"I do it Myself"... and other misconceptions I've learned (and hope to unlearn) from my three-year-old self

If you ask her, my Mum will laugh as she tells you about the aforementioned phrase and the importance of its meaning to me, when as a toddler I took some of my first steps to verbally assert myself.

I can’t even remember what it was I thought I could do on my own without her. It was probably putting on my own skirt or attempting to pour myself a glass of juice or something. I’m not sure what it was, but I can imagine she dealt with it as she usually dealt with a lot of my requests back then - with a bloody great sense of humour and a lot of patience when, as predicted I took twice as long doing my buttons up in the wrong order and so having to start the process again, and/or not content with pouring my own glass of OJ, proceeding to tip a large amount of the bottle’s contents all over the the kitchen table.

All in the name of independence.

I am really lucky to have had someone so understanding of my bizarre misperceptions of what it means to ‘do it yourself’. Anyone less accommodating may have thrown in the towel saying something like ‘Sure! Why don’t you just go and do that then!” ..thereby leaving me to it.

But not my mum.

Thinking back to my three-year old self and my desire to attain autonomy at the time, I pose my younger self the question - What was I really saying by insisting on pouring my own juice?

My answer?… I don’t need your help.

Although apparently I did, because no-one but me had juice that day.

See, as an adult I have had the same notions about my success as an artist (clearly I didn’t learn my lesson the first time) and I’ve noticed similar behaviour in myself as an adult, particularly regarding my obsessive need to assert myself as an individual artist, standing out from the rest, needing to prove to the world I’ve got this! even when it’s meant something takes me years instead of months, even when it’s meant a great deal of stress and loneliness working on my own versus building an extended network of passionate friends to help & assist with a bunch of stuff I could’ve easily avoided punishing myself over.

The happy end to all this is that I’m beginning to see sense in letting other people pour the juice so to speak.

The older I get and the more I work at my own skill-set, the more comfortable I am about not having to know how to do everything, and to concentrate on positioning myself to be willing to help others should they need what I’m great at.

This idea of having to do everything myself is one that has severely stunted me in my earlier years as an emerging artist and continues to rear its ugly head if left unchecked, so I’m checking myself. I’m checking myself today through this blog, I’ll check myself the next time I feel my knuckles tightening around my next project when I consider that I might not have all the tools necessary to make it as amazing as it could be with more hands on deck and I’ll probably be checking myself for years to come.

Because put simply, when you have other trusted supporters and collaborators, whether these be bandmates, fellow artists, family & friends who believe in what you do enough to come see it, or anyone else who turns up to say they like what you do so they bought a ticket to your show or they read your thing or they forwarded it onto their mate, you can no longer count yourself as a sole operator. You are now a part of a thriving community of awesomeness known as genuine humanity should you choose to participate.

Welcome to the club.

New Starts & Old (but not forgotten) Ends

So I gave up blog posting about a year and a half ago as you’ll see if you check the date on my last entry.

I’ve decided to give this blog another crack, simply because I really miss writing publicly, and the simple act of writing about some of my experiences as a creative person was extremely cathartic and regularly brought me back down to earth in terms of my creative goals and expectations for myself as an artist and musician - Note: It’s a lot harder to let your dreams & expectations of being a rich and famous artist run away with you when you’re checking in weekly with yourself and others through a current blog.

I’d really like to treat this entry as a re-introduction of myself since leaving off in 2017. I’m sorry it’s been such a while, and I hope to hear your own stories in response to what you read of mine here.

Quick download: Since leaving you I’ve been making art and music - exhibiting at Backspace Gallery with Zlatko and Margie Balazic among others, as well as performing my first music and storytelling set at The Lost Ones Basement Bar with Jonathon Griggs who joined Shadow Feet in November last year. In between that I flew to NZ last month where I surprised my Mum for her 70th birthday by jumping out from behind my parents’ carport. There’s been some pretty fun birthday adventures including a husky sled ride in Victoria and jumping out of a plane with my best bud in September. In between that I’ve played a lot of Doctor Mario and watched more Netflix than I care to mention in this very creative blog post. I did a course on children’s book illustration and writing at RMIT earlier this year in which I met a group of amazing women who love to tell stories and illustrate books. I’ve since begun writing three different children’s books, on top of my Mon-Fri working with teenagers as an education support and stage lighting jobs in Melbourne and Ballarat.

If this sounds like a lot to keep going while retaining sanity I can assure you, you’re right, and I must tell you the later has been slipping from my grasp of late.

All in all there hasn’t been a whole heap of balance. I’m lucky I have a hugely supportive partner (my best bud) and because he’s got his own creative projects going we’ve managed to keep spinning our own plates as it were… But lately I’ve felt like that’s all I do, and part of me has forgotten why, in all the work I’ve been doing I’ve been feeling increasingly dissatisfied with the outcomes. I guess that’s partly what’s brought me back here to this blog - To recalibrate my view of creativity means to me and get back to what it is that most brings me to life (if I could only remember where I put it…) In short, I know that if I don’t have that, my version of creativity is only going to feel like more pressure to produce. Thinking back, it’s been feeling this way since I stopped writing for fear of running out of time to get everything DONE. Hmmm.

One of recent event which led me to this conclusion happened yesterday when I had the immense pleasure of playing with Lottie Liams who asked Shadow Feet to open for her E.P Release tour at The Eastern in Ballarat.

It was an afternoon show, and as we did our soundcheck there were maybe five people at the venue as well as Lottie, her Mum/roadie and a friend who’d come up to support. Some stragglers wandered in and out of the venue, one or two who I knew but not well gave me a smile as they disappeared out to the beer garden. I’d been feeling performance nerves for the past few weeks as Jono and I had rehearsed leading up to the gig, and all of a sudden circumstances completely changed on us. I had just about lost my voice the day before with a bad case of the flu but forced myself to sing through our set, even if it meant adjusting the melodies to suit my severely limited vocal range. Then two of the other acts ended up cancelling last minute, which left us and Lottie to carry the show.

Halfway through our set there was a low cacophony of voices and a flurry of footsteps as about fifteen people piled in to watch us play amidst hugs and kisses and greetings between Lottie and her crew. I soon realised almost everyone there had been her family, including her cousins who were ecstatic with the mention they got in her set. This combined with the raw power and vulnerability of an impromptu acapella performance as she talked about how music had kept her hopeful through illness, had me seriously missing my own family back in NZ and wondering how I’d strayed so far in thinking I had to nail a perfect set and achieve unsurmountable odds in order to feel deserving of my own families’ love & support.

It was clear to me that Lottie’s success as a musician wasn’t just about her, but about everyone around her sharing in her success. It all made far too much sense to me, and I resolved after that to make much more of an effort to cultivate community and to value myself not based on what I could do, but on myself as a human being as opposed to working my ass off and hoping people noticed how great I was while slowly suffocating under the weight of my own expectations.

So here goes.. I’ll be back in a week with another entry as I try and nut out this artist-musician thing as I make some steady moves toward reconnecting with those other parts of myself which are just as valuable, if not more so.

x ES