It Takes A Long Time To Get Over Yourself
Oh, man. This letter has taken me an embarrassingly long time to write. Probably because I haven’t written anything but e-mails and Tweets for 12 years.
If the last year has taught me anything, it’s this: it takes a long time to get over yourself.
Last March, after 7 years on the road, I decided to take a break. I was excited about this. I’d imagined myself watching tv all day, being a “chill person”, eating doughnuts because I didn’t have to wear latex catsuits anymore. The reality was not quite the joy ride I’d been expecting.
I’ve been an artist for over a decade but up until this year, I hadn’t realised how much my sense of self had been defined by my role as an artist. I’d never thought of “Marina and the Diamonds” as a persona or a construct, and I didn’t think the stage-me was very different to the sofa-me. MATD was an exciting vehicle that helped me express ideas and thoughts to people. But just as people construct online personas, artist construct visual ones, and over time, the lines between art and reality can drift apart.
I can’t remember when I first became conscious of it but I started to feel like there were two parts of me, artist self and private self, and there was nothing in between to link the two anymore. I was one or the other, and neither part of my personality could be present in the same environment. Perhaps because I’d spent most of the past 8 years devoted to being an artist and this hadn’t presented many opportunities for other parts of my personality to grow. When one part of a personality dominates, other parts shrink and life can take on an unreal, two-dimensional quality. I felt confused as to why I no longer felt like I fit into the world I’d built. I don’t think my feelings are exceptional (particularly in entertainment) but I wonder if you are someone who has experienced this in a different context.
I’ve always been interested in identity. In my twenties, I felt frustrated by how regularly my identity seemed to shift and change until I began to consider the idea that a fixed self may not exist. I explored this in “Electra Heart” by deconstructing aspects of female identity in a portrayal of female archetypes. However, the past year has made me re-examine this idea. Not being able to equate my identity to a job, project or visible entity has created a lot of discomfort and uncertainty in me. Which has been a surprise, as I thought I felt secure in myself. How can I be so sure of who I am if I am so susceptible to change? A lot of what contributes to our idea of identity is down to pure chance - ethnicity, social class, upbringing, religion, job, relationships - who are we without those influences?
Everything in western culture feels so geared towards self-definition, but I wonder if having a looser idea of yourself could make life richer. The past year hasn’t been full of rainbows - I feel like my brain has been brutally rewired - but letting go of a perceived idea of myself has resulted in a new kind of personal freedom. My image is no longer a main source of identity, nor are previous signifiers like clothing (more on this in a future post), designer brands + other things I subconsciously used to define myself.
Lasting change rarely happens over night. This past year has been painful and slow. But I’m in a more genuine space than I was a year ago and I would never want to go back to that stunted way of being again. In fact, the only solace I had in this period was being able to read the books and blogs of other people experiencing significant life transitions, so I hope this might be of help to anyone who is going through a similar stage.
Truth is, I’m not planning ahead much right now. I am indeed going through my “what should I do with the rest of my life” phase that most people go through at 21. Which is… cool. But I’m grateful to have the opportunity to explore different interests, and starting marinabook is a part of that. I’m starting a Psychology course soon, which I am SO excited about, and I’m ready for a brand new chapter. I hope you’ll be a part of it.
Some people have been asking about new music and I’m always flattered to be asked. I know one year is like an aeon in digital time! The honest answer is I don’t know when that will be, but the connection I have with music has always flowered from an honest connection with myself, and I trust my instincts. Whenever I get back on stage again, I would love to feel like I am the sum of my parts, not the sum of a persona or an image. That’s the goal. A lot of reality with a little bit of fantasy. So, marinabook is a way for us to stay connected while I work that out.
I miss you all!
Ask a question or share thoughts here.
Brilliant explanation of personas here. 5 minute read.
Podcast on how our views about the Self affect our views on death. By “Philosophy Bites”. 15 minutes.
Illustration by Lan Truong