I remember how the journey into exile began. A whisper here, another there, a sidelong glare from a person I barely knew.

I knew there was something in the wind, and I still hold myself responsible for thinking that it was ok, that it was all in my mind. Let me say this, nothing is ever all in your mind. The cut off was so slow and so subtle, I still sound ridiculous trying to describe it, but there I was, suddenly everyone was working on something other than me. I didn’t think this was odd until I met up with the people from one of my first shows, the one which kick started my career. It was sitting there, in that room with all these people that I had worked with, so excited that we got to see each other after so many years of people pursuing their own careers and lives.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that only I was excited. These folks had kept in contact all this time, calling each other for jobs and gigs until they had morphed into some kind of secret favours society. I realised I had deliberately been shoved to the fringes of the world I had helped build with others (not them) and which I had been the Queen of. The lust for fame and power is a crazy thing; friendships are as valuable as a dentist to a toothless geriatric. They are tossed and shifted like chips at a high stakes poker game. It stinks; it is filled with caprice and what is to me the king of all vices, jealousy.

I would like say that I realised the import of what was happening around me immediately, but I did not. Years of working had taught me that that thing I had looked into the mirror and longed for meant nothing to me. I felt attachment to the fame and glitz; I only cared about the craft. I assumed everyone else felt the same. I had no idea of what people would sacrifice for these things that were now plastic party decorations to me. They meant nothing, the work is what mattered. I had no reason to fear. As long as I had my talent, my ability to work hard, and my discipline- I would never lack for work. I was wrong.

Months after this meeting I realised that I was completely outside what I considered my home ground. I even had people asking me whether I was on a sabbatical. That was when I got really mad, I was so consumed with anger, partly because I hadn’t seen it coming and also because I was just not prepared. Oblivion is a frightening thing.

I fumed and fretted for a while, and then someone asked me to write down a list of the things I had been up to the last ten years. It was revelatory. The sheer magnitude of what I had accomplished sneaked past self pity, a bullet point at a time. It was right before me, the undeniable proof that I was not a failure. I realised that for all my protestations about this being entirely about the craft, a part of me had secretly coveted the place of those who belonged solidly to the little club known as ‘celebrity’. I had said it didn’t matter, but it did. Looking at that list I realised how much I had dishonoured my work by saying it was not enough. Here I was, stewing in righteous anger because I wasn’t as famous as I wanted to be, and yet the work I had done was more than most would ever be fortunate enough to have access to. Right then and there I made up my mind to dwell on what this work had taught me, rather than what I felt it owed me. When I started to put it down, it was hard to believe that I had ever felt that I am less than amazing.

It is clear that this thing that I loved and had given my life to has taught me much more than I have given it credit for. It has taught me how to see into humanity and into myself.

  • Plan and yet live in the present. Be prepared for anything by being here.
  • Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. You must always read between the lines. The complexities lie in simplicity.
  • Open yourself up to feeling always, never ignore the pain or try to gloss over it. Feel every moment and every nuance and live in it You are made of this pain and you must honour it.
  • Use our feelings but never let them use you (never get consumed by the anger, but use it to push it forward).
  • Let go of the past even as you remember it. Let go of that line you did not say correctly or that performance that was not up to par and even that great moment when you were riding high. There is only this performance, this moment and no other.
  • Remember people’s names and value them for their differences.
  • You will never stop learning. You have something to learn from everyone no matter how much you already know.
  • Be thankful for the bad days, they only mean work is getting done and that progress is being made.
  • You are stronger than you think. There are depths in you that you will never plough into. You may never fully explore this depth but you must keep trying. You are resilient.
  • All the scripts and stories later I can assure you of one thing; Humanity is beautiful.
  • Age means nothing when you have something to say, and everyone has something to say.
  • Love is the greatest force in the world and it is not pretty or perfect; but messy, intense, volatile and sometimes hopelessly mundane. There is not any other kind worth having.
  • Being a human being is earned with blood, sweat and tears.
  • Anything worth having is never simple and yet more simple than you sometimes think.
  • The greatest things are truth and freedom. They are inseparable
  • You long for love more than anything else, you have unlimited wells of love to give and in ways that will bring any man to his knees.
  • Beauty lies in being unashamed of ugliness.
  • You only owe the world one thing; that you express yourself. This is the meaning of life.

So I got up, and stopped whining (I hope this makes you stop whining too). I schemed, plotted, bargained, charmed, cried and most importantly, I worked. I worked from early morning, during the day and at night. I slept when the fever had left me. It was truly a fever, as if once my eyes were open, they were incapable of closing. I knew everything, I knew what someone wanted before they said it, I knew what they needed before they thought it, I was fearless and passionate, because I suddenly had the knowing in spades, I was plugged into the heart of the world- I mean I just knew where this path must lead and I had unwavering focus. I saw myself in interviews, receiving awards and being lauded and knowing even then that it wouldn’t matter- knowing that what would matter would be looking those people in the eye and saying, “You didn’t break me. I am still here. I am always going to be here. All you had was a momentary pitiful version of what it is like to matter- not this, not when you have earned it. Your kind will always exist, as will mine- and no matter how fleeting your successes, we will always win the war. You don’t have the power to love like I do, because all you know is fear- I am full of love.”

My darling, you will never know what it is to stand at the top of the mountain if you are never willing to give up these things that often seem like the point- the photo ops, the commercials, the 10,000 followers, being the flavour of the month, being on the cover of magazines, the late nights and fancy clubs- those are only poor signs that that other people mark you with to say you have arrived. Your work will be your only satisfaction. You will never know success until you give up your illusions. We hold on very tight to illusions, they make us feel safe, and giving them up feels like walking naked.

Hold on, because being able to say these things silently, undisputedly, is enough. Being able to live the truth of the individual is enough. I don’t regret a moment, or anything that I did after that night when I made the vow to honour myself. This is love. Move beyond the store bought version to the one that is forged by the sheer will, longing and resilience of the human spirit. You see the moment you make this decision you will become this woman they call ‘unparalleled’, ‘incomparable’, ‘brilliant’, and ‘unsurpassed.’ All that is left is for you to show her off to the world.

People often think of the ‘Gotham’ as a world that represents the world’s battle between good and evil. I think of it as the human spirit, that there is a balance of good and bad. Sometimes the bad is so overwhelming that it seems that the spirit is now hopeless, but as long as there is a spark of good, the bad never wins. Once the good is felt, there is a runoff effect. But this good would never have shown itself, were it not for the existence of the bad. And so it is that being an outcast and being thought of as washed up, birthed the superhero in me- I am suddenly capable of fighting battles I couldn’t handle before, as you will be. I am here, because they were. This is what I wish you to understand as you stand there looking in the mirror, tears running down your face, thinking that this thing has eluded you forever and that they have broken you- that you shall be, because of what they have been.

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