Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Once in a blue moon

blue moon

Today, August 31, is a blue moon. It’s not literally blue, of course, just a reference to a rare month with two full moons. It’s also my birthday, so the single most depressing day of the year, even more depressing than the day after Christmas, or the SARS efiling deadline. In approaching this post, I have 2 options:

1. Wallow like a hippo – hey, hippos are very in right now — in the warm and comforting gloop of the demographic black hole I entered when I turned 35.
2. Reflect soberly on the year.

Appealing as Option 1 always is, Option 2 makes more sense, if only because the past year really has been a time of significant change — and that has to be better than being in limbo. It was last September that I launched the Loeries Go Beyond campaign which finally catalysed the realisation that I am not cut out for a 9 to 5 life of PowerPoint and quiet desperation. In early January I left my job, and I’ve spent the rest of the year trying to do the kind of work I want to do – art, writing, social media. The idea is this will pay off in the long run, even if it doesn’t pay now.

So here’s the positive about my year of being 37:

Horseriding. After decades of wanting to ride but being too afraid, then discovering that I had panic attacks whenever my mount moved into a canter, I’ve finally started having regular lessons here. I’m not very good, and there are moments when I feel that familiar surge of fear, but I’m making progress.

Art. In July I had my first solo exhibition and sold R50 000 worth of work in a month – which considering that until then I found the idea of charging anybody anything for my work faintly preposterous, was progress. I followed that up with a much lower key exhibition in aid of Women’s Month at Odd Café, where a lot of my experiments and sketches are on display in the exhibition space down below. (Go along and have a look if you’re interested – you can pick up work cheaply because it’s not mounted or framed.) I’m no Damien Hirst, but I’ve made a start and that’s something.

Work. Quitting my job and not going to another one is something I have never regretted. It hasn’t been easy (see the points on time, energy and money below) but I’ve got more work out in the past eight months than I did in the previous two years. For the first time in a long time, I’m getting to create things, not just write endless strategies about creating things.

Could do better:

The books. Still unwritten. The ghosts of these untold stories haunt my every waking moment. No matter how much art I create, I’m still a writer, and writers who don’t write are creatures without rhyme or reason.

Comedy. Still haven’t summoned up the courage to get up on stage even though I’ve wanted to do it for 20 years. One day.

Time. Wasted a lot of it this year, mostly chasing projects that didn’t happen because they required a bunch of people to agree on stuff, or other people to get enthusiastic about something, or other people to pull finger. Almost everything I’ve managed to put out this year has been because I was responsible for getting most of it done. Which leads me to:

Energy. You know that announcement that appears just before the 7pm news warning us that electricity use is too high and please could we switch our pool pumps off? That’s me most days. Being too tired to follow through on even a fraction of my ideas is probably my single biggest challenge.

Money. Freedom is expensive. Doing work you love often means just that: doing it, rather than waiting for someone to pay you to do it. A huge chunk of what keeps me busy is work that brings in no income, and the only reason I do it is the hope that it will all pay off … eventually.

And, finally:

Freedom. I am freer this year than I have ever been: no job, no boss, no husband, no debts. But freedom comes at a price. I shouldn’t even be writing this blog, for one thing: I should be sitting by a fire in the bush drinking red wine instead, as I had planned — but a last minute request for a corporate art workshop came through, so that’s what I’ll be doing, followed by a dinner to help raise money for rhino DNA profiling where one of my paintings will be auctioned. I am desperate to get out of Joburg and go and sit and do nothing for a while, but daren’t, not with the new project I’m launching next month and an exhibition at the Rand Club to prepare for.

(Hey, it’s probably good to be busy.)

My life is a work in progress, along with everyone else’s. But I am getting there, I think. Hopefully, by the time we see the next blue moon on July 31 2015, I will be very much closer to where I want to be.

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