the part that I was going to be on that path no matter what. But like I said before, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other. I have as much doubt and fear as anyone else. I have my fair share of anxieties, of dark days -- and I think that’s important to say because form the outside people could, you know, maybe just assume I’m thinking about my hair! Or my beard, um, but you know, that’s certainly not the case. It’s a very fragile, “I’m walking on a tightrope over here,” as an artist. You know, one wrong move and it goes away. And you have to work incredibly hard. I think some people, and maybe I used to, think that once you got successful you could [sighs in relief] you’re successful; okay now you can just kind of just relax a little bit, and…But that’s not the case at all. You have to peddle even harder and work even more. There are more opportunities that need more time and dedication, and in order to do them well you have to really really hunker down and do the hard work. But I’ve never been afraid of hard work and I always tell people when I’m asked – and it’s pretty often that I’m asked about dreams and achieving creative goals – that I've always believed that the bridge between reality and a dream is work. And I always, in moments of despair and doubt and dark days, focus on the work. I show up and I work and I work and I work and I work.”

On his writing process ~

“Once you start writing song it doesn’t really stop. It’s like you (the writer interviewing him), I’m sure all the time your putting phrases together and, you know, completing or seeing stories everywhere, right? I see songs everywhere. I hear music and I see music, and I, and I see it in shapes and in colours…It’s always there. It’s like a…I don’t really play mobile games, but it’s almost like a game. Connecting the dots and finding creative solutions to these problems that come up.”

On the meaning of life (bless his little heart) ~

“For me, the first thing that comes to mind [when thinking about the meaning of life] is listening. Something I need to remind myself of more. To listen to myself, to listen to everything…And to follow that voice whether it’s in here or outside, because I think when we listen, we can find the answers. You know?”

On advice for people pursuing a creative dream ~

I would encourage you to work. It’s like I said before. I mean it sounds like a stupid thing, but it’s really not. The work begets work begets work begets more work and I find that…You know music is interesting. Kurt Cobain was great because he taught us that you don’t have to ask permission to pick up a guitar, right. You don’t have to be proficient or a genius or a master craftsman. You can have something in here [your heart] and you can say it. And it can be sloppy and it can be imperfect and it can be beautiful. Um, so I would encourage you to look for your own voice.  And to kill your heroes and to destroy all your influences and to be you. Because your fingerprint, your DNA is going to be the most interesting thing to share with other people. Everybody’s life and everybody’s story is fascinating if you shine the light on it in the right way. And I think when you share your music, you’re sharing your story. If that makes any sense at all.”

“What I would always say to people is don’t ever ask for permission to follow your dreams and follow them no matter fucking WHAT. You know what I mean? It’s important; we have one life here. One life! Everybody has this one life and you are the author of your story. More than anybody else. You are much more responsible for your dreams coming true or not than anyone else you’ll ever come into contact with. So dream big, and work hard, and make it happen no matter what. That’s what I would say.”

God I love him.

Again, if you want to watch the full interview (and seriously, watch it), you can watch it HERE.

And if you need me, I’ll be rolling around on the floor and drowning in my own tears. Is that inappropriate to say on a blog that’s meant to be somewhat ‘professional’? Probably. Oh well. This is who I really am inside.

*Unless you count the fact that I’ll be meeting him again in 20 days…
And again in 23.
And again in 24.
And again in 26.
And again in 27.
And again in 28.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Robin Williams.
I can't believe it.

This is such shocking and heartbreaking news. Honestly, I can't really think right now, but writing is how I cope, so I'm going to write.

Robin Williams has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Two of the earliest movies I watched at the cinema were Mrs Doubtfire and Aladdin. In fact I think Aladdin may have been THE first movie I watched at the cinema. He was an amazing and versatile actor, and it almost seems like as I grew, his movies grew with me. After Aladdin came Jumanji (for me, I mean. These aren't necessarily chronological), then Hook, Fern Gully, What Dreams May Come (one of my favourite movies of all time), just to name a few. All movies that made me believe in the magic of life and the power of imagination. One of my favourite scenes from Hook is the one where there's no food on the table, but the Lost Boys are pretending to eat. At first Peter doesn't want to join in with the make believe, but when he finally does (throwing a spoonful of imaginary food at Rufio), the table becomes laden with some of the most delicious looking food my kid-brain had ever seen. Seriously, who doesn't want to eat multicolored goop? I always imagined it tasted like frosting...

Scenes like that opened up a world of possibilities to me. Like maybe just pretending something was real could make it real. This was also around the time I had read Matilda by Roald Dahl, and I was halfway convinced that I could become telekinetic if I just believed it was possible. If Peter Pan could fly and lions could come out of board games, I could certainly move things using only the power of my eyes.

