Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Cat That Got The Dream - Part 1

I've been moaning recently – a lot. Not necessarily out loud but in my head I've been complaining like a Brit in a queue. Even though I'm living a life I dreamed of many years ago, I still love a good gripe. Luckily the Universe always delivers a reality check when needed and it came in the form of Superstorm Sandy. You suddenly feel a little more grateful for your lot when you see the flooding of  Lower Manhattan, the sweeping fires of Queens or the rare image of a hurricane-savaged Cuba. Only the most self obsessed could complain about 'too much train travel' or ‘an absence of healthy meal options on the road’ when people on the other side of the world are standing in the midst of their own personal bungalow barbeque.

It’s easy to forget to be grateful when your in the midst of living life. Sometimes, being grateful slips way down the agenda behind getting annoyed with your local bus service or the postman not knocking before leaving a missed delivery card.... You DIDN’T knock!

But the fact remains, I am living my dream, a dream that formed a long time ago and I know I'm not the only one. I put a question out to people I know and several people responded saying they too were living their dream and so I decided to create a little series of interviews where they discuss their dreams, how they've come into existence and advice for those seeking to make a similar changes in their own life.

Below, are my responses to the questions and over the next weeks, you’ll see what others have said too. You know what, I should have presented this as a magazine with a handy pull out section that you can collect from week to week or perhaps a Panini ‘Ambitions’ sticker album. 'Family – Got, Beautiful home – Got, dream career and fast car – need!' Anyway, enjoy and I hope in some way you can enjoy the process of making your dreams come true or if you already have, that you live in gratitude and hone the skills to realise even bigger and more magnificent dreams.

What is your dream?
To be a writer and performer. When I started acting I thought that was the dream. I’d write on the side (I tried my hand at TV drama scripts a couple of times) but it wasn't until I started performing stand up that I felt really fulfilled.

When did it first form in your head?
I loved Eddie Murphy’s stand up show, Delirious and I reckon I knew most of the big routines before I’d even seen it because everyone at school talked about it so much. “Goony googoo!” I’d say, not really knowing why. When I finally watched it, it was like the opening of the ark in the Indiana Jones films. I must have watched it 20 or 30 times over the following years, laughing as much every time. In my heart, this was what I wanted to do but my conscious brain hadn't even entertained the idea as a possibility. Kids from my background didn't become successful performers. You became a teacher or a secretary or a nurse like me mum. When I was 14 I wrote a stand up routine and performed it in front of a couple of mates who laughed encouragingly and that, was technically, my first gig. It would be quite sometime before I’d do another one though.  

What practical (or impractical) steps did you take to realise your dream?
The desire to perform lay dormant in me for several years. I ended up working in TV post production running a small company (not mine) and by chance, while touting for business at ITV, I ended up getting poached to work on their new soap Night and Day, looking after all their post production needs. The whole production was based on one site so everyone got to mix, actors, crew, make up, editors, producers. 

Getting to know the actors, it reminded me or perhaps rekindled my love of performing which I’d enjoyed so much at school. I asked them what would be the best way to get into acting and they all unanimously said ‘drama school’. I found a local school that did evening only classes for full and part time students and took the plunge. After that I worked as an actor for about five years doing a mixture of plays, TV and mind-numbingly boring temp work in offices. The worst was when I was doing data entry that was brain-fryingly dull. I only got through it by entering competitions on the radio (on the sly).

But after about five years, work was starting to dry up and I really wanted to get stage time as stage fright was becoming a bigger and bigger problem the longer the gaps got between jobs. I looked at some of the TV actors I really liked and saw that all of them had done stand up comedy. ‘Fuck that’ I thought. Like most people it seemed like the most terrifying proposition... ever but eventually, the 'Fuck that' became a 'Fuck it' and I decided to give it a go. I enrolled in a stand up course and thought, if I hate it, no harm done. We did a show case gig at the end of the course and beforehand I could barely breath I was so petrified.
But as soon as I stepped on stage, I thought... this is it. This is what I'm meant to be doing.

If you hadn't achieved your goals, where would you be, what would life be like?
Me becoming an actor coincided with a need to shake my life up anyway. It was a proper Hollywood movie life change. I changed career, broke up with my boyfriend – who I was living with, cut my hair short and started again. I knew that even though my life was perfectly OK... on paper, I wasn't entirely satisfied and I guess it would have either eaten away at me or I would have had to bury those feelings and ambitions deep down so I wouldn't be pulled by the wonder of 'what if'. 

If I hadn't followed my dreams I guess I’d definitely have a nice big suburban house and I'd probably be a manager at a post production company but I think at my core would have been an unease that only a pint of Bailey’s could have shifted. There’s no going back now and I'm delighted I took the risk. I was broke beyond belief for many years but always trusted I’d made the right choice.

What advice would you give those pursuing a dream? 
The simple advice is, go for it. When I made the changes and choices I did, I felt compelled to do them. It wasn't just a ‘good idea’, the feeling I had was, this is what I'm suppose to be doing. If you've grown tired of how things are sometimes you need to shake things up. If you want things to turn out differently you can’t carry on doing things the same way. 

On a practical note, I guess you have to identify what your dream is and then figure out what practical steps you need to realise this dream, like drama school was the significant step for me.
And of course it’s a cliché, but you must believe in yourself. Doubts may come but you need to gently usher them away. Your bedrock must be an unwavering faith in yourself and that your dream, whatever it may be, is what you were put here to do.

I say, live in gratitude for the things you have because at sometime, you dreamed these things into existence and here they are. Dream your tomorrow, it will come.


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