Time spent on an Erasmus exchange is always going to be temporary. This is known from the get-go. However long it is, whether it’s for three months or more, the days are numbered. The adventure will end. It is known that it will, and it is known when it will; and once it does, the person who has lived that temporary adventure is forced out of that temporality, that extra pocket of time stitched into the fabric of their life, and right back into the familiar and the usual back home.
I of course knew this would be the case for myself upon arriving in Dublin last August. Luckily, I managed to stretch my ‘pocket’ a bit by extending my stay from four to eight months. However, my days here were still numbered, and the tough question I had to face both before and during said days was, “What am I going to do with them?”
I seemed to have a choice: to use this time, this ‘pocket’, as a pause, a break – a time to relax, re-invent, reflect on and recreate myself, or, use it to work harder on my craft, do even more than I did back in Malta and soak up every opportunity for learning, development and growth that Trinity, Dublin, and Ireland itself could offer. The best option, as with all things, lay not at either of the extremes (nothing vs everything) but somewhere in the middle.
Over these past months I have felt a pressure to make sure that I spend my months here in such a way that would leave me saying, “Yes, that was well worth it”, at the end of it all. But ‘worth it’ how, exactly? ‘Worth it’ because I would have left here a better artist? A better person? Both? ‘Worth it’ because I would have given myself time to rest? Or ‘worth it’ because I would have worked harder than ever before? Many times, the fear of ‘wasting’ my Erasmus experience has crawled up on me, but through a strength forged by my family, my friends, and my time learning at Studio 18, each time the fear has crept up, I have been able to stop, reflect, and readjust
The students here are not too different in their approach to work as we are back at Studio 18. Everyone is disciplined (mostly), everyone is passionate, everyone is talented…but everyone is also stressed, everyone is also tired, everyone is also listing off the projects they are doing as if they have no choice but to work on them all. It seems that as artists, especially as young ones, we apply immense pressure on ourselves to be growing and learning all the time. I know I certainly do. It seems that we force ourselves to believe that if we are not snatching every single opportunity for learning and experience, then we will be left behind and run out of time.
But the artist is not the person; not all of them at least. The artist is part of the person. And though they need attention, time and energy, they cannot take all of it – the person must be given enough too.
That belief is what eventually led me to exactly why this experience has been worth it for me, personally. It has led to a shift in perspective on my development that is less linear (‘I need to learn A in order to achieve B') and defined by time (‘I need to learn X in time for Y’) and, frankly, more relaxed. A matter of thinking, ‘I’ll read a book because I want to, not because it’s an assignment. Go for a walk because the sunset is nice, not because I need to brainstorm ideas. Watch a movie or a show because I enjoy it, not because I need to study it. Do a show because performing is fun and fulfilling, not because it will gain me experience.’
The fact of the matter is, I will do all those things anyway, but that shift in perspective makes it all a lot more enjoyable. Perhaps that is exactly what we need, as young artists, to relieve that aforementioned pressure and learn like we aren’t in a race against time.
I miss you all dearly and am very excited to come back, be with you all, and hear all about what you’ve been up to and come up with. Merlot, X-change and Foqsda sound like the most exciting things ever and I wish you all the best of luck with all of them!
I think our future is oh-so-exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. That said, of course many of us may not know exactly what does come next….I don’t either, and many of you will know that’s a bit foreign to me.
But I think that’s ok.
Time will tell.
And we’ve got lots of it!
Much love, Alex