I have been exhausted for a decade. In the last 180 days, I have spent 151 of them sleeping in hotels. In the last three years, I have slept in too many strange beds to count, and not in the exciting, romantic, sexy way.
When Thrive asked me to write a piece about “balance,” I almost did a spit take with my $24 room service coffee. All that came to mind was “I’m not your girl.” Then I realized, if I didn’t care about balance so dearly, why would I be keeping count of how imbalanced my life has become?
Advice from experts on any topic is always just a Google search away. I am clearly no expert here. But why not an article about karate from a white belt every once in a while? So, with that caveat, here are my most recent inner observations on how to survive, succeed and yes….Thrive. Personally, I am finding balance in an unexpected place.
I am a woman in a male dominated field and own a production company that is competing in the new multi-hyphenated multi-platform Hollywood. It is no longer enough to be good at something. You must be extraordinary at a lot of somethings. And in multiple time zones.
To be clear, it is a beautiful and exciting moment in time — certain boundaries are evaporating. We are diversifying. We can succeed in broader ways. Suddenly we’re not just creatives, but also CEOs and entrepreneurs and brand managers. We’re philanthropic, socially conscious, and politically active. We are, if we must say so ourselves, just plain dope.
And we are fucking exhausted.
There is no pretty filter strong enough to smooth over this reality. You can Photoshop the bags under the eyes, but you can’t remove the sense that it may never be enough from your soul. The hashtags of our world are #hustle, #grind, #24/7 and #nodaysoff. Sleep? That’s for others. Shakespeare wrote that sleep “knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” Today if we see someone with perfectly knitted sleeves, we are suspicious.
So, again, balance. How, when, why?
For me, balance right now is not so much about reducing my workload in order to spend more time smelling flowers (although I would love nothing more — I hear flowers still smell really nice). That is a worthy goal, but feels a bit unattainable as my business continues to build. This is true for so many. There is, however, a different tack toward balance, and it is one I am resolved to try to master: Protecting the space within.
There is no turning back, we will forever be inundated by edited and filtered images, narratives and cleverly captioned versions of other people’s successes. We can click our way down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of other people’s lives, work and accomplishments. There is limitless inspiration found here to be sure, but it is everywhere and all the time. It’s inescapable and I’m uncomfortable with how much we are attempting to take in and remain unique. A glass of water quenches; an ocean drowns. This incessant flow of others opinions, lives, commentary is, alas, a potential threat to our individuality, the sacred essence of any creative being. And this is where the space within lies. This is where, I believe, modern day balance starts.
Madeleine Albright said, “It took me a quite long time to find a voice and now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.” Individuality is voice, and now more than ever, we need to be protective and selective on its behalf. Our creative lives depend on it. It is easier to look outward — so many bright and shiny things there. But looking inward, protecting that quiet, unique space that is constantly under invasion, this is where you are reminded of your own individual experiences, struggles, joys and dreams that are most important to bring bear in your work. It is your only true advantage.
Knowing that you have won or lost playing your own game is the only true victory, as well as the most honest and informative loss. The lessons from failure is where I get my strength and courage to go forward with confidence into the next battle. The only thing I have ever regretted was losing while playing someone else’s game.
Balance for me is about regulating the inflow of the lives and comments of others with the outflow of our own. We no longer must work to find information and stimulus; we can’t escape it. We need to protect the mental space to process it, form our own opinions, develop our own original point of view based on our personal history and making it our own, developing an original point of view and bringing that back out to the world.
As I learn to trust and enjoy my own creative process, I feel like I’m simultaneously exploring something old and something new. In the past the process of creating was quiet because there wasn’t much ambient noise; in the future, it will again be quiet because we will have figured out how to manage it.
There is intimidation and paralysis imbued in our ability to see everything. If everyone is special can anyone be special? If everything exists, why do anything?
What I believe is true, and know for myself, is that we are only fulfilled when we are vulnerable and honest in our work. And the ballast of that type of work can only be found in uninhibited, unapologetic, and unadulterated individuality. The pure stuff. The river of others, and their infinite images and thoughts and points of view, should inspire without destroying.
I have grown comfortable with the idea that there will always be someone out there who is better at doing anything I do — from producing a live special to Instagrammable hobbies. But as long as I protect my individuality, as long as I am true to myself and don’t succumb to the seduction of imitation, can anyone be better? Or just different? I like different.
I’m entirely comfortable with this outlook. I can co-exist with point of view harmoniously. On all platforms.
Casey Patterson is an Emmy-nominated executive producer and the founder of Casey Patterson Entertainment. She is the co-creator and an executive producer on the hit show “Lip Sync Battle.”