Actress Amanda Billing shares the lessons she has learned throughout her life, so far.

My favourite memory

is being picked up and bear-hugged by both of my parents at the same time. I used to insist that I be "in the middle". I still do.

Becoming acutely aware that I was in my underwear in front of 400 people, singing my heart out (as Roxie Hart in Chicago two years ago) was intense. I would go through it every show. That feeling of astonishment - followed swiftly by appreciation - is always there, just a breath away, whether I'm on stage or not.

Acting is showing me more things about myself and life than I can describe. Currently, I'm bumping up against how my mind tells me stories that limit me. Becoming aware of this is positive and negative, because the only person responsible for handling this is me. And I'm not sure how. But "thinking about it" doesn't seem to be helping at all. Apparently unrelated things like consciously breathing, singing and dancing seem to, though.

Advertisement

My teenage years were tricky for me. I was a "good" girl but inside I felt like an outsider and I didn't feel like I could talk to anyone about it. I now realise this is a common thing for teenagers and I have enormous compassion for them, because they don't yet understand that being "weird" will make them wonderful one day.

She doesn't know this (yet) but my Aunt Rachelle made a big impression on me when I was a little girl. She always treated me like a person, not a child, and she made being creative seem like a viable way to live. I remember one day when I pointed out that my fingers weren't "nice and straight" (apparently I thought they should have been) and she said to me: "You have artistic hands; they are capable, they make things." I was proud of them after that.

The last thing that made me go "wow" was something I read this morning in a book about the life of people in Ancient Greece. Women had virtually no civil rights and were regarded as children, intellectually. Part of what made Lysistrata a comedy when it was written (411BC) was the "idea" that women had any capacity for reason or self-direction - the men watching the play would have found this hilarious.

I cannot bear eating liver and kidney. I remember once in our school cafeteria they served up something I thought was beef schnitzel. One big bite and I realised from the crumbly texture and gassy taste that I was chewing liver. I spat it straight out on to my plate.

There's an adventurer inside me for sure. Not the kind that climbs things or jumps off them. She hasn't made much of an appearance in my life so far though. But I do want to travel more, especially to places that don't feel completely comfortable.

The terrible things that people have said to me in anger in the past only hurt me because I agreed with them.

These days I am focusing on being aware of angry feelings and letting them be without reacting to them by being passive aggressive, using sarcasm or by shutting down (my usual "weapons"). It's really challenging, because old habits die hard.

Amanda Billing performs in Lysistrata, at the Q Theatre, Auckland, from July 30 to August 23.

Advertisement

- Canvas