By Kate Lavery
In another reality I'm doing pretty damn well. I'm making a living from creatively fulfilling and well paid acting gigs, churning out beautifully funny and well crafted plays in between that speak my own unique truth while being universally loved by audiences. I'm living the god damn dream, everything is perfect all the time. Also I'm like a size 10. In another reality a little closer to our own, I'm an usher at a boutique cinema in a small town, where I rent a tiny flat overlooking a cow field with a friend and 50 cats. I haven't acted in months, I can't get the time off for auditions. I have a desk drawer full of ideas for plays that will remain there because I 'just don't have the time to write'.
In this reality, I'm in a flat in Liverpool trying to piece together a voice reel without getting sick of the sound of my own voice. My cafe uniform is drying nearby ready for tomorrow's morning shift, after which I'll be limping across town for rehearsal with my improv troupe. I'm looking at the day's schedule, searching for nap and coffee breaks. The next day will be spent in bed, dividing my time between writing up cover letters and googling 'sudden muscle weakness'. I'm doing ok. Not great, but ok. Not so well as before a sudden anxiety flare up knocked me out of work three years ago, but better than this time last year.
Sometimes it can take one setback to convince you you're done, whether that's an illness or just one rejection email too many ('best of luck in your future endeavours' too, pal). And you can get to thinking about how much better your life would be if you'd gotten that one great part, if you hadn't gotten sick, if you'd found the one perfect day job that kept you going financially, left enough time for all your creative projects and didn't make you crazy. Well, what if?
It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing your life to that of your peers. This is madness. We could talk for days about how you just can't compare yourself to others because you just don't know what the others are going through. For the most part, we only share the good stuff. When sitting glaring at another application form, or plodding through an audition piece for the much sought after part of 'Friend of Girlfriend', it's easy to forget that for that one guy from uni to get that amazing opportunity he's so humble and so lucky to get and so insistent on plastering across social media, he had to go through a fair amount of glaring at applications and hating life. We hope. So we don't fall for it! We say hey, good for him, and we get back to our own journey.
But it turns out it's pretty easy to start comparing your life to all your own lost alternate lives. And what happens then? Madness, that's what. God, what if I'd got that part in that one film 5 years ago? What if that theatre company had given my play a real shot? What if I didn't have to deal with some ridiculous anxiety disorder, what if? What if? For anything creative, uncertainty is part of the gig. It's the path you're on, and maybe you are missing out. You are definitely missing out on some things, that some alternate version of you is living and taking for granted, the bitch. How dare you. She. Her. Me. Whatever. But chances are she's considering some of the many good things you've got going on with envy, and you might just be doing better than you thought. You're living your life, and that ain't bad. So I repeat to myself at 3am when I consider the cow field and those 50 cats.