Look Out, You’re Doing It!

14 Nov Look Out, You’re Doing It!

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 14.11.22


There was a trip when I was about 7 to Wellington’s State Opera House. If you haven’t been there, you should put it on your list. It was then, and is again now, “a grande dame of a théatre” (it helps if you say that whole phrase with a French accent). Crisp black and white tiles, red velvet, gold paint. If it were a lady, she would smell of face powder and wear a beauty spot on her cheek. Possibly have a little lipstick on her teeth.

We had driven from Levin to see a ballet – I don’t remember which one. This is one of those things parents do when their kid has taken up a thing – ballet, kapa haka, rugby, piano – you take them to watch the pros doing it properly to inspire them, show them how good this thing can be at its best.

Our seats were in the gods – way, way at the back and up so high I thought if leant too far forward I would fall on the people in the front row. (I’ve been up there as an adult and it doesn’t feel at all like that, which is one of the disappointing things about being an adult.)

My sudden desire then was not to become a dancer, or even about spending my life dressing up and going to shows. The startling thought was that I wanted to see all this the other way round – from the stage, looking out. That, I felt sure, was the better view.

And it is. Bang on, seven-year-old me. I think of her – not just when I get to work on that particular stage, though then for sure – and I tell her I think it’s cool to know where you want to stand and which way you want to face so early in your life.

I used to think it was weird that a) I wanted that, and b) knew I wanted that. But I can see now that we all have these moments of clarity, of yearning to be in the thing – part of it, not watching it. For all of us there will be a job, or a side hustle, or a skill you want to learn, a place you want to live, the family you want to build, or the kind of person you want to be. You will have felt an instant of recognition when you saw it and thought, “There it is, that’s the thing. I want to be inside that picture, not looking at it.”

And so there are two magical moments to be celebrated when you meet them – one is knowing that you’ve spotted a future you would like, and the other is knowing you’ve got there.

It’s that second one especially you need to keep a weather eye out for in case you miss it. It can be like learning to ride a bike – finding your balance feels impossible, and you’re terrified, and then at some point the person holding you lets go but you don’t notice until someone shouts, “You’re doing it!” and you realise that you are.

See also: swimming, driving a car, learning a second language, becoming a parent, graduating, meditating, and getting a job. At some point either someone will shout from the sidelines – or even better, you will notice yourself – that this thing you wanted to do? You’re doing it.