Sunday, 30 September 2012

On taking risks...

This time last year I was what people call a "young professional". I had a decent job, plus some freelance work on the side. I paid my own rent, I paid my own bills, and I (begrudgingly) paid the tax man at the end of the year. Did I feel like drinking a cosmopolitan on a Friday night? Well then I would damn well buy one!

Or a mojito.  I like mojitos.

After being a student for so long, depending on government loans and handouts from my family, it felt great to be earning my own way. I could get a nice latte on the way to the office without feeling guilty. I could buy a new pair of shoes if I wanted. I could get a new book or a new dvd if I fancied it. Why not?  It was my money.

I wasn't exactly living the dream of course.  The dream was to be an opera singer, and I was working in an office.  BUT.  My life was safe.  It was comfortable.

I was living in a nice flat in nice area in a familiar city. I had gotten to know Glasgow - I knew where things were and I knew how things worked. If I needed to go to the bank or buy shampoo I knew where to go and what the opening hours were.  I knew what was going to happen the next day, and the day after that.  And I knew that I was going to get a paycheque at the end of each month.

I felt secure, which was a pretty nice feeling.

Now I'm a student again.  I've gone back to being financially dependent.  And I'm living in a strange city where people don't even speak English.

The future is one big question mark for me. All I know is that in nine months I'm going to graduate from this opera course.  Where will I live? What will I do?  Anything could happen.

Exciting, right?

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

I'm really scared.

I know exactly how this guy feels.
I'm not sure why it's taken so long to sink in.  I mean, it's been over a month now since I left my job.  But it's only just hit me that I'm taking a huge risk here.  After working so hard over the last three years to establish all this security and stability in my life, I'm throwing it all away.

Of course, deep down inside, I know it's the right thing to do.  If I didn't pursue my dream of becoming a singer, if I stayed in Glasgow, I'd just become more frustrated and unhappy.  Probably bitter too.  And I would always wonder: what if?

Still.  That doesn't make this any less scary.  The fact is that I'm pursuing an extremely difficult and competitive career path, and as I already know all too well, there is absolutely no guarantee that I'll land on my feet after I graduate.  Hopefully I'll get singing work, but then again I might not - at least not right away.  Things are going to be hard.

So I've been worrying a lot lately (what else is new?) and thinking about the future.

Thinking about the future is a good idea - to a certain extent.  I mean, everyone has to plan ahead a bit, especially when it comes to their career path.  We've all had times when we didn't plan ahead.  And when things inevitably went pear-shaped, we probably blamed everyone but ourselves.  It's like playing Solitaire without using any strategy, then declaring the game un-winnable when you run out of moves.

No aces??  They're all against me!!
But thinking too much about the future can drive you insane.  It's so massive and overwhelming, and anything could be out there.  I mean ANYTHING.  You could become completely consumed with thinking about the future.  And then you'd ignore the present.  And miss the whole point of, well, everything.

Just like you can't live in the past, you can't live in the future.  It's important to look ahead, but not to the point that you forget where you're standing.  Planning, wondering, worrying - they're all good in moderation.  But an overdose can be lethal.

I'm not sure if you've noticed this from my profile picture, but I was once on a flying trapeze.  I have a friend back in Canada who's an acrobat, and this one time a bunch of us went to her Friday night trapeze class.

Let me tell you something about going on a trapeze.  The scariest bit is not when you're flying through the air.  It's the bit that comes before that.  See, you climb up a very long ladder to this very high platform, and then you have to LEAN FORWARD, off of the platform, into EMPTY SPACE, to grab the bar.  And somehow you have to trust that you won't lose your balance and fall off the platform, that you will reach the bar safely and grab onto it and move forward.  It's the anticipation that's scary.  The part where you jump off the platform and fly through the air?  That's actually pretty fun.

Right now I'm at the beginning of my opera course, and I'm leaning forward on that platform.  I'm really scared that I'm going to fall.  But I have to go for it - grab the bar and trust that things will work out for the best.  I will make it to the other side.

(By the way, I was attached to a harness in the trapeze class.  So I wouldn't have died if I fell off the platform.  Just in case you were thinking that my friends and I are insane.)

(I mean, we are insane.  Just not in that way.)

Anyway.  The older I get, the more I really do believe that things happen for the best.  Even when it really seems like they don't.  I know there have been lot of times when I thought I'd made a mistake.  But months, even years later, I would look back and realise that this "mistake" was an essential fork in the path of my life.  If I hadn't done this thing, I wouldn't have met that person or gone to that place or learned that lesson.  You give any mistake long enough and it stops being a mistake.  It becomes an important turning point.
Which is a great movie by the way.

I used to think that I worried because I'm smart, and that brave people were just too stupid to look ahead to the risks. But being brave doesn't mean being stupid. It means caring about something so much that you know the risks and do it anyway.  The really stupid thing would be to stand still and do nothing.

I have no idea what's going to happen this year, or where I'm going to end up.  But I'm taking this leap of faith because I want to be a singer.  And moving forward feels sure beats staying on the platform or climbing back down.

What do I know?  I know I'm going to learn a lot.  And whatever happens this year, it's going to happen for the best. I'm going to end up where I'm meant to be.  It might not seem like that right away, but eventually I'll be able to look back and see that things turned out just the way they should.

So yes, it's important to think about the future sometimes.  But not to the point that it paralyses you.

And sometimes the best thing to do is just grab the bar and jump.

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