This was a word I was taught to hate as a child. I was trained from a young age to make sure that was never an option.
My father is a very serious, hard-working man, he also has no real tact with children, and with me he made sure I was never on the same level as other children. I could talk in complete structured sentences when I was 4, I never ran around screaming or being a kid when I was a toddler, and my manners were impeccable. When my father heard me sing Advance Austalia Fair (national anthem) in perfect key and rhythm accapela when I was 7, that’s when my father said I should do singing lessons. And it’s not like I didn’t want to, I did I’d already been doing some stage performance (basic ensemble stuff because I was young).
My singing teacher was harsh on me, so was my father. She broke me down, pushed me to my limits and made me a good singer. So I continued singing and performing and as I started getting older I gained a few lead roles and some experience in the more professional side of the amateur theatre world. Actually, pretty well anything with mainly adults carrying the cast where pretty high end shows to me, considering I started with performing 1 hour pantomimes for young children, performed by children and teenagers.
I used to do other stuff like draw and write, but my father never acknowledged it. He thought I should concentrate on singing and stop trying to be a jack of all trades. My fathers favourite quote and one he liked to use on me often was a Bruce Lee quote (my father has a very large appreciation for the martial arts);
I do not fear the man who has practised 10,000 kicks, but I fear the man who has practised 1 kick 10,000 times.
He wanted me to master that one skill that he thought was worthwhile in me, and if I weren’t into drawing and writing then I probably would’ve been fine with that. But I really loved drawing too, but because I was only drawing cartoon characters and not beautiful shaded landscapes and scenery, he thought I was just average it, in his eyes I was far from an artist, I was his little singer performer, my voice is what he was proud of, but that didn’t happen till I had hit at least 14.
I remember I had drawn a group picture of the characters from Dragon Ball Z, it was meant to be on one piece of paper, but since I was 12 and pretty fucking terrible at sizing images when I copied them, it ended up spreading over 15 sheets of a4 paper that I spent ages taping together. It took me weeks to finish it, draw it out, outline, colour, I was so proud of myself when I was finished so the first person I showed was dad (I only ever showed him stuff if I was happy with it, otherwise I considered it not good enough to show dad) and all I got was this:
Don’t start getting a big head now, remember that there will always be someone better then you.
This one comment made a very large impact from me. I didn’t draw for a while, even though my mum encouraged me. Because the joy was gone, I wasn’t that good, it was just mediocre. And when I did eventually pick it up again, I practised so hard, I was copying fucking tank girl at the age of 13! Do you even know how big of a leap it is go from anime and traditional cartoons to a comic book character by Jamie Hewlett, that’s a pretty big fucking jump.
This was the first tank girl picture I copied, this was like the month before I hit 13. And my standard got consistently higher very quickly. But no matter how good I got at drawing, all I got from my father was:
Tank girl again? Why can’t you draw something nice for once instead of this trash.
It’s better now that I’m an adult and I paint, because for some reason he has more of a respect for painting then drawing. And I know he wishes I still sing now but at the end of day, it was everyone’s fault including my own that I stopped singing and doing theatre. I loved performing and the stage sooo much, yet I have it away to hang out with a boyfriend and smoke weed. Because I cracked.
Whether you see this as a cop out is understandable, I think it’s also a bit of a cop out. But it’s still the truth of it. I got too much pressure stacked on me at a young age, I was taught to behave like an adult but also had my age turned against me in other ways. They all wanted me to be an adult but they still treated me like a child. And it wasn’t just dad either, it was fucking everybody, everybody I knew or met when I was a kid told me I was special, I was gonna go far, I was going to be brilliant. And then random people connected to people I knew would also say things like, you stand out in the crowd and just the shit went on. And you may see that as encouragement, but it’s fucking not, not when you’re too young to even have a clue who you are, what you want or what presence you have in public. All it is is pressure, so much fucking pressure. Because that’s all I’ve been taught, you have to do something with your life because you are important, special and talented.
So if be harsh on myself, you can’t not be if you want to get better. And you can’t be nice if you want to learn, to be good on stage and in show business, there are no niceties, you’re either good enough or not, and lovey dovey keep trying bullshit isn’t helpful. Because if you aren’t pushed, then how are you alone meant to push yourself to your very extent. You can’t, and if you can’t handle the harsh reality of theatre, then you’re not cut out for it.
Which is why I haven’t performed in over 7 years. Because auditions were too devasting. I was 15 going for more adult shows, I was good enough to be lead in small shows, but I soon realised that you need more then just a good voice, good dance ability and acting capabilities. No, you need to BE a theatre person to do theatre, and they’re a special breed of people, and sometimes I wished I’d never turned to drugs and just stick to theatre, but even though my heart and soul belong on stage, my personality does not fit properly in a team cast. I think I also stopped as a big fuck you to my father who pushed me so hard.
But I don’t harbour any ill feelings anymore towards my dad. I am his only child, I needed to succeed because he didn’t do what he wanted to do because he didn’t think he was good enough. He didn’t want me to feel the same regret that’s really easy to see on his face when he’s not fake smiling around other people. He may seem fake and weird to others, buts that’s only because he doesn’t really like people, like me he can only deal with someone 3 hours max then he go does his own thing, I’m pretty well exactly the same. And even though he was so harsh on me growing up, I still hold a lot of admiration for him. Because his work ethic is outstanding and the work that he does is immaculate. I just wanted holes punched in a bit of cardboard to hold cotton for cross stitch, yet he still had to measure the distances between the holes so they have exact spacing between them, pretty well overkill for the use I was putting it to. But my dad doesn’t do things half arsed he aims for perfection every time. Some may say that’s not really the best trait I mean, there is no perfect so he’s setting himself unrealistic goals right? No, he is just refusing to let things be good enough, because there is no such thing, everything can be improved, every skill can be practised. Perfect may be an almost epic word like infinity, perfection is like infinity, it doesn’t end there is no such thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to strive for it. I would rather be a master of my craft then a jack of all trades. The only issue with it comes the crushing feeling of failure and disappointment.
It’s funny how comments affect you as a child. I guess I never told you all, I don’t dance in public. Ever. I may be wizzing at a rave but I’m not dancing, I’m shuffling. All because of one comment said by a girl I thought was the coolest back when I was in morning before school care. There were 3 of us girls there in the same year I think we were all about 8 at this stage. You know how little girls like to make up little dance routines with their friends (they probably all sit in a circle with their iPads now)? I was no exception, except till the young girl I admired said, you suck at dancing you shake your hips too much. So I haven’t danced since, I’m dead serious, it’s like my whole natural rhythm disappeared that day. Put me in a club without techno music or drugs, and all you’ll get from me is me standing there. I don’t dance, unless its theatre and I’m choreographed.
This contradictive song explains it perfectly:
‘But I don’t feel like dancin’ when the old Joanna plays
My heart could take a chance but my two feet won’t find the way
You’d think that I could muster up a little soft-shoe gentle sway
But I don’t feel like dancin’, no sir, no dancin’ today’