Tragic 90’s star Aaliya famously sang, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again’. From the Latin meaning, ‘If you’re shit first time, give it another go’. It is derivative from the 13th Century ‘Go on my Son!’ proverb. Aaliya wasn’t the first star to advocate numerous ‘Tries’; Tana Umaga, Rob Howley, Will Greenwood, Thierry Dusautoir, Percy Montgomery, Stephen Larkham, Matt Giteau and Jason Robinson all love a Try. Makes sense; Rugby without any Tries is a pointless, literally.
You may have noticed an inspirational quote about ‘Trying’ doing the rounds on old Faceyb at the moment. This is ‘Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Fail better’. Penned by Samuel Beckett, who famously wrote plays where fuck all happens. I mean, who famously wrote plays capturing the philosophical battle of the existentialist’s doom. Both Aaliyah and Becket’s’ quotes encourage giving things another go, practicing and improving. For centuries Trying has always been commended. After all ‘Success is 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration’ said the inventor of deodorant. So trying and doing and running after your dreams and working for something is nearly always deemed as a good thing. Giving up is weak. Or is it? Trying and trying and trying again is all very well and good but didn’t Einstein say , ‘the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’? Therein lies the fruit of this blog.
This Blog is brought to you by the letters T.R.Y and the number ‘upteenth’
‘Can you tell me how to get how to get to Successful Street’ (if you didn’t sing that to the tune of Sesame Street then you’re dead to me).
So how do I get to Successful Street? If it’s via the M25 then I am screwed because I can’t drive and let’s hope it’s not via Benefit Street because I’ve seen I, Daniel Blake and it doesn’t end well.
I tried so hard to pass my driving test. I didn’t succeed first time so I dusted myself off and I tried, tried and tried again. I followed the instructions on the Aaliyah song. Following instructions in songs is always a good idea. I don’t think I would ever got any man to use a condom had it not been for ‘Two Become One’. Thanks, girls.
So I failed my driving test (over) 13 times. I think it I was because I was living in Saudi Arabia at the time, (which is why I had to dust myself off), which might have something to do with it. This is because in Saudi Arabia women can’t drive that’s a law not just an opinion. I know, right? I figured I’d get away with it because I did my driving tests in Saudi Arabia with my face covered so how were they to know I wasn’t a man?
I do jest. I’m a little ashamed of that joke. It’s like Prince Philip took over my mind for a second there. Which reminds me, I’m totes gutted Prince Phil is retiring. On the plus side glad Boris Johnson has selflessly agreed to take over his role of ‘awkward, embarrassing borderline racist foot in mouth’ spokesperson for the UK. Thanks BJ.
Now I didn’t really take my driving tests in Saudi Arabia, I don’t think they have the DVLA there, but the point I am trying to make is when I really want something, I rarely get it. It’s only when I don’t care about something that I get it. Like when I got pregnant. I wasn’t trying to get pregnant. I got pregnant without even trying. Without even having sex. Because it was a food baby which I was gutted about because an abortion is so much easier than a diet. I’m Irish so that really is saying something.
So back to the driving tests- I wanted to drive so much; it signified absolute freedom. No relying on parents for lifts into town for a night of what my Dad used to call ‘Pinge Drinking’, (in Arabic the ‘P’ and the ‘B’ are the same so he often gets these phonetics mixed up). Although I didn’t think so at the time, my dad was so cool, looking back. Driving me to my pinge drinking sessions and telling me that my skirt was too short but not asking me to change because he couldn’t be arsed with a fight because he wanted to get back in time to watch the Liverpool game and drink his cans of Bebsi. Despite my Dad’s ‘coolness’/lack of parenting skills, I hated being driven around and relying on him and my Mum for lifts.
