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Do you know who you are?  

What’s an identity? 

Is it defined by who others think you are? By who you think you are? By the things you do and fill your days with? By your habits and routines?  Your believes and opinions? By your health or lack thereof? The people you surround yourself with? 

Is it something fixed, like a fact, or is it flexible? Something you can stretch and reshape indefinitely?  

Most people probably consider it something stable. Life seems to require of us to fall into patterns, to choose a circle of friends, a lifestyle, a job. And then to spend our days trying to sustain it. To have a particular idea of ourselves, confirmed and validated by our environment, and we cling to it. Unless something dramatic happens to knock us off our worn out tracks. 

This concept has always scared me. For some reason the sheer thought of it seems to suck all the colour out of my life. Sure, it’s unnerving having to redifine yourself anew each year, each month, each day… but isn’t this what turns life into an adventure?  

I’ve tried life with a label stuck to me, and it brought me nothing but misery. To me, there's no freedom in it. 

To me, paradoxically, it means losing myself.

What are your thoughts? Do you think identity is fluid? Or something inevitable? Please comment.

God and the Art of Writing 

In my teens and early twenties I attempted to write fiction. I tried to learn everything there was about the subject. It didn’t turn me into a fiction writer, but it gave me a new world view. 

Because as I writer, I realized, God was a colleague. 

If you look at things from a fictional character’s point of view… you, the writer, are God. You’re in charge. You write the story. If you’re a good writer, of course, you listen to your characters and their story and let it unfold. But it’s still you who’s got all the power. Your characters can try their hardest, but it’s all up to you. 

If you look at things from a writer’s point of view - you love your characters. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to make things easy for them. Au contraire, the more you love them, the more challenges you throw at them. Because… no conflict, no transformation. You watch them go about their days, trying their hardest, and every time things look pretty good, you think, “What fiendish obstacle can I place before them now? How can I get them near breaking point?” 

Of course, you usually also make sure there’s one or more ways your characters can get themselves out of trouble. But you challenge them, you stretch them, you make them fight. 
They’re never alone, although they might not realize. 

So whenever close to despairing, it’s good to peek over God’s shoulder and think, “Ah, so that’s where you’re going with that.” And if you’re particularly sneaky, you might attempt to cheat and catch a glimpse of the first draft or notes … if they’re halfway legible, what with all the coffee stains and tears.

Change and Chekhov's Cherry Orchard 

I was really going to write a lighthearted blog post this time. Review some games I binged on with my family over the last week or something along those lines. 
And then I remembered this is the last week Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard is on at the Bristol Old Vic… and I rewatched the animation I made for their promotional campaign. 

And I realized how much I want to keep quiet about it. I don’t actually want anyone to see it - not just because my animation skills are still quite basic, but mostly because the subject still hurts. 

The Cherry Orchard is a play about change. About the inevitability of personal and social change, and the necessity to embrace it. And change always hurts. 

The characters all deal with change in different ways. Some ignore it. Some see the opportunities in it. Some embrace change excitedly and move on. 

The fact is, you can’t run away from change. You can only go on pretending for so long. 
Letting go is hard. Moving on is hard. And things are ever-changing and you have to make sense of things again and again. You can only survive if you have a certain flexibility. It’s tiring, it’s stressful. It’s disorientating. 

I’m not surprised that the characters in the play who deal with it the most successfully, have a sort of lodestar to help them move through the uncertainty - they have a vision, they have faith in something bigger than themselves, they have their idealism: 
“Happiness is here. Here it comes, nearer, ever nearer. Already I hear its footsteps. And if we never see it, if we never know it, what does that matter? Others will see it. “ (Trofimov, Act II, The Cherry Orchard) 

I love this play, because I can really feel it. I can feel the tragedy, the fear of change, the heaviness, the grief and loss … and yet, there is hope. It’s all up to us. We can’t choose the cards we’re dealt, but we can choose how to play them. 

If you’re in or near Bristol, go and see The Cherry Orchard. 
Old Vic Thu 1 Mar – Sat 7 Apr

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 

The other day I found this. My daughter made it for me several years ago, when she was about 8.

I was extremely depressed and determined to give up music for good.

On the back of it she wrote, "This is for you and the birds [...] This is a sign that even if you are trapped in a cage your music can bring you to the end of the world.[...]"

I wish I could say that this sweet gesture helped me get back on track, but that would take a few more years. But it makes me feel hopeful that she'll show more wisdom than me, stay clear of cages and be unstoppable. And it's a good reminder that it's me who has to show her how to achieve that.

How Much Nostalgia Can Fit Into One Photo? 

There’s not a lot of photos of me as a teenager, due to me being extremely camera shy. In fact, the only photos that exist of me from that time are the ones my best friend took - when it came to capturing me, she had the unassailable monopoly. 

And she made shameless use of it, usually catching me at the most unglamourous moments, when I least expected it or looked my absolute worst. Maybe that was her revenge on me, for habitually shouting, out of the blue, “don’t move!” and making her sit still whenever her pose struck me as absoluty neccesitating a drawing of her…

Although she isn’t actually on the picture, to me, this one is about our friendship. It’s about me, but the me I was in relation to her. This is where it gets complicated… so when I think back and miss that time, is it her I am missing, or the me I was back then when we were together? And can I be that same person here and now, without her? Or is that part of me lost forever?

This photo was taken on one of the holidays we took together… we’d take a train to a little alpine town to escape our lives for a little while. There we'd have writing marathons, play guitar, go for walks - and make each other laugh. Life was as it should be. And I hoped one day it would be, I even pictured us living together.

Well, of course, as we grew up and acquired boyfriends and chose different paths in life, that didn’t quite happen. But maybe in an alternative universe we’re still sitting in that flat, sipping tea, unburdened by the future, wrapped in blankets, and watching Woodstock on an old TV.