Advice to my 22 year-old self: Amanda Billing
You know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.
But that won’t take this column very far, will it? Or maybe it will if I explain what I mean.
You see, when I was twenty-two I wasn’t leading what you and I would call a 'creative life'. I mean I’ve always been artistic but in 1998, I had just finished an Honours degree and was completing a post-grad teaching diploma. I was staring the down the barrel of teaching Geography, Social Studies, and English to teenagers, apparently for the rest of my life. Fast forward twenty years and here I am, writing a column for the 'online community for creatives in New Zealand'. The very fact that I’m doing this makes me think my twenty-two year-old self doesn’t need any advice at all.
But perhaps if I could go back and whisper in my own ear, then we might have arrived here faster - if that matters. Perhaps I would have been able to spend more of the last twenty years acting, singing, painting, making things and making creative friendships - but to be fair, sixteen out of twenty isn’t bad. Perhaps I’d be “more successful” now, be wealthy, maybe living in London or somewhere else really, really arty. Maybe. Maybe not.
"creativity isn’t an exclusive club: artists are everywhere"
Straining at the bit
To be honest, this thought experiment of 'Advice to my younger self' divides me. On the one hand I feel a little sad about the years not-spent and on the other hand it’s all working out without me straining at the bit, so what's the big deal? It’s an act of cruelty to myself, really, to imply that any “wasted time” is somehow my fault, as if I knew any better. My life 'before acting' keeps me grounded and gave me the knowledge that creativity isn’t an exclusive club: artists are everywhere. It has also put something crucial into perspective: that the downsides of living as a creative are the ultimate First World Problem, a problem I’m determined to work on.
Currently, I’m working at Pop-up Globe in Auckland, on two plays: Measure for Measure and the mighty Hamlet. Measure is by turns joyous and disturbing, but it’s Hamlet that’s really got me thinking: about death and therefore about how to live in the time I have left (a whole lifetime again and then some, if my grandmothers are anything to go by).
Every time I think of what I would say to my twenty two year-old self (stay in teacher’s college because you’re actually really good at it and you love learning and you love kids, get your visa to work in the UK before it’s too late, go to drama school, take all the painting classes, don’t worry about being too much or too big or too weird because you are all of those things and, by God, there’s nothing more important to be done with life than to discover what you love and what you’re good at and to share that with other people), I think “But you live now, Amanda and, to be straight up, this advice is still welcome, so what do you have to say?”
Advice to my 42 year old Self
Advice to My Forty-Two year-old Self may sound like the kind of trite Instagram meme we've seen so many times that we’ve come to hate it even though it’s true, but here goes:
Listen up, girl:
what you love is right in front of you: embrace it
commit to your artistic self and you’ll never feel lonely
learn to play the guitar
feelings of inadequacy and an unwillingness to fail will waste your life
pick one thing and exhaust your potential
no-one else can do your work but you’re not alone: people like to help
love your elders
be led by beauty
Amanda Billing stars as Mistress Overdone in 'Measure for Measure', and as Hamlet's First Player in the 2019 season of Auckland's Pop Up Globe - you can find the full programme and tickets here.