Commitment to the Old You

A year ago, I never thought of putting any personal relationship (except family) before my work. A year ago, I didn’t have a problem with never taking a break for a vacation. I also had bright red hair, a beautiful apartment in hipster-central Brooklyn, and a well-paying job in the film industry. I no longer have any of those things.

A week after New Year’s eve 2015, I found myself back at the same apartment with the same childhood friends I had rang in the year of 2013 with in Cape Town, South Africa. I had been two years since we saw one another, and since I had seen Cape Town. Over whiskey and cake, we examined 2013 through to 2015; talking changes in relationships, financial status and career. We even spent a significant amount of time talking about what was going on in the news (the horror of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices, the AirAsia crash and the Sony hacks) and I couldn’t help but say several times during the course of the evening “Jesus, we are old”, as it settled into my mind that we were now officially what one considers “young adults”.

Two years ago, I was not an adult. The last time I was back in my hometown, I hadn’t even graduated college. I was a baby. And I’m still a baby, in many ways, but I bet you that two years from now I’ll laugh and remark “oh my gosh, I was such a baby back then and thought I had it all figured out”… and isn’t’ that just the natural trajectory of life? You look back at your Instagram or things you wrote on Facebook two years ago and you think “man, I was such an idiot back then”. We allow ourselves a pardon in so many ways as we recognize personal transformation in growing up, but in so many other (vital) ways we do not seem to allow ourselves a pardon and instead hold ourselves hostage to the self-image we had committed to years and years ago. It’s like in SLC Punk when Stevo says “you see life is like that. We change, that's all. You see, the guy I am now is not the guy I was then. If the guy I was then met the guy I am now he'd beat the shit out of me. Those are the facts.”

The reason I shy away from definite phrases such as “I’m the worst procrastinator” or “I'm not the kind of person who exercises” or “I’m not a shallow person” is because at what point in your life did you just become defined by these absolutes and never have them change in the slightest bit? I think the only thing you can count on in life is change – but isn’t that wonderful because that means that nothing is constant and there always lies opportunity for improvement? Those phrases are just a few examples of the seemingly hundreds of personality-defining-set-in-stone phrases I’ve heard come out of my and others’ mouths. Now when I hear them it kind of makes me laugh. Way to reinforce (mostly bad) habits by making that your story over and over.

My friends and I even have a joke about how I sometimes wake up and don’t like something anymore – it’s that moment when I realize I’ve changed. They call it the “egg epiphany”. This comes from me being on vacation with a group of them and we were all eating breakfast and I remarked “This is it guys, I’m done with eggs. I’ve eaten my last egg for a long time now. Eggs have lost their charm, it’s just not the same”. Now when one of us realizes something life-altering, we call it the Egg Epiphany. We allow ourselves to change when we recognize the natural progression away from something we once loved and a pull towards something new.

Back to that evening with whiskey and cake a few weeks ago with friends… discussing 2013-2015. Deep into the conversation, one friends started raising some very challenging questions, and I love this about him. He’s not one to sit there and nod in the correct places and even if I think for a second he’s not paying attention, he’ll fire back with “well has it crossed your mind that maybe you fall in love too willingly? And if so, does this dilute your feelings towards each newly found love?”… and I’ll be sitting there wide-eyed, thinking through the answer to questions I’ve never heard. At one point in the conversation, I told him that the hardest part about 2014 was that I didn’t know what to do when my dream in life had become a nightmare. Basically, when everything I had wished for and visualized and worked for and willingly sacrificed so much for, turned out to be something I didn’t even want. In a way, I had married what I thought was my career-soul-mate, only to feel the love dwindle away and end in a fiery divorce. Even now, months later, I still have career-divorce PTSD moments… feelings of utter confusion, loss, and heart-break. Where did I go wrong? When did the spark die away? Why don’t I look at him the same way anymore? (Still talking about my past career). My friend interjected at this point as he was listening to me spill my guts about how disappointed I felt, mostly in myself, for abandoning what I thought was my dream. All he had to say was “stop making a commitment to the old you” and it hit me clear as day… that was the old me, with my old dream, and now I am different. It’s a similar thought-process I’ve used in relationships before. Whenever things would seriously go pear-shaped I’d try convince myself that everything is still okay because of all the love we used to have, all the experienced we had shared, the way he used to look at me, and the things he used to say. Emphasis on used to. That’s not now. Wake up and smell the coffee, honey, ‘cause he just isn’t that into you anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware there are such things as a dry-spell or a dip in feelings that may pass, but sometimes one just has to accept the hard truth that people, and their feelings, change. So if I was able to use this philosophy in my personal relations, recognizing and accepting a change in heart, why had I not seen that it also applies to the dream?

I want to take a second here to write a short side-note and say that I recognize that my career, when you boil it down, is based on an emotional commitment, if not obsession, I have with music. To make things simple, I will say my career and all the things I do to get me to where I would like to be, is based on the love for it. And whenever something is based on love, it is extremely fragile and one must allow space for change in heart. I’m going to draw a parallel here that makes sense in my mind – up until the 1800’s people married, mostly, out of socio-economic needs or for social status, not merely because they loved one another. In the mid 1800’s court started allowing divorce based merely on unhappiness (as opposed to adultery or abuse for example), which meant that people not only now saw themselves as having the right to marry purely out of love, but also having the right to divorce purely out of unhappiness. That’s a whole lot of pressure on a relationship, based on the most flimsy, unpredictable, and unexplainable thing in the world – love. You can see where I’m going with this… divorce rates sky-rocketed as people exerted their individualistic entitlement over expression and happiness and a life-long marriage to one partner (based on love) has become as rare a thing as a life-long career in one specific job (based on love). I guess what I’m trying to say is… if your career, especially if you’re a creator, is based on your feelings of passion and you want it to be that way, then be prepared for a whirlwind of non-linear career dips and dives because all sorts of feelings and unforeseeable shit is definitely going to be involved. I’m sorry to disappoint, but there’s no such thing as starting out as the mailman for Lady Gaga or even the assistant to Wes Anderson; where you actually believe that one day they will step down and say “congratulations, you have climbed the artistic ladder and the crown is now rightfully yours”. No. There is no step-by-step manual or corporate ladder to climb to this life you may desire.

So if we allow ourselves to change, if we accept change and embrace it in so many ways, maybe it’s time to be a little bit more malleable when it comes to desire in career. Here’s what I’d say; always have goals. Always have the big dream too. Keep them clear in your mind – visualize them, write them down, tell people them, day-dream them. But check in with yourself regularly, have it be every month or every week. Sit still, alone, and listen to yourself. I’ve touched on this before; it’s unbelievable to me how few people (myself included very often) don’t listen to themselves. We are far more intuitive and smarter human-beings than we give ourselves credit for. You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you don’t want to do something? That’s important. You know that feeling when there’s a prospective opportunity or love or upcoming event in your life and you’re so giddy you can’t sleep and all you do is think about it and you want it so bad it almost hurts in the middle of your chest? That’s called desire. It’s important. So check in with yourself… remind yourself what the goal is, and ask yourself if you’re happy and if you honestly believe in your plight. At the end of the day, it seems like we’re all trying to find a way to not only be alive, but to feel alive… to be happy. I think that life is overall really difficult and being happy takes a lot of constant commitment and awareness.

So here’s to commitment, awareness, checking in, kicking ass, punk rock, ice cream and 2015!

Love Sulene