Kayt Lucas has been an entertainment rigger since 1998, currently designing steel systems for Mammoth Scaffold and Erection. She has backgrounds in industrial design, dance, circus, choreography and music, giving her an unusual view into the process of making art. The following is from one of several essays she has posted to her Facebook page and is reprinted with permission.
Resilience. Change is hard. Like... really hard. Losing one's way of life is not an uncommon story, nor is the inevitable reinvention that toddles after. But it's an unthinkable story, a traumatic one. We often avoid change until not changing becomes intolerable. And yet, here we are locked in stasis awaiting the unknown.
In the past, my reinventions have been due to chasing careers, physical limitations, some illness, divorce, trauma. Friends of mine have made major changes for reasons of health or accidents, family reorganizations, escaping war torn parts of the world. Some have come out of the closet. All of this to say that these kinds of changes are challenging to one's identity.
A few months ago, I could say with conviction what my job was. It was a major part of my identity. I designed my days, months and years around it, but my industry has a most uncertain future for long enough ahead for me to consider seriously yet another reinvention. I've been here before. In 2009, I left my industry for almost eight years (to accommodate a trauma recovery), and the choices that presented themselves then are the same ones I consider at this time.
The difference now, is that no one is really alone in considering their options. We're all doing it. I feel the most though, for those who also lose their identity with the loss of our former culture. Anyone involved in the arts is affected. Hospitality, restaurants, events of all kinds. We used to entertain you, invite you in, love you, inspire you and send you home happy. We brought you together with your friends and families, kept you safe. Now we are left with lists of hopefully transferrable skills.
I also feel for other industries that were not built to withstand the shutdown. I can't speak to your experiences personally, but I know you're wondering what to do, too, and I'd love to hear your reinvention stories eventually.
Actually, lists are good. Years ago, I made two lists; one consisting of work aspects that I enjoyed enough to want to keep in my life, and a second list of things I aspired never to have to deal with ever again. Simple enough. It kinda took the identity part of the equation out of it. I studied the first list for long enough to discern what other lives included most of the items I'd come up with. I was, after all, considering a permanent change (my doctors were unanimous in telling me that I was never going to recover). Frankly, that was a helpful perspective. It gave me enough motivation to go have another life completely. There was no reason to keep a little back.... just in case. It was like having a new hand in life; a whole new set of cards.
I'm not saying that change was a rosy, happy process. Quite the opposite! After my last gig when I left my old job in 2009, I'd dropped my work bag by the door and never thought to put it away. Never thought to unpack its contents. It was like a body bag that I stumbled across every time I left my house and every time I returned. I literally tripped over my old identity for a year.
I was ahead on my plans to make changes, but my acceptance lagged behind. And that's ok. It was my grief. My process. It was the part of me that might splinter if not carefully restructured to deflect more gently. A friend of mine suggested having a funeral for my old self. Sounds silly, but it was a helpful idea. I didn't have a funeral... but I did acknowledge that some of my old dreams might best be laid to rest.
(*Note: If some of these thoughts bring up anxiety, disgust or other strong emotions, I suggest looking away from the screen for a few minutes. It's normal. Change is a trip. But come back and finish reading too!)
Resilience is the quality of adaptation. Withstanding change. It's the branch that bends instead of breaking. It's the heart that knows profoundly that endings are also new beginnings. It's open minds that are curious enough about new things to keep moving forward.
Reinvention doesn't mean that part of you ever dies. You will always bring your entire self to whatever you do. Your whole life's story includes everything you've ever done, regardless of when. There's no true-to-life shame in adopting new roles when the world you lived in collapses. Our definitions of success have to change, too.
There's no shame in moving. No shame in pausing your schooling or your career advancement. There's no punishment for making smart choices that ease the burden for you or your family. There's also no shame in others making different choices from me or you.
If my new definition of success is simply remaining stable, then so be it. My sacrifices will be worth it. If my goal is to create a new business, I know myself well enough to trust that I will, even if it's a totally scary idea right now. If I choose to turn to my community and see what work needs doing to help rebuild, I will. I'm not going to care about my social or career status if my instincts lead me to serve. I love being part of things.
Recently, I've had the pleasure of speaking with three of my oldest and wisest friends, ages 86, 89 and 92, all of whom remember the second world war. All have compared our lockdown to wartime measures. All recall how important it was to pull together, reorganize and fight the good fight with whatever resources and skills people had. Every life was altered. It sucked. And it worked.
Most of us know nothing of these things. We weren't there. We have no idea what it's like to reorganize so suddenly for a common cause. The stakes are no less dire now, and the death toll is just as real. Numbers we can count, but these deaths are incomprehensible. Lives were changed. They grieved. They rebuilt. If fighting this virus is the war of our times, I'd say we're getting off easy. We can do this.
Our ability to embrace these challenges, adjust and make the best use of ourselves, will define us in the future. Some of the sacrifices we make now will become foundations. Some of our side hustles will become major employers. Be creative. Have faith in your skills and your instincts to cast yourself in roles that you'll love.
Long story short.... this really blows, but it is an opportunity. Love it or hate it, you're probably going to be ok.