When the Curtain Comes Down; Banishing the Lonely Blues

Whether you are a traveling consultant, a singer, an actor, a military person or a professional sports team member, it will come down to one fact, and that is: much of your working life will be spent on the road away from friends and loved ones. In addition, your schedule is going to be out-of-sync with most of the population as you cross time zones to do jobs that many of your friends and family probably don’t do or understand. It is easy to feel lonely and isolated once the show or job is over for the time being. Here are a few ways to prevent yourself from sinking into despair while on the road.

*Social media. Yes, everyone gets that Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites can keep you connected. Learn how to use them if you don’t know already and then get creative. Do you and your kids love crafting? Then create a Pinterest board where all of you can pin craft ideas. Sign up for Tumblr and post pictures of what you are experiencing. Skype your besties and follow up with a Twitter. Start and keep the conversations going on Facebook. None of these ideas take up a lot of time, and they can change your whole outlook when you are feeling sad.

*Bring something from home with you. One drug study monitor I knew brought a decorated Alltoids tin with pictures in it that her kids had made. It was small, easy to pack, something important to her that reminded her of why she was away from them. Don’t have kids? Keep up with the doings at your neighborhood club by liking them on Facebook. Or find something from home that has a logo from a favorite place and display it in your hotel or dressing room.

*Create a ritual. One of the loneliest times that my traveling clients speak of is when the show, the drug study or the tour of duty is over, and they have to move on to the next place. Not everyone can or wants to surround themselves with people at this point. However, the trick is not to let yourself get isolated. Create an aftershow ritual, one that pampers yourself, makes you feel better and keeps you connected. For some, it may be a Skype call home, while for others it may be going back to the hotel and ordering some awesome room service while watching their favorite movie or getting a midnight massage. If you are in a foreign country, learn the language. It makes it so much easier to make friends and feel at home.

*Rely on your professional networks. Your mama and your spouse may be the people who love you best in the whole world, but unless they have done the job that you do, they may not be able to easily empathize with your career problems. Even consultants who work alone can set up chat rooms or advance “coffee dates” to air their issues with colleagues who understand.

*Take a gap year. A gap year or month or couple of weeks can be time spent doing other things instead of or along with your career that keep you in proximity to your family and support networks. It may be consulting while cutting back on acting gigs or setting up a virtual music school while participating in fewer onstage performances.

***A special note about kids: As adults, we have learned how to say goodbye and that it does not always mean the end to relationships. However, kids are still new to this process, and repeated goodbyes bring with them fresh opportunities for grief and anxiety. This is tricky and not everyone can get it right all of the time. Witness the lyrics to Bonnie Raitt’s “Circle Dance,” a description of her relationship with actor dad, John Raitt. If you can understand that goodbyes can be super difficult for your kids, you’ve won half the battle. Part of that understanding means accepting that your spouse, your ex, or your parents are your kids’ world for a little while. Again, creating rituals can help. Mommy’s lap may not be always there to sit on, but the daily Skype call is coming or the online map always shows where she is. These simple rituals can provide tremendous comfort.

*Therapy is not a four-letter word. Talking it out with a therapist can help a lot especially when depression and displacement makes substance abuse seem like a great idea. Alcohol and drugs may provide short-term oblivion, but often have devastating effects on your mind and body, ones that can ruin your career.

Ultimately, these types of careers demand sacrifices from everyone involved. It is especially difficult when the career is more a necessity than a vocation. Reminding yourself why you do what you do and what your goals are can help.

 

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