It is horrible to think that someone who brought so much joy and creative inspiration was suffering with their own demons so intensely that they felt they had no options left. It is a very strange place to be in -- the place where death seems like an appealing solution -- and one that I think you can't really understand unless you have been there yourself. As a person who has been there before (I actually lived there for a while), I can tell you that it is not something you can just "shake off". There were people who would tell me repeatedly to just "cheer up" or that I could "stop if I wanted to" and that "happiness is a choice". I'm sure that most of those people had the best intentions, but all those platitudes only served to make me feel even worse. What was wrong with me, then, if the cure was simply to "decide" not to feel this way, yet I couldn't do it?

For a long time I resisted telling anyone what was really going on with me for fear of judgement or ridicule. People could tell that things weren't right, of course, but I vehemently denied all "accusations" (because that's what they felt like) of needing help. It is ridiculous to me to think of this now, because I can't understand why I felt ashamed of being sick. Because that's what I was. I was sick. Mental illness is a disease just as surely as cancer is a disease. No one would ridicule a cancer patient for seeking chemo treatment, so why would people ridicule someone for seeking therapy or going on antidepressants? Yet people do. There is a huge stigma attached to mental illness which prevents people from admitting they are not coping and asking for help. I was not coping. I was damaging my body in ways that will have repercussions for the rest of my life because that seemed like a more acceptable way of dealing with things than to just say, "I need some help. Please help me." I was even afraid for my career -- As you all know by now I am a teacher, and I was scared that I would be unemployable if I had a record of mental health problems. It is crazy to think that I would rather be dead than unemployable, but that's what my choices ultimately meant. I was so afraid of the stigma attached to depression and mental health problems that I was willing to let it kill me. Even now when I'm forced to tell people for whatever reason, I feel the need to clarify that I was never a danger to anyone else, just to myself. Even writing this right now is more difficult than I can say, but I am pushing through it in the hopes that maybe it will reach someone who is struggling.

When I did eventually seek help, it wasn't easy. I went through a lot of idiotic doctors and therapists who treated me like I was just a defective human. One memorable incident was the psychiatrist who, during our first and only appointment, asked me to explain what I was struggling with. He continually cut me off while waiting for "the good part" (literally what that jackass said) and then handed me a box of drugs that were in a trial period (read: untested) and said, "Take these. They'll make you feel better," all within the first five minutes of meeting me. When I asked for information about the drugs, he said there was none available yet, but it's okay, just take them and come back in two weeks. I tried to talk to him and tell him what was happening to see if those drugs were even a good fit for me, but he basically told me to just take them and shut up. So I shut up. I felt like if a person I was literally paying to listen to me won't listen to me, who the hell will? He confirmed that I was, indeed, worthless and a waste of space. I left and spent the night alone in my apartment, making bad choices.

I didn't ever take those drugs. In fact, I still have them.

It took over a decade to find a person who was actually interested in helping me, but by that time I had completely given up hope and had decided to just let the depression "have me". I found this person completely by accident (which is another story on its own), and it took a very long time for me to trust that she wouldn't just throw drugs at me and collect my money. It took me even longer still to be completely honest about everything and finally get the help I so desperately needed. Over time I started to see small glimmers of light and hope in the world, and, with the help of a certain band, I feel like I can say I have made it through my darkest times.

My point is this: If there wasn't such a stigma attached to mental illness, I could have sought help a lot sooner. I didn't need to waste the majority of my life stuck in the dark and twisty place. It is so horrible to think about how many people die from suicide each year, because it is completely preventable. If people were able to speak up without fear of ridicule, judgement, and labels, they could get help before it is too late. We need to start treating mental illness like a real disease because it IS a real disease. It gets in your head and lies to you, and sucks every ounce of joy from your life. It can make you feel like you don't even exist in the real world; like you are living behind glass or underwater and no one can hear you scream. It makes everything difficult beyond belief. There were days when I would breathe in and not breathe out until my lungs hurt and I felt dizzy because it was too difficult. Imagine living like that -- where it literally hurts to breathe -- but thinking that was a more favourable option than just asking for help. We need to change this. People with mental illnesses are not weak, stupid, pathetic, attention seekers, worthless, or any of the other awful labels thrown around. They can't just "decide" to get better any more than a person with a broken leg can "decide" not to have a broken leg anymore. If you know someone who you suspect might be struggling, reach out to them. Don't tell them to cheer up or to look on the bright side of life or any of that crap. Just listen. Don't ask for reasons or explanations. Be there. Let them know they aren't alone and that you won't abandon them when things get hard (this is a very real fear). Gently encourage them to get help, but don't abandon them when they do, thinking that the doctors have it covered. The most important thing is just to be there. Care about them. Make sure they know you value them and your life is better with them in it. And if you are the one who is struggling, know that from a person who could have very easily not been here today, it does get better. But you need to seek help. It doesn't have to be from a doctor right away; start by talking to someone you trust. Be honest. I promise it won't be as bad as you think it will be. I was convinced my mum would hate me if I told her about what was happening, but she still loves me. I'm pretty sure, anyway. Or if that seems too hard, start by calling an anonymous hotline. Sometimes it can be easier to talk to a perfect stranger than it is to talk to a loved one. Just don't suffer alone. It doesn't have to be like this. I promise it can get better.

