What I Learned in 2018
and probably some other stuff too
In order to start writing this, I had to look back on an article I wrote a couple of years ago when I was travelling and blogging on the site A Brit and a Broad (now An Adventurous World). I needed to get the juices flowing, because the thought of trying to figure out what I learned in 2018 was daunting.
I started to read my article and had to laugh, as almost every lesson I took from 2016 was certainly still potent for me today. As I stated in that article, most of these things are re-learnings and reminders anyway.
My biggest lessons for 2018, however, were new: and they were big, yet subtle. Let me explain ..
The biggest thing I learned in 2018 is that there are no such thing as “bad” and “good” emotions. I had these categorized in my head as such, and therefore I wanted to avoid the negative emotions (ie. anger, sadness, guilt). What this was doing to me was bottling them up and pushing them down and I was not even aware of it.
I was not even aware that those emotions could be a welcomed colour on the palette of being human.
I was so unaware that I viewed things this way, that I was hurting myself and others around me. This lead into another lesson: learning to allow others to feel their feelings without having to fix them. That’s a big one, and one I’m still working on. In allowing emotions to surface, voicing them and honouring them, I’ve been able to transmute them. I’ve gained a broader scope of feeling, on both ends of the spectrum.
As a performer this is huge. I’m still growing as an artist but I’m aware that the work that I do in my life directly effects the work I do on stage and screen. It shows in my writing, in what projects I’m able to take on and feel confident in. It’s broadening me as a human being. I’m allowing more of myself to exist in this world.
Which leads to my next lesson of 2018: we define how much space we take up in the world. We decide how much light we let out, how much we allow the spotlight on us.
For years, I was yearning for the spotlight; to voice my story and yet I was doing things to dim my light. I think this is really common for actors. They want the jobs, they take steps to try and get them, all the while sabotaging themselves and playing small. Because the reality is the spotlight is scary. In the spotlight, your vulnerability is center stage, your flaws magnified, and your every move is watched. Or at least it can feel this way. There is judgment in the spotlight.
Some of these judgments are self inflicted, and some are not. More often than not, they bring up a deep belief that we have about ourselves; something that is holding us back. I’ve learned that looking at what this is can be scary, painful, seemingly never ending and the only thing that will take me to my next level.
My next level: what brings me joy, what lights me up. In 2018 I settled into the idea that whatever that is might not be the same for everyone else. I say I settled into this because I really learned it over the past two years, but it’s been a process of really believing it and being ok with it.
I am not money driven, and yet there is something validating about being paid to do what I love. We also live in a society that views money as success. Standing in what is important to me has been challenging in many ways. Not only do I have to explain my choices to people, I then have to continuously look at those things and make sure that I’m standing in the “right” things (meaning, the right things for me).
Which leads to something else I learned: so much of our identity is tied to money.
(Take a moment to take a breath right now if your stomach is tensed like mine is.)
That’s a big one. Our identity: who we are, what we are. How do we define ourselves? In so many ways, it’s connected to career, to how we make money. If you read on my about page, I struggled for years to even call myself an actor because I wasn’t making any money doing it. This is outrageous, because I was acting, writing, producing, directing and taking classes; yet, I still had trouble with this label.
My identity has shifted quite drastically in 2018 and to be honest, I’m still finding my feet in it in many ways. Losing identities is like losing a part of myself. I have grieved these parts of myself and am still grieving some of them. Sometimes, I feel like I have no identity, and this is terrifying. But it’s because I’ve chosen to detach my identity from anything to do with money.
I identify as an actor, but not because I make money doing it. Because I love and choose to tell stories by acting, and that is something that lives in the deepest part of my being. I identify as coach, not because I make money doing it. Because the most important thing to my well being is service. By coaching others, I am of service to them, but it is the thing that lights me up the most and that is in service to me.
Making this shift took conscious effort and still does. This is where my next lesson of 2018 comes in: auto pilot is easy, but manual gets you further.
I’ve switched over to manual in my life, meaning, every day I make decisions that effect the big picture of my life. I remember saying to a friend at some point this year, “Why does it feel like I’m making life altering decisions every day?” and it’s because I shifted. Auto pilot life is usually easy, it’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s known but it comes with a deep under current; confusion, discontentment and searching. When I switched to a manual life, it wasn’t smooth. It was jolt-y, crunchy, slightly uneasy and it still is sometimes, but I am the one driving: no one else.
My biggest learning of 2018 was a deeper understanding of something my dad used to say to me when I was a kid: “I know everything, I just can’t remember it right now.”
I always thought this was just a funny thing he said, but I had a bittersweet moment earlier in the year when those words finally sank in. I was feeling lost and without hope. I was confused about what I was meant to be doing, where I should be putting my focus. It was only when I finally started to tap into my intuition, to listen to my own voice fully, that I was finally able to understand what he meant.
We often look to the outside for answers or for signs, when the biggest skill we can develop is learning how to listen to ourselves. Because my dad was right; we know the answer to every question that comes up in our lives. It is in you and me, as long as you know how to listen for it.
So, heading into 2019, I’m going to keep listening. My reality is a reflection of what I hear inside and so I’m going to continue the practice of learning how to hear it.