Don’t just do one thing

Whatever you do, don’t just do one thing. If you want to be a dancer, or an actor or an artist, or anything – go do something else first.

I was at a very energetic and visceral performance by Hagit Yakira’s company at Bath Spa University Theatre recently, when I heard this. Hagit quoted it during the post-show discussion. Allegedly it’s a Pina Bausch quote, but I’m stumped if I can find it and it’s the message that’s vital here. But whoever you are: let the record show we’re grateful for your wise words. Hagit, now a warm and generous choreographer, has also worked as a performer, then a movement therapist. In a way, she is and has always been all of these things, and that is crucial for what we’re talking about today: do something else.

It sounds like a discordant chime among a chorus of ‘follow your heart’ and ‘live the dream’, but I promise you, it’s the greatest gift to your soul that you can give.

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Often, being told to do something else is wrongly shrouded in ‘get a real job’. I, and pretty much every artist-attempting-to-be-an-artist I know, still get the thick end of ‘when are you getting a proper job’/‘don’t you need the security of a regular income’, etcetera, from family, well-wishing friends, old ladies at the bus stop, almost everyone. You know the sort of thing. They’re just trying to help us, protect us, be sensible. I can even remember in school being commended for my common sense in miserably suggesting that I might join a drama club instead of trying to be a full-time actress, and work in PR so that I could rely on a regular job. The worst case scenario, of course, is going to do something ‘sensible’ and then never following your true desire whatsoever. This is different to what I’m on about today. This is trying to tell you not to live your dream. I am telling you to embellish your life with experiences, people and skills that will help you more deeply appreciate your dream. By doing something else.

When you close the door on all your other options, you close a door in your mind too.Even if the one thing we’re doing is a super exciting, creative, perfect thing – we should still do something else too. Life feeds on life. Just like we need to read and listen and experience to feed our art form, we need to open doors to other worlds and other lives to understand ourselves better. To feed ourselves, to nourish our opinions. 

How we understand our world is through a series of signs and signals learned from our experience with every element of what surrounds us. In this way, everything we know is not really our knowledge, it is borrowed from generations and generations before us. We learn better when we have more than one point of view.

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For example: I am taught that potatoes are bland, because I am fed plain boiled potatoes. I form an opinion on potatoes based on this. I never eat a potato again. But if I get a second point of view: I am fed crispy roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary and I understand that potatoes can be bland or delicious, depending on how you cook them.

It’s a very basic example, but you get the idea. Potatoes, like everything in life, can be wonderful and engrossing, if you put a bit of legwork in. Our experiences enrich our understanding and shape our opinions. Much like with the potato example, if I follow a fairly narrow track through my life, I may do fun things and feel happy, but I may not fully discover the colourful and expansive potential that I have. Which would be a shame.

So we try something else. We do other things. We don’t forget about our job – the things we create and the work we most want to do – but we do find new ways to learn about the world and its contents that help us more generously express ourselves through our work.

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