Sarah and I are friends. Not industry friends who say hi darling bye darling in passing at events. Not happy Instagram friends who hang out in phone-addicted silence over expansive meals of sweets and flowers for the mutual benefit of more followers. Not inseparable Taylor Swift Bad Blood #squadonfleek girlfriends who know every detail of the others’ waking seconds of the day with chick-flick telepathy and a secret emoji code. Rather, the old definition of friends before the Internet happened.
When we’re both in the country, we go to 6AM yoga on a Tuesday morning. Not because either of us are terribly spiritual people. (On the contrary, I absolutely suck at whatever the yogi mindset is supposed to be – every time the instructor hums something along the lines of “if you’re thinking about all the things you have to tick off your to-do list today, you’re doing it wrong”, that’s me). We do it because the yoga studio we go to looks out over sunrise on the ocean, and neither of our own homes do.
Afterwards, we sit for a second, debrief on any major developments since the last sunrise session, provide third party opinions on things that need opinions, remind each other to take care, and go our separate ways to class or work. Sarah’s no conventional 17-year-old, and I wouldn’t necessarily identify as your standard 22-year-old. Though the results of our work stand in different facets of the industry, we have the mutual understanding of the mechanics of our double, triple, quadruple lives that’s probably necessary
to shoot a whole campaign in the few hours before class. Sarah has a mature pragmatism about her work that you don’t even come across in people double her age, despite being every bit the perfect 21st Century ingénue.
Something we’ve discussed at length is people’s inherent allergy to an individual pursuing multiple channels across a range of fields. I will agree that society at large has begun to accept the possibility of successful career transitions – Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s shift into ready-to-wear, for instance, has been much more successfully received than most, and Cara Delevingne seems to be at least half way to media recognition as an “actress” over “former model”. More than one skill, though? Perhaps it’s the frequency at which model-slash-musician-slash-actress-slash is hammered in Hollywood press releases, to very little credibility, that has turned the world off slashies. I do understand that for a professional photographer, someone who thinks that a few iPhone snaps legitimises the title “Photographer” in their Instagram bio is annoying. I also understand, that editors and publishers have every right to turn their noses up at a blogger with no ethical standards and terrible grammar.
But for those working on every role as if it were their full-time job and to the industry standard, why should their contribution be diminished in value? Does one person have a finite bank of capacity to excel, or even learn to excel? If, god forbid, one might dare to explore and develop a skill other than their vocational training, does that diminish their aptitude in their original expertise? Would simultaneously pursuing two avenues of work (or even pure interest) mean that you could only ever reach half the potential of those who focussed solely on one?
Obviously – obviously – the answer is hell no.
When people tell you to focus, they mean stop watching cat videos and Jimmy Fallon lip sync battles, stop procrastibaking and telling yourself how
relatable The Fat Jewish is as you consume the fruits of your misplaced labour. They do not mean for you to abandon all of your interests for one job that may or may not stand the test of time. Gone are the days when the concept of a “career” is solely attributed to the straight-line skill set you honed in University, or even the one your current job is dependent on. Why is Kanye West pursuing fashion? Why is Kim Kardashian building an app?
If that’s your tune, I’m not even going to sugarcoat it: you’re out of touch.
I will give some pity credit to the old school of thought. There are only 24 hours in a day. Admittedly, I stayed up for 26 straight the other day to get through some necessary study and life admin. You have to do what you have to do. But, the idea that an ambitious person cannot legitimately divide their passions to great results is as problematically ingrained in society as many other prejudices we rage about for an on-trend second, before lapsing back into our closed-minded stupor. The red-carpet sexism so many actresses have called out in the past year is an easily digestible example. How do you balance your family life with work? Is your husband supportive? These questions are just as indicative of the media’s imbalanced attitudes towards men and women as it is of the limiting view of one person’s capacity – that if a person needs to channel their attention into a family, surely they can’t be as good at their job. Or that one must choose one or the other. There is no denying that there is time payoff – many of my friends have young children and there is a huge element of sacrifice for those who have your unconditional love. But it’s not (or shouldn’t be) an area of contention, or a controversial choice. It’s a baseline expectation.
With exception of specific areas like the law, medicine and sciences (you guys keep doing what you’re doing), it’s no longer possible to just do the one thing. To invest all of your resources in one place, whether that’s on an Instagram following, or becoming complacent with one product, you just won’t find any longevity. Everything is so transient now that diverse skills or at least interests are absolutely necessary. Even expertise needs to be refreshed and refined to stay abreast of today’s lightning speed change.
Over and out.