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Just last night, I watched the Chris Rock Netflix special. The usual commentary on race politics and gender relations filled the 60 minutes or so, but one allegory stuck with me beyond the notorious "black mirror" that we have become so accustomed to. As my unlit screen stared back at me, I couldn't help but dwell on Rock's reference to how relationships function much like bands. “Sometimes you’re singing lead, and sometimes you’re playing tambourine."
Our place in a relationship changes over time, and we can't always be centre stage; sometimes our sole purpose is to play a supporting role. Simple enough. But what if the stage was our own life, the band members varying versions of ourselves, and the instruments were the situations we found ourselves in at any given time? I get it, that's a lot of what-if's but bear with me, and allow me to elaborate.
As you can tell, being someone who isn't in a committed long-term coupling, the metaphor stretched past those particular confines for me. Instead it resonated in terms of the relationship I had with myself, and the life I choose to live each day. We all have the ultimate version of ourselves, and how our life ought to be in our mind. The "you" who is living the "insta' life," all ducks in a row, with no need for silver linings because 'pfft' to linings, your life is practically gleaming! Yes, there's that "you"...the lead, the front man or woman. Then, well then, there's also the tambourine player...
You know what I'm talking about, right? (I think). When you're on tambourine, you are, by all intents and purposes, not living the "insta' life." You are hustling. You are doing what you can with what you have. There's no immediate glory and it's difficult at the best of times to see how at this stage in your life you're actually working towards who want to be. Existential crises tend to overshadow most days, and you get sick of your own internal voice railing on you for being on the sidelines for so long.
I may just be speaking about myself here, but I like to think that experiences are, by and large, shared. For years now, I have been going through the motions, allowing myself to be bogged down with the toxic combination of self-loathing and a sense of high self-regard. I simultaneously revere the vision of my "best self" whilst dishing out absolute disdain for who I am in the here and now.
In other words, I'm a fucking rubbish tambourine player woefully looking on, and waiting for my turn as the lead. But you know what? "If you're on tambourine, play it right! Play it with a fucking smile. Nobody wants to see a mad tambourine player."
Rock is right. There is no logical or useful reason as to why you NEED to be dwelling on the fact that you aren't where you hoped you would be. Putting aside how others view you, more importantly the way you view yourself and your potential is hugely affected.
The way I see it, you're playing a supporting role for the ultimate version of yourself, and by ignoring that or, rather, failing to recognise it stalls your progress. It's vital to your own growth that you appreciate the position you are in at any given time in order to shine and reach your goals, whatever they may be.
You may not be climbing the right career ladder. You may not be settled in a relationship. You might have a less than enviable friendship circle. The list could be inexhaustible, but undoubtedly there is something we can all offer the world in whatever stage of life we are in. It's our responsibility to be vigilant and find out what that is, and in so doing, we construct the foundations of who we are presently and who we will become.
So... play the fuck out of that tambourine of yours. You'll be centre stage soon enough.