Tamara Campbell is a wonderful local woman who performs internationally as a physical comedian, with her character Kiki Bittovabitsch. Recently, Tamara presented this speach at a local arts festival and when she sent it to me I really wanted to share it with you. …..
I feel that life has a small frivolity window for adults, a time when you can, if you really want to, play again, risk, like a 20 something with the knowledge of an adult, a real adult – and I believe that as an artist this time can be extraordinary.
For women with kids, this might present itself as the glowing light at the end of the consuming 24/7 hands on parenting of small children tunnel. Suddenly they are all at school and if you make your husband do the chores, you gain 6 tantalising hours 5 days a week to be yourself. With the added knowledge that your own parents are still young enough to remember their names, you should be “good” for a brief renaissance of self. Yummy.
In my life, I feel that I am crossing the precipice into these years, being released from the exhaustion of extreme motherhood and able to for a fleeting moment, to really be me again.
I can dream, scream and beam Tamara – that’s my name by the way. Hi.
Ok, so you are all a bit confused, this speech is supposed to be about perfection, well it is, kind of. It is about how I discovered that it is better to be imperfect than perfect and why.
As a self-employed artists, I have an office. I sit in it, it is my very own space (cause let’s face it, as a married person you even have to share a bedroom). My office is small and the walls are littered with creative thoughts and pics of what I have done and where I have been. The window sill overflows with framed pics of my kids- when they were cute, namely before they could talk –back, to me.
Ok, so I am a goal nut, with 5 year plans, twelve month objectives and 3 month strategies. To do lists on white boards and profound slogans of inspiration perched with pride across the room, written on bright pieces of paper in capital letters and tacked to pin boards.
“Your playing small does not serve the world, who are you not to be great” Nelson Mandela. I am not arguing with him, I haven’t earned that right.
“The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams” My life coach Jodi Cooper, she is very cool.
A single word in capital letters inside a box “ACCEPTANCE.” And on the other side of me, my personal favourite “ be brave and confident.”
Not to mention the pile of selfhelp books, mostly unread or part read and autobiographies of people that I admire, or lets face it covert…stalk – or would if I had the time.
Outside of the paraphernalia that represents the HEART of my life, the office is neat, white, functional and very ORGANISED. I have a folding chair against the wall for visitors – not that I have them very often, it is my PRIVATE SPACE!
My brain works like my office, chaotic and fleeting mixed with strong moments of clarity and clean crisp vision, AND LISTS, lots and lots of lists, endless lists containing thoughts of how what when why if…. I am desperate to invent something that allows me to scribble down my thoughts in the shower, I was wondering if a white board pen would work on the tiles, lipstick? The mother, the wife, the one in control wouldn’t allow lipstick and has many neat perfect systems to keep the family running smoothly. Oh perfection!
To be honest, I couldn’t ask for more in my life… but I am going to, because why should I stop?
I studied theatre on three continents and from the day I left my second institution, I have made my living from nothing other than entertaining people. I have worked in 28 countries in front of well over a million people. I have performed in 5 different languages and created award-winning shows. I was regarded in my specific industry as a groundbreaking act. If you see that act now it seems really old fashioned – that is why I had to kill her, the character that is and the show with it. It was said that my style of work started a trend in the way that street performers did shows, particularly female street performers. I heard the words so often this is Tamara, she is Shirlee Sunflower, she is one of the most successful/famous female street performers of the modern era.
I had pursued a dream and succeeded at living a life that few people have had the privilege of. I am a working mother, who happened to travel the world as a working actress- I didn’t have to have another job to make ends meet. In fact we have reasonable financial security.
I wanted to be a performer. I have to say it prompted some interesting looks when I would tell people that at age 17. I now understand that it was a look of pity, but I was never going to let anything like that stop me. While I was studying theatre, I became enamoured with the idea of making theatre that was accessible. I truly believed in making theatre an art form that could be enjoyed by all, not elite, not expensive, not with a fourth wall and for god sake not boring. I wanted it to be popular and inexpensive and an event that bought people together as a community, as humans, to laugh, really laugh at themselves and the world. That was first ever mission statement.
I have to say that my favourite compliment (one I have heard many times and still hear to this day), is people coming to me after a show, taking my hand and telling me that they have never laughed so much in their whole life, and I see them filled with real joy. It makes me feel amazing to give others that happy time, a time when it is just about the laughter, just about breathing and relaxing.
I chose to be a physical comedian and then communicate with the public through street theatre because I could be proactive about my art and my dream. I didn’t have to wait- literally waitress and wait for the powers that be to tell me that I could work and entertain. Luckily for me, I was quickly embraced by the very best of street theatre, in fully paid European festivals with 5 star accommodation, full catering and even drivers. I was living my dream and I was feeling pretty perfect.
That all feels so long ago now, when it happened, I loved it. I had lots of great work and I was travelling the world and seeing and feeling thousands of people laughing, howling and clapping, happy, because they loved what I created, what I did.
