To close out the year I thought I’d flex my newfound journalism muscles by sitting down with myself and conducting a formal interview. Please, enjoy.
It’s 4AM on a Monday morning and Sarah is sitting wrapped in a grey comforter, dressed in a pair of black leggings and an oversized t-shirt from a now defunct production company she used to work for. She had woken up ten minutes before, interrupting a dream about a stray cat she had pet on the street only hours prior. In this dream the cat had human hands and was petting her.
Sarah is perched at the computer, feet up on the window sill and exuding a devil-may-care attitude. On the brower she is reading a blog post titled, ‘‘Thought-Provoking Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Day’ and simultaneously watching an episode of the television show, Wilfred. This constant need for sensory stimuli is enforced when she goes to wash a few dishes several minutes later, putting on the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class and humming contentedly as she learns about the unsolved deaths of a group of hikers in the 1950s.
After putting off the interview a solid hour, Sarah returns to her list of question, briefly struggling to chose a good one before finally going to The Creative Life and going down the list that had been previously asked to all guest feature articles. She begins.
SH: What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?
Sarah Hager:That’s a good question.
SH: Thank you, but I can’t take credit. I’m just reading it off a list.
Sarah Hager: Yeah, I’m aware of that. Honestly, I was just stalling so I could think of something to say that sounded somewhat intelligent.
SH: Good luck with that.
A tense silence fills the room, broken only by the sudden violent retching of the household cat, as he tries to consume a dust bunny he has fished out from under the couch. Sarah stares at him, indifferent.
Sarah Hager: Honestly, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint a source of ambition right now. I’ve always been driven by such ferocious energy, which always went hand-in-hand with my anxiety. Now that I’m on medication I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my drive to create, but now I’m able to able to actually live my life without feeling terrible all of the time and having the threat of panic attacks looming over me. So, I’m struggling to find the balance between the two – being sane and being ambitious. Hopefully I can find a point where they aren’t mutually exclusive.
When I was young my biggest strength was finding a silver lining in failure. I could take a bad situation and somehow turn it around and create some new and exciting project out of the ashes of the last. When I was in high school I didn’t get into an acting group that I was absolutely set on, so that day I walked up to the middle school a few blocks down the road, asked for a meeting with the principal and asked if I could volunteer to teach a drama club with the kids there. I ended up directing my first play there, which ballooned into a giant production involving the school band, the dance class, the choir and my little acting group. It was my first time really collaborating creatively with anyone, and it really ended up being a hugely positive experience.
Right now I’ve lost sight of that ambition, and I really want to become that person again. I need to make some changes in my life in order to get back on track.
SH: Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).
Sarah Hager: Jeeze. I don’t know if I’ve had only one significant failure, or if there has been a single event that acted as a catalyst.
I wish I had been able to accept myself earlier, and had been honest with my friends and family about my strengths and limitations. In the past (and honestly, I still do this) I tend to isolate myself when I’m struggling. I stop answering my phone, stop replying to emails and messages and basically camp out until I’ve overcome whatever issue I’m going through. In these times I always feel so included to lie to my friends about what’s going on, when I know it’d be easier to just tell them how I’m actually doing instead of coming off as a huge flake. I’d say my biggest failing up to date is to constantly underestimate the capacity for compassion in others, and immediately assume that people are going to judge me as harshly as I judge myself.
SH: Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?
Sarah Hager: Truthfully, I’m a lot of things. I sometimes feel like I don’t have a filter when it comes to feeling overwhelming rushes of joy, sadness or anger – but when it comes down to it, I feel happy more than anything else. Before I went on medication the happiness I felt would often be accompanied by fear of when it was eventually going to end, or I’d feel guilty that I could be so happy when others were suffering. This obviously isn’t normal, or constructive and I feel like I’m able to be more vulnerable with my emotions now and can feel and share them more genuinely.
SH: What do you think is your greatest strength? On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?
Sarah Hager: I think the strength I appreciate most is my ability to be completely honest with myself. I’m able to take a step back and look at a situation objectively and know in my heart what I need to do. I rarely get caught up with a hard decision because of this, and although it can make my life difficult I’m able to feel good about my choices, or identify exactly what I could have done differently. A challenge I struggle with is feeling the need to take on the problems of people I care about. I want to fix people, and solve problems and I find myself often dwelling on impossible situations where I can’t make a difference in the life of a friend of family member. I know that the best thing I can do for people is accept them as they are, but it always feels like a constant source of frustration being unable to help, or watching someone I love going down a terrible path and not being able to save them.
SH: Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?
Sarah Hager: The closest I can describe being in my version of the zone is when I’m writing and it feels like I’m uncovering a sculpture in a piece of marble. I don’t feel like I’ve actively carved anything, but instead just chipped away and revealed something that had always been hidden inside. Sometimes I look back at what I’ve written and I barely remember the process of putting it together at all. When things go right it feels like my work just flows out of me, and it’s such an incredible feeling.
There is a similar feeling I get when I’m acting, especially during a particularly difficult, usually cathartic scene. I struggle with expressing emotions openly, but being able to do so through a character is something that feels like second nature. When I can move beyond all of the character prep and intellectual dissection of who I’m playing and just exist in the moment as a version of myself it’s the most incredible and freeing experience I can imagine. Holy shit, I’m getting jazzed up just taking about it!
SH: Calm the heck down and riddle me this: What are your goals for this upcoming year?
Sarah Hager: I’d like to find a balance in my life where I can be both mentally functional and eagerly ambitious. My natural state is existing with incredible amounts of untapped energy, and that usually resolves into anxiety – so I need to find way to balance the two without having to constantly sedate myself this high dose of medication. I think no matter what I do I’ll never be this completely relaxed zen figure that I strive for, but that’s okay – and I want to become comfortable with my ingrained qualities.
The second part of my resolution is to think less and do more. I often set a goal and then sit down and spend several hours researching the best way go about doing it, and then eventually become overwhelmed and immediately give up. I’m going to practice going out of my comfort zone and venturing as far away from perfection as I can. I’ve got to push myself through mediocrity if I ever want to be good at anything. I have big dreams and I can’t expect to wake up one day and have achieved them – I have to pay my dues.
Latest posts by Sarah Hager (see all)
- Sarah: I don’t think being a good filmmaker, or a good artist, means that you always have to be kind. - March 23, 2015
- Sarah: Humour is a coping mechanism to get through life. “Being funny is not the same as being happy.” - February 23, 2015
- Sarah: The Highly Functional Neurotics Club - January 19, 2015