It appears that I significantly underestimated the length of time it would take to get used to not being in a show. I had this idea that on the first day of rest (the glorious? word for unemployment), I would ease into the proactive, productive routine I’d planned out in the last weeks of my contract with elegance and finesse. I would obviously miss the show, but my memories of it would be in a faraway place in the back of my head, reading for fond recollection after each day of practising French, Spanish, Italian, piano, DJ-ing, and writing copious amounts of witty and prolific prose. This was not the case.
I guess it’s like the most pleasant kind of break-up, a mutual one that you both saw coming. Even though it ends very amicably, that doesn’t in any way mean you can just instantly embrace single life, as if that person, or thing, and your routine with them hasn’t informed the person you’ve come to be. I thought I’d only need an instant; I should have allowed for more of a slow fade. Because one day you’re looking forward to a break, and you can’t wait to have all that free time to mount your to-do list like the #girlboss you have been longing to be, and then the next, you are in it. The days are here. The time is now. That Sunday you spent hungover was your slow fade. The world owes you no cushion. So I had all these options of things to do in front of me, and I couldn’t choose. I ultimately ended up spending most of my first week off meandering in a quick sand of boredom eating and texting guys from Bumble that I had no intention of meeting.
It’s not even as if there isn’t something to do. There is always something to do. There is always an appointment, a meeting, a meal to cook/eat/wash-up, a friend-of-a-friend request to finally accept. If there wasn’t always something to do, the act, or art even, of doing nothing wouldn’t actually be a thing that you would need to make time for, a thing to be prized and savoured, because it would be one’s default. Whereas I feel like the default now is to be doing one thing competently enough, whilst thinking of at least two other activities-to-do. Our lives are like a parallel of our Internet Browser; filled with tabs of varying degrees of importance, semi-dormant but all the while waiting for the off-chance that we might need to immediately remind ourselves which film won the 2009 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (welcome to my life).
Something really great did happen though on my first day of rest..oration. I started reading a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love). The book is essentially an informal guide to creative living beyond fear, but it also goes on to explore the possibilities and advantages of a creative life beyond the stereotypical traits of the modern artist. Beyond words like ‘struggling,’ ‘starving,’ and other adjectives we feel are acceptable, almost applaudable emotional states, so long as they precede the word artist. I took the book to Bruges with me, on a spontaneous solo trip booked because there was a flash Eurostar sale; it was a very pleasing, albeit swift, stay. I strolled alongside canals on cobblestone streets and ate unlawful amounts of sugar in numerous manifestations. And whenever a moment -and a café with a table for one- presented itself, I wrote about everything I could, hoping that I would come to some thoughts cohesive enough for an in-depth essay topic.
On the train back to London the day after arriving in Bruges (I did say it was brief), I had what I can really only describe as a moment of otherworldly transcendence (and trust me, I’d really like to describe it as something else). It was as if my eyes opened into understanding the purpose of my trip. And in this same moment, a flood of ideas for essays came into my head and I started writing these sort of diary entries/messages to myself. I was supposed to go away so that I could see this upcoming phase with different eyes. Eyes that weren’t so accustomed to a schedule that is no longer decided for me. Eyes that embraced the fact that more of each day’s hours, including those of actual rest, are on me to seize. Because this time off is temporary, and I am lucky to know this. So I have made a pledge to being more grateful for this time, and less restless in it. And not eat whole cakes in one sitting, no matter how healthy they are.