BUT, there was, apparently, annoyingly, something better than all that, something I was discovering was important to me – LOVE, COMAPANIONSHIP, FAMILY.
I was lucky, I married one of me (an artist) – someone who completely gets what I do, and how it drives me – NO, how it defines me. He understood, probably better than me, that although I needed the expected, the ordinary, the family, the house, the little quiet town, all of that would never be my perfection.
So with a gorgeous house on the beach, two healthy and spirited children – don’t know where they got that from, such a mother thing to say- and a husband that understands the creative… life must be perfection. Right?
I muddled through several years chest deep in the fear of my disappointment. Maybe it isn’t possible to have everything. Maybe there really is a reason why so many of my female peers didn’t have children. I watched other people with time on their hands soar ahead, create, have status and tour. While I trod water, starring so seriously into the face of other careers I felt I could tolerate. Let me just point out, my career still wasn’t over, I was still working, touring the world, first with one and then with two kids in tow.
I was just swamped by the insecurity of my own imperfections, the latent lack of rampant public gratitude. My ego had completely deflated. My artistic imperfection was eating away one level at a time at my confidence tower. My artistic voice was getting lost in a pile of coastal suburban lawn mowers and beautiful landscapes. My edge was fading into a backdrop of nice, normal, giving and loyal human beings. Nappies, bed times, stories, cooking, cleaning and teaching values, it was all clogging up my artistic highway.
Real Estate agent? Pilates teacher? Director? Politician? Aid worker? NO, NO, NO.
How could I both love and hate everything. What was happening to me – to my identity?
Remember, I was still working, performing, touring, receiving that laughter. BUT something was missing.
Then like slap in the face, it hit me, I no longer felt brilliant. The words echoed loudly in my brain, I WAS NO LONGER BRILLIANT. The dream had come and gone.
A shitty realization and one that the world took by the horns, I could hear it thinking “while she is down, let’s just get it all over and done with.” I am not having pity on myself, I actually adore how low I went, because as the old adage goes I had nowhere to go but up and so I went – slowly.
But before that, I had a number of personal things happen, I guess you can say I had my first adult experiences of tragedy.
It was there at a real emotional low point, that reality overtook perfection, survival overtook perfection, life was finally allowed to overtake perfection.
With the help that I was able to seek and the things that I learnt during this very low time, I realized that perfection was not what makes you great, in fact by totally losing and letting go of any feeling of striving for perfection, I realized that I liked me perfectly imperfect. It was a gorgeous place for creativity and inspiration, as were my little munchkins and the trials of ordinariness, it was all perfectly imperfect. My desire for perfection had been holding me back, as an artist, as a mother, as a wife and probably even as a friend.
I felt unfilled because I had lived out my initial artistic dream and I was living another dream that was very demanding and challenging and not at all about me.
You don’t stop being creative just because you achieved one dream, or just because you become a mother.
My story is not exceptional, but that is why I wanted to tell it.
It is important to be true to yourself and your creativity even when the whole world is tugging at you. Because, how can you be a great role model/parent/lover/artist/person, if you are not honest, true and yes, selfish.
Maybe this is something that the enlightened of us already know all too well, but I need to remind myself that it is okay to put myself and my art first.
It is okay to indulge in a renaissance of self.
It is totally acceptable if not imperative to risk on myself again, like I have nothing to lose, like I am 20, like I have no mortgage, no kids and no responsibilities. To have faith that I am not risking my family, in fact, I am doing the opposite. I am teaching them all about dreaming, about believing and about living. How liberating to see instead, that they are there to catch me should I fall and celebrate with me if I don’t.
A renaissance of self is a liberating space where you have the knowledge of a 40 something, mixed with the abandon of a 20 something. A time when you can reach deep inside and grab hold of the beautiful innocence and vulnerability of your younger self and team it up with the amazingly complex and powerful person that you have grown into.
I don’t want to re live my old dreams, but I am still dreaming and I do still want to make people laugh, but I want to add an extra level of compassion to my work, do more to help all kinds of people. I am a different person now and I have realized that I must live my life in line with MY VALUES, yeah my values, we take that for granted, but I challenge you to pick the 5 most important and really make all your choices based on that. I am proud to say that you WILL NOT FIND perfection or excellence any where near my value list. I am striving to live and create by my values
1. Love-which for me is compassion and kindness.
2. Passion – I let my imperfect perfectionist hang out there.
3. Positivity – this is about self-reliance, bravery and health
4. Spontaneity and adventure- Just do it
5. Intuition – trusting myself to know when it is okay to be selfish and which jokes are going too far!
I don’t need to be perfect.
I need to be loving, passionate, inspirational, intuitive, adventurous, faithful and always prepared to improvise.
Art is not perfection.
Art is honesty, art is following your values.
Perfection is something that we grow out of and what replaces it, is truly magical.
“We are all already standing on a mountain of value, our experiences are unique and we are worth our weight in gold, just as we are.”
Thanks for listening.