It’s so easy to be ‘busy’ and to ignore our loved ones but what if something happens to them? Samuel Sims talks about the importance of support networks in the world of the creative.
I struggle every day with invasive, subtly destructive thoughts. They tell me I’m not doing enough, that I should be at a ‘certain stage in my career’, and that still working a side job means I’m a loser. They tell me that unless I live and breathe my work, I’m failing, and I absolutely won’t achieve my goals. These thoughts scream that it’s completely normal to work 40 hours a week in said side-job, run a company and still feel guilty that I haven’t written a play and novel yet.
I’m preaching to the choir, right? You’re in the same boat, heading towards foggy nothingness?
We might not show or moan about it all the time but so many of us are riddled with anxiety and a toxic stream of consciousness that can at best be managed, but never completely eases or goes away. As creatives, our minds are constantly overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts as we obsess over our own ideas of what success means (which I have helpfully written about here) and whether the struggles are worth it. We might have colleagues to rant at but inevitably we fall into a boring, poisonous loop of conversation about the same things, which are the opposite of what we think we should be: productive.
What I’m trying to become more aware of is the support network I know exists, but I too easily and flippantly forget about. When you’re busy strategising and planning the next steps in your career, agonising over social media usage, spending Monday to Sunday doing life admin and applying for more part-time jobs that just might be more bearable, whilst (if you’re lucky) forcing some ‘you time’ and going to the cinema or reading a book, you end up completely alienating friends and/ or a partner. But it’s easy if they’re concentrating on the same things, right? We completely normalise seeing a best friend once a month and only when it’s been carefully booked in and only if one of you hasn’t flaked. We’re isolating ourselves in favour of something that pales in comparison to what loved ones can give.
I’m aware that I have friends that are struggling and yes, when we meet up, we talk and I force them to tell me what dark troubles are occupying their mind but I also don’t make enough effort in the interim of us seeing each other. I ease the guilt by putting the blame on them: if they don’t reply to my text then they can’t care that much. But I then in turn wait a week before messaging other friends back because I just can’t handle being on my phone if it’s not work-related. What a hypocrite. I have a fiancé that gets frustrated by my being a workaholic and general neurotic freak, but don’t you have to be like that in order to drive yourself forward and succeed? To get through each day?
It’s worrying isn’t it? It’s worrying how robotic and dead set on our goals we are but what’s even more concerning is the awareness. We’re not exactly brainwashed… Many of us know we’re busy and that we’re not always prioritising the right things. We try and manage the anxiety by meditating with Tamara from the Calm app daily/ every other day or if we’re lucky enough, see a therapist and marvel at being able to talk about ourselves for an hour without feeling guilty. It’s an addiction, this feeling. We love the stress because it gives us meaning.
What I’m trying to become more aware of is my support network and the one I can provide. I don’t want to get all London-centric because it’s reductive, but here, like other big cities, it is so hard to forge and maintain relationships. You may have what you call a close-knit circle of friends, but this represents something completely different if you live somewhere grand-scale. It can take real effort to see them but when you do, it’s worth it. We can’t escape having shit to do and we should applaud ourselves for getting on with it, but let’s not get to a point where we or our friends feel like no one cares, or to a point where it’s too late. As creatives, we especially should be making more effort to check our loved ones are OK as we don’t really know what’s going on. Not really. We normalise this heart attack culture but we’re still the same, fragile beings just convincing ourselves we can cope. We all deserve to be OK and we all deserve to know that. I may not be able to reduce the workload I have but I can at least act like more of a human. I think I have it in me… Do you?