2017 has been… a good year for comedy. Politically, whatever point on the spectrum of opinion you occupy, you’ve probably felt aggrieved. Being in a country that doesn’t know where it’s going or why it’s going there but by God it’ll go there with conviction isn’t necessarily the most inspiring context to live in, but I recognise it takes a massive level of luck to even be concerned with any sort of personal growth. But, you know, you’re on a blog not a news channel, on a post entirely about self-actualisation, so you kind of asked for some self-centered pontificating.
Looking back at my previous words of the year, many of them were about mindset – about thought, rather than action. And that makes sense – action takes practice, and thinking makes it possible. I may or may not be able to accurately attribute actions I took to fostering those mindsets, but I do it anyway. For example:
2013: Decisiveness > changed jobs, deciding that yes, frankly, I could work for an agency and be good at it (spoiler alert: I could indeed).
2014: Creativity > started sharing my probably terrible but heartfelt art in public (the results of this are still working themselves out in various projects and exciting ideas)
2015: Asking > a small mountain of small asks that altogether allowed me to accept taking up space in the world.
2016: Value > I think I might have seen more of the results of this in 2017 than 2016, especially when combined with…
2017: Chance > packed in a level of security to go for a fast-paced job in a sector I’d never worked in, leading people who are very likely smarter than me.
Of these, only ‘asking’ is an action – the rest are much more ambiguous; deliberately so, as I wasn’t interested in narrowing my field of vision. But I do have a slight problem with focus. I’ve often wondered if my love of the V&A is down to operating like a series of Victorian fads all on my own; I develop crazes and obsessions, start a project… and then leave it foundering. In contrast to my paid, out-of-home work, where I tend to be dogged, I pick up and drop personal projects, leaving a bog of abandoned hopes behind me. A large portion of this is fear – it’s no coincidence that many things get shelved just as I’m required to take the next steps to make them fly. And a chunk of it is being tired, lazy or distracted: by ongoing health problems I need to argue with my doctor about (if it looks like a thyroid issue, hurts like a thyroid issue but you won’t properly test for a thyroid issue, does anyone hear the tree falling?), by bills to be paid (£420 to remove four of the cat’s teeth?!), by raising the most wonderful child (who can also be a PITA on the regular), by taking the leap to change jobs (and living up to my own hype) or by horrible family illness (I can’t be flip about this one; just trust me that it’s terrible).
Still, I don’t want my word of the year to be about completing things, because I am nothing if not a contrary younger child. Tell me that I must and I will tell you that I won’t (yes, perfectly aware this is self-defeating; your point?). But knowing my own propensity to need to be inspired rather than chided, to seek carrot rather than stick, I wanted my word to suggest motivation and ongoing evolution rather than evoke the full stop: finish, complete, achieve.
I cycled through some of the more inspirational language, and quickly rejected it: blooming (sounds like acne), blossoming (yech), flying (nope).
And then it hit me. How about just… Do? It suggests the completeness of an action while including the possibility of onward motion. And it allows a level of impulsiveness that gives me permission to break down the walls in my head that suggest no, shouldn’t, couldn’t, too old, not good enough, why. I’ve already booked another stay at the best place in the world to help keep me on track but also do is for every day; I can’t fall into my pattern of thinking I’ll do that when I have time to or when I’m fitter or when I’m good enough.
Yesterday, I stumbled across this wonderful piece from Roxane Gay about following dreams at any age. It spoke to me on every level, and I knew more than ever that I couldn’t keep shying away from doing the work. I have stepped up in other areas of my life – become a more assured mother, asked for and got the job and the pay rise, complimented myself and my abilities when it’s warranted, worn the obnoxious lipstick and taken time out for myself without (too much) guilt. So at this point I have to ask myself: can a lack of confidence, a fear of failure and a dollop of pure laziness ever be worth the cost of not pursuing what brings me joy and satisfaction?
Of course not. So I’ve done the thinking… and now it’s time for doing.
Beautifully simple, and simply beautiful.
Happy New Year.