I’ve learnt that the perspective in which you view your life is changeable. Sometimes this shifts due to a huge life event, sometimes through smaller life lessons. Perspective according to the Cambridge English Dictionary is “a particular way of considering something”. I’ve always considered Life to be too short to be anything other than happy – a motto I still stand by, but certain life ‘events’ have caused me to rethink and handle challenges in a different way.
I’m an actor. I’ve been a professional actor for 11 years; A career that I started when my eldest son was five. I was a single parent juggling the uncertainty of the acting world and part-time, semi-flexible, zero-hour contracts (I could fill another blog post alone on the nightmare of these). My perspective at this time was that life was hectic, a constant battle and you just keep going until you get there – wherever there may be. I was positive about change but not so positive about the present – missing bill payments, not knowing what I would be paid next month (if at all), and would I be able to feed and house my little boy?
It’s no coincidence that things started to change for the better in my career when my perspective changed. Growth as an actor, better roles, better time management. But what shifted my perspective, I hear you ask? My youngest son was diagnosed with a lifelong disability two years ago. Complex needs. Medical conditions. This was PERSPECTIVE thrown right in my face. I embrace my son for who he is and all of his diagnoses, but the biggest reward this new path in my life has given me is a NEW perspective.
I still have times where I think life is unfair, but I also have a new way of looking at things – “Argh, my train is late”, “that man just bumped into me whilst looking at his phone”, “I’m rubbish for not getting the job” – things that would get me so worked up before, I can let go of, with considerable ease. I have bigger fish to fry as it were. My son can’t talk or communicate his needs and we could end up in A&E or admitted into hospital on any given day. HE is the one who deserves to get angry at trivial things. He deserves to be upset, frustrated and screaming at the unfairness of it all. But he doesn’t. He never does. He is serene, calm and unbelievably happy – something that professionals, carers, teachers and others always comment on.
I have this newfound perspective, but it doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. It just means I choose my battles and know what is now important and productive. I will fight for my child’s rights and for the support he is entitled to. I will champion accessibility and do what I can to make this world more understanding and accepting. I will be his voice and his biggest cheerleader. But I will now let go of things that are out of my control. I can walk into an audition, do my best and let it go…
This new way of thinking has done wonders for my approach to work. I am taking on more work that is meaningful to me and it shows. Procrastination used to be my best friend but this shift in perspective has shown me again how precious time is. I manage my time more effectively these days, with block sessions organised in my diary and dedicated to specific tasks and goals for the day. I would love to be financially well-off, but I’m not always thinking about money, like I did when I was struggling in a mountain of debt and felt like there was no way out. The industry has a long way to go in realising the needs of parents, and particularly understanding parent carer’s needs, but again this is a whole other blog post…
I am and will always be a work in progress. Depression has hit me hard at certain points in my life but my shift in perspective continues to help me with this. One thing I’ve learned throughout it all, is perspective, or mindset, is everything. Whether this has happened to you, via a life-changing event or by having a different outlook on life through your own experiences, I’m sure your perspective has shaped your life at some point or another. For me, with hindsight, things were never as bad as they first seemed. I’m choosing not to sweat the small stuff – as much as I possibly can – Life really is too short.
And as for my eldest son, who has been riding this wave with me – I grew up with him. He is my hero and made me want to be an actor in the first place. Always inspiring me to do better and follow my dreams to make a better life for us both. I hope I have.
by Sarah Leigh
Sarah Leigh is an actress, mother and autism advocate. You can find her on Twitter here.