Before I Die..

Before I Die.. is a community project located on the edges of Hum Salon in Grafton, here in Auckland. Hum is a lovely little place, a community-run social enterprise based in a lovely old villa on the corner of Grafton Bridge, just down from the hospital. They have a wee coffee hut, sofas and a cat, and are slowly building themselves into a hub of friendliness, offering an artistic space for people to meet. If you’ve not been there, you really should – the coffee is wonderful, and so are the people. Anyway, back to the project. What they’ve done at Hum is a simple concept – put up pieces of wood around the perimeter of the cafe, paint them with chalkboard paint and spray-paint the words “Before I die I want to..” followed by a large space. Then offer chalk to anyone who asks for it to tell the world what they want to do before they pass on.

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One night as I was passing Hum, I decided to document the poignant, hilarious, funny and touching notes so many people had written. The vast array of different wishes people had shared was amazing, and I hope others can see in my pictures what I did that night – a wonderful collection of shared hopes and dreams amongst strangers. Whether the hopes of the writers were comical (Before I die I want to.. “have an evening of absinthe with the pope!”) or beautifully innocent (Before I die I want to.. “hug my family”), I enjoyed reading them all and documenting them. I can’t say why, but for whatever reason, that night was magical. Something about walking through a vaguely familiar part of town on a quiet night and drinking in every detail feels wonderful any evening, but stumbling across the very personal plans and hopes of people I haven’t and never will meet – a thing ordinarily hidden – feels so special. So here it is, my mini photo series of what I think is an absolutely ace idea, and something I shall definitely be back to re-document.

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NB: An anonymous commenter has informed me that this brilliant project is the brainchild of New Orleans artist Candy Chang, and this art has been replicated all over the world. Check her out, she’s incredible – disappointed I’d not thought to Google the project before I wrote about it.. duh, Lucie!

I have no idea what I’m doing, and that’s totally okay.

Hallo nochmal, Mädchen und Jungen. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

My last drafted post was a few days ago, but before that it was my birthday, which is now just over four months ago. Not much of an ‘every day’ project so far, is it?

Well, I thought it was time to kick this back into gear. So what shall I type about this evening?

First, let me catch you up on what’s going on in my world. I’ve now left university for the remainder of the year, for reasons far too complex and boring to discuss here, and have been working at Farmers (department store of New Zealand, for those living somewhere better than here) for the past few months as a sales assistant to get by. I’m not going to lie – I actually love working in retail. There’s something I find so fulfilling about being constantly busy and getting to do so many different things in my day. I work with all kinds of people, do so many things and have so many interesting interactions every day; my strange little quirks when it comes to little details work well in retail, and I get to vaguely exercise my acting muscles with every customer. I know it’s the NZ Police tag line, but if you want better work stories, get a job in retail. It’s a lot of fun, and the satisfaction I get at the end of the day is incomparable to nearly anything else I’ve ever done.

Aside from this, I am moving out of home in a week (shock horror!) to live with my significant other (John), who makes me exquisitely happy and is highly useful when I need someone to fetch something for me. Our flatmates are so, so lovely, and we even have a temporary wonky-eyed cat named Ella. I feel very comfortable here, and now that I have a Real Job and some steady income, I’m feeling like a proper adult and whatnot. I get to plan meals, share a bathroom with people I’ve only known a little while, and pay rent, which sounds super dull, but for me is rather exciting (so far). I also really like the kettle here.

I’ve also been Stage Managing for a few different shows since I last wrote an entry here – Defensability by Ant Towler at the Musgrove Theatre on Auckland Uni’s campus, Motel by April Phillips at the Basement Theatre, and I’m currently working on Another Dead Fag by my dear and extremely talented playwright friend Sam Brooks, also at the Basement. They are all outstanding plays that I am so happy to have worked on – do look them up, they are all very entertaining and thought provoking pieces. All the cast and crew involved in each of these projects have been incredible, providing a wonderful learning experience for me.

Despite how busy I’ve been, in the past few days I’ve found myself needing to think about the future, and panicking a bit. I know where I want to be for the next few months, and what I want to do (work), but in the long term.. I have no idea. I intend to go back to uni, but I have no clue what I want to actually study – my old degree plan of a double-major in Drama and Film, Television and Media Studies is no longer appealing to me, and I don’t even know if I want to continue SMing, go back into acting, or leave the industry altogether.

For the past few months this has incredibly concerning, but I pacify my chronic over-thinking with the mantra that all of this is so not a big deal; people change majors all the time, I mean Auckland Uni advisers and fellow students have been telling me from the get-go that I can change my major quite easily, and that it’s common among students. Hobbies come and go, too – I used to be really into cross-stitching for a few months, and there was a time where I spent every waking minute drawing tiny (terrible) cartoons. But that’s not what’s been troubling me lately. See up until now, I’ve been categorising this theatre thing is a hobby, but actually, I don’t really think it is. For all the work it takes to be an SM/actor, the pay-off is amazing. I spend every minute I can in theatres and around people who love this world as much as I do, and even though I constantly wear myself out and end up severely sleep-deprived, there’s a mysterious exhilaration about it that sweeps me off my feet every time I’m standing backstage on opening night. I’m coming to realise that maybe it really is my ‘passion’, if you like*, and that’s wonderful and everything, but every now and again I get that nagging doubt – do I really want to live backstage forever? What if I get trapped in the world of the SM and can’t break back into the bubble of acting?

I was having a full on ‘what if’ episode like that a few hours ago, and it’s taken the final dress of Another Dead Fag and a nice drive home to reflect on all of it. I recalled that in April I did a staged play reading of Trojan Women, and how spectacular it felt to get onstage and be able to do the thing that drew me into this world in the first place. It came so naturally to me, despite having not been onstage for a good six months, and now I actually think about that, I think it’s something I should trust. Yeah, sometimes it scares me that I’m losing my chance to stay in the category of ‘actor’, only to be restricted to ‘techie’ (which is awesome in it’s own way), but that’s okay. I’m sure if I took on more acting and less SM work, I’d feel the exact opposite. But at the end of the day, when someone asks me if I prefer acting or stage management, my answer will be the same as it’s always been since I started doing both – I prefer both. Being a dual SM/actor means I generally get on better with crew and actors, as I know what it’s like to do both jobs, the perks and the challenges. I have to trust that I can be good enough to be able to do both, and work out what I want to do later.

I don’t have to plan out my entire life right now, career or otherwise. It seems so obvious to you, I’m sure, and it’s taken me a few months to worry about, but I suppose what will be, will be. I am coming to realise that my adjustment into the real world has only begun to become smoother as I’ve stopped fretting over the little details on the path that lies ahead. All I really need to know is a vague idea of what I sort-of think I might want to do next year, and what I’ll be up to for the next few months. Like so many people have told me, it’s best to just let everything run it’s course and go with the flow. I’m good at making the best of situations I find myself in (good or bad), so what’s there to worry about? Nothing. Which is awesome.

See you tomorrow, kids (and those actually older than me)!

*I really despise the term ‘passion’ – I just find it so plastic. The only exception to this is in terms of passionfruit, which is okay.