Robin Williams, I'm so sorry that you felt this was your only way out. I hope you've found peace. You will be dearly missed and remembered forever. As many people have already said today...Genie, you're free.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact someone. There is always someone who will help.

Monday, 11 August 2014

One life. One love. Live.

[Before we start, I’d like to let you all know that this is the first post coming from my shiny new laptop. YAY NEW LAPTOP!! My other one died shortly after my last post and I had to wait entirely too long for this one to arrive, hence the extended delay between posts. I was laptopless. I couldn’t write for weeks. I very nearly died. It was a sad time for everyone involved. But…YAY NEW LAPTOP!! It’s so pretty! Ahem. Now we can begin.]

What do you live for?

Recently I have been thinking about this question a lot. I read something a couple of weeks ago that put the thought in my head, and I haven’t been able to shake it since. It’s there all the time, playing in loops until it’s madness in my head.

What do you live for?

It should be a simple enough question to answer. In fact when I first heard the question (or read it, as it were), my answer came almost immediately. Family. Friends. The possibilities in life. The possibility that one day life will be what I want it to be. The last part gave me pause. The last part is the reason I can’t seem to stop thinking about this.

There once was a time when it was a struggle for me to, well, live. I don’t want to get into the details, but there was a period where I had to actively choose to be alive every day. And it was not easy. If you had asked me then what I lived for, my answer would have been easy: My mum. I lived for her because I knew she wouldn’t cope if…If anything. There were other factors of course – such as the hope that maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t always feel that way and things would get better [spoiler alert – they did] – but mainly, I stayed alive for her.

Now that I’m no longer [as] dark and twisty inside, I am weary about my initial response to this question. It feels a little too close to what I would have said when I was not living, merely existing. I don’t like the idea that I am living for the possibility that ‘one day’ life will be what I want it to be. I want my life to be what I want it to be right now. After all, who says that I get a tomorrow? I could be eaten by a bear tonight! (Probably not, given that there are no bears in these parts, and I’m safely inside my locked house…But that’s irrelevant). Anything could happen. Do I really want to waste what little time I have on this planet waiting? Humans, as a whole, spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for 5pm. Waiting for the weekend. Waiting for the holidays. Waiting to be the ‘right’ weight or the ‘right’ size. Waiting to get that dream job or to meet the right person. Waiting, waiting, waiting. And while we are waiting, life is passing us by. Well you know what? I think it’s time to stop waiting for my life to begin. Next week it is the 17th anniversary of the day I didn’t get my letter from Hogwarts*, and I say it is time for me to stop waiting and start living. It is time for me to stop living for the possibilities and instead live for the moment. 

We need to stop telling ourselves that this or that will make us happy, and just be happy with what we already have. Keep striving for those things we want in life, of course, but we need to let go of this notion that life will ‘really’ begin once we achieve xyz. That’s total garbage. Life is happening right now, whether we appreciate it or not. It’s time to start living life like we’ve already achieved all those things we’re striving for**. Live like you’re already the person you’ve always wanted to be, and actively seek out those things that make you appreciate the life you have. I read somewhere that if you have a working body and enough to eat and drink, you are richer than roughly three-quarters of the world’s population***. Doesn’t it seem slightly ridiculous, then, to bemoan what we don’t have yet? There is nothing wrong with having goals and aspirations, but it can become problematic when you hang your entire life on the achieving those goals. When you live your life waiting. There are so many beautiful things to be grateful for right now. To be thankful for. To live for. Find them. Seek them out. And hold them close. That way, if you ever run into a random wild Leto on the streets of Rome and he asks you what you live for, you’ll have your answer ready:

I live for the things that make me glad to be alive.

TITLE LYRICS: ‘City Of Angels’ by Thirty Seconds To Mars

*For those of you who haven’t read/watched Harry Potter (BLASPHEMY), you get your letter from Hogwarts on your 11th birthday…So you work it out :p

**Within reason, of course.

***I’m not sure if this is an accurate statistic, but it’s one to think about it. I imagine it would actually be fairly close to this.