All I wanted was to drive myself to Camberley Wetherspoons, get rat arsed with my mates and then drive myself home. Like a proper grown up. I still can’t think why the DVLA didn’t pass me. I remember on one of my tests (probably around about the 7th), I broke down. I don’t mean mechanically broke down, I mean I would stall it a few times but never break down. What I mean is I mentally broke down. I started crying uncontrollably. My leg was shaking and I was a wreck. The driving instructor, tried to calm me down saying things like ‘Do you want me to get your rescue remedy out of your bag?’ and ‘ You see now Zahra….now I’m going to stop you right there’ and she actually did because she had dual control, ‘ ….some people just aren’t meant to drive. Maybe you’re just one of those people. Some people shouldn’t operate machinery….’ to which I cried ‘I operate machinery all the time thank you very much! I operate the machinery I got from Anne summers just fine ….and my dishwasher!!!’ I think she put me down for a few minors for that outburst. Quite rightly, it was a lie; my dishwasher is always breaking, (I think it’s because I don’t use those salt capsules) and I’ve never bought anything from Anne Summers in my life. I prefer to go gadget free if you know what I mean.
What came so easily to my friends just didn’t happen for me. All my friends passed and I watched, as they all sped miles ahead of me in the Game of Life. They had their cars. I was just a lone little pink pin, with no vessel of transportation, so unable to pass go and collect £200, oh no wait that’s Monopoly. But I didn’t have the Monopoly of travel options. To this day my holiday destinations are ruled by the locations that the Mega Bus, National Express and National Rail has to offer. I can’t get to the Welsh Valleys, I’ve got to make do with Cardiff. Still, at least it gives me an excuse not to have to go to Hen Do’s in country houses in the middle of bloody nowhere. £200 to drink prosecco through a willy straw while glamping with 24 excitable females that spend the entire weekend making out they are better friends with the bride than you. Looking back now with hindsight and perspective and Facebook memories popping up on my feed, I do think wanting it so much put too much pressure on me. No wonder I cracked.
The older I get the more I get to know myself. And by ‘get to know myself’ I don’t mean standing studying my vagina with a mirror under it like Just 17 magazine always used to bang on about.
I just mean I know my mind and my idiosyncrasies better. Wanting stuff too much is my downfall. I have an addictive personality and I get very obsessed and entranced and passionate about things and once I am into something I want to do it all the time and to the absolute extreme. At the detriment of my sanity. Like the driving tests I often go for things and want them too much and then hit ‘rock bottom’ when I crumble under the pressure and can’t achieve the things I want so badly. I use the term ‘rock bottom’ very loosely. What I mean is I sit on my sofa and pinge eat and pinge drink and pinge watch a series of Orange Is The New Black until I come to the realisation that things aren’t that bad; things could be worse, I mean, at least I haven’t ruined my marriage to Jason Biggs and am serving time for Drug Possession in a Prison with my ex lesbian lover.
On the flip side, all the good things that I cherish and am thankful for in my life have come from not striving for them, not even wanting them and more significantly not even thinking about them.
I never wanted a boyfriend. Was never even on my radar. He basically stalked me until I resisted and now I have Stockholm Syndrome. (Its fine some say I was asking for it because I was dressed like a Swedish girl). Meeting him was effortless and easy. I didn’t search for him on a dating app or outrageously flirt with him in a bar. It just happened.
I know so many single people desperate to meet someone. Constantly on Tinder and Plenty of Dick or whatever it’s called. Perhaps the very problem is that they want someone too much.
One of my favourite authors Charles Bukowski famously said ‘Don’t try’. I’m starting to see what he meant.
I am the biggest try hard in the world though. When I want something I really go for it. But as aforementioned with no successful results. So as I write this, I contemplate giving up trying. This is an oxymoron so you know it’s probably been an Edinburgh show title of someone’s. Can I give up trying cold turkey? Can I do it on my own though? Do I need a Rehab Group? ‘Hello my name is Zahra and I haven’t given a fuck for about two weeks now’. How liberating!
Looking back at my work in Comedy, the best gigs I have are when I don’t care if the audience laughs or not. Compared to some of the worst where I’ve been desperate for the audiences’ validation.
It’s always the most impromptu nights that are the most fun compared to the ones that you meticulously plan. Right?
After all they always say, ‘You’ll find it when you’re not looking.’
So people reading this blog, and to people not reading this blog (they’ve probably already found ‘it’ because they’re not looking), here’s some advice from a massive recovering Try Hard:
Let whatever your ‘It’ is, find you.
Pre-order · Daughters of the Nile
A bold multi-generational debut from Zahra Barri, exploring themes of queerness, revolution and Islamic sisterhood.
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