Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Cat That Got The Dream - Part 2

Carly Ashdown worked as a promo editor for Channel 4 before becoming an artist and retraining in psychotherapy.

What was your dream?

I wanted to paint and make money from painting. I also wanted to work with people where I was making a difference, like looking at what their underlying issues are and have them see a transformational breakthrough.

Living my dream is many things actually. Ultimately it’s feeling like whatever you're here to do is being expressed in some shape or form. When I actually look at where I was three years ago what I'm doing now, this is living the dream.

When did your dream first form in your head?

It always has to start with the intangible. It always has to start with a gut feeling, something deep inside of you, not like, ‘someone recommended this because it will make me money’. That’s fine and you might do well but that’s not living a dream. That’s just making some money.

I was working in TV, making good money. Originally I went into it to be creative but it didn't turn out that way and slowly over time it started to get me down. I got quite low then there was a major dispute with my employer and it showed me that this wasn't the industry for me. I left but was lost for  quite a while.

What practical (or impractical) steps did you take to realise your dream?

I realised I wanted to work with people and that I needed an education behind me so I started psychotherapy training. I looked at all the different training schools but the one that spoke to me was the Tavistock in London. They look at how unconscious processes in humans work from a scientific perspective. I knew I had a particular way of relating to people that not everyone has but it’s also a very big responsibility. It’s alright having a gift but you have to then sharpen your tools. I completed two years of training before I stopped to investigate becoming an artist.

With that, I’d forgotten I was even able to paint. It'd been about 10 years since I’d picked up a brush but I thought, I’d like to start painting and I’d like to make a career out of that because I was always a really good artist growing up.

When I tried picking up a brush, however, it was awful. What I did was atrocious but I persevered. I quit my job and spent the next 6 months building up a portfolio of work. I thought, if I want to make a career as an artist, I just have to do it. I used that time to not only build the portfolio but to create a website and look for contacts. I was constantly thinking how to make this work so I don’t have to depend on society, i.e. benefits or worse, do a job I hate to support my art.

So, for 6 months I was very intentful. My first lot of paintings were awful. I mean, some people liked them but, you know. (she laughs). They were just a bit shit really but I believe they were clearing a path, like in a forest with all the leaves everywhere and it needs to be cleared and slowly it develops and grows. After 6 months, my painting were where I wanted it to be and I started putting my work out to galleries.

I got some pieces in the Affordable Art fair which is a really big deal. Lots of my work sold and I'm now in talks with lots of other people.

What happens when dreams aren't realised?

The sense of not living your dream can be such an isolating and overwhelming experience, feeling lost and like you’re in a limbo before you find your way through to what you want to do. It’s also a case of trusting life and letting go of your attachment to your idea of your dream which is a really difficult thing to do.
Also, it’s not necessarily about realising one goal but creating an environment that you didn't have before that supports you and your growth. Even where I'm living now, that’s part of a dream in a way. The flat I lived in before was so dark and dingy and it didn't support growth but this flat does. There’s still things to be done but it's bright and light. But that’s part of living your dream –leading a happy and fulfilled life.

But you do have to face your own demon in the process. You still have to go through the sticky stage of upheaval and at the end of the day you’re always going to go through those patches. Suddenly what you've got is going to become very normal and if you want to live an ‘alive’ life you can’t just expect the great stuff to just show up. You have to be involved and be in the presence of what’s no longer working so you can push through that too.

What would your advice be to someone looking to make a change in their life, looking to realise a dream?

Firstly bring your awareness to how you’re feeling about where you’re at right now. Get real about what’s so. Be really truthful about where your life’s at and what is and isn't working. If you know what your dream is, it should really speak to you, grab your attention. Then, importantly look at what fears are stopping you. Ultimately you have to decide, is the not stepping into the fear, worth the not-aliveness that comes with not following your dream.

Once you've look at all of that then you have to take practice actions, look at your options. It’s about really listening to what speaks to you and not being afraid to get it wrong either. Even with taking those actions there are other elements going on that you can’t be aware of, a myriad of things going on around you in response to you stepping forward. And remembering, there’s no guarantee it will work. It doesn't mean anything more than that.  Though I do think if it really is your passion, it will come to fruition. It just has to be the right time.

For example I want to continue my psychotherapy training and have applied to the Tavistock twice but they wouldn't admit me as they didn't feel I was ready. There were things I needed to have in place to be ready. I needed to be working with people with mental health issues; I had to be in therapy myself.  So I'm now looking at my options, taking it more slowly and am planning on working with people who are suicidal to forward my training.
When you do things with boldness, weird things will happen, like the Universe aligns. I’d be on my way somewhere and I’d see a Tavistock road, or a Tavistock street. I didn't know there were that many roads called Tavistock this or Tavistock that but now I'm seeing them everywhere. It’s like they’re indicators of the path I should take. I just get this feeling that following this path is where I’ll get a sense a real wholeness. It’s as though there’s a current carrying you.

To find out more about Carly's work visit her website: or her or her  facebook page

Next week Steve Oliver dreams of a family...

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