My whole career I’ve lived and breathed the arts, I’ve worked hard and achieved a lot, I happily wear my badge of pride that says “I’m still here, despite the cuts and hard times I’m still doing it!” But as I lay in bed in my rented house planing babies and worrying about how the hell I’m going to pay for it all I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth it? It’s not just about the money, it’s about the landscape and how the industry has changed, and how my priorities have changed with it…
I’m very proud of my achievements, I’ve worked my way up to a high management role, I think my name is held in reasonably high esteem by the people I have worked with. I have worked hard, built systems in theatres from the ground up, worked with venues, managed festivals and run 1000s of shows/galas/parties/events in all sorts of places, fundraised and even had a go at programming…
The arts can be thankless at times and, in my operational role, pretty unglamorous, I’ve welcomed the great and good into gleaming theatres, smiling and drinking bubbly, chatting excitedly about what a wonderful building it is and how they must see the new (whatever capital project has just reached completion) never letting on to them that I’ve been in the building for 24 hours finishing the paint work, finishing rotas, training staff, hiding junk and I’ve actually changed into my glamorous dress in the accessible toilet 5 minutes before they arrived.
I’ve recently met two friends, both really talented and well achieved arts professionals, who in the last year or two have left the arts to pursue new careers. The thing that struck me about both of them was how happy and content they looked, I know appearances can deceive but both told me separately how easy life outside of the arts has been for them, how lovely the people they work with are and how happy they are in their work, they both still do interesting and creative things and both felt that leaving the arts industry actually improved their creativity.
For me, I haven’t felt creative in a long while, I have always adored what I do but now it seems that some of the sparkle has dulled, I’m fed up of changing in toilets and not getting thanked for all those hours, I’m fed up of being the girl who says no to all the fun stuff because of health and safety regulations or budget restrictions. I’m fed up with people thinking I can’t be creative because I work in Operations and I’m fed up with box ticking and ego massaging. Most of all I’m fed up of doubting myself and wondering if I’m really good enough for this? It’s disappointing to know that after all those years of hard work I still don’t feel like I’m worthy as an arts professional.
I still love theatre and have a regular debate with myself about whether I’m just working in the wrong venue/role for me, whether I stay in the arts and find a different role that interests me more (and pays better if such a mythical beast exists) or whether I use my experience and find something else to do all together.
Which ever it is is going to involve a serious leap of faith which happens only when I decide what I want, and that, these days, is the hard part, I’ve been struggling with this for a long time and been very vocal about it with friends and colleagues so the day I decide what I do actually want, there will probably be a parade!