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Ayesha's Blog

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Roll The Dice

15 December

“Everyone on Earth is carrying around an unseen history and that alone deserves some tolerance”

from “I Am Becoming” by Michelle Obama
Ayesha Casely-Hayford performing "Invisible No Longer" written by Bakita KK. Photo by Martin Eito
Photo credit: Martin Eito

Sometimes, for the whole day, I’m simply…Trying to not get TOOOO F*CKING FRUSTRATED TBH. These are my reflections on where I’ve come from and the truth of the strength and courage I’ve gained, because I decided to roll the dice. 

Trust

I have taken big risks with my life. But I believe that I have followed a universal principle, supported by evolution. That is the principle of trust.

If we live a life, and never roll the dice, doesn’t it mean we refuse to try and evolve?

I am not sure whether “win” or “lose” has anything to do with it. But every time I am unsure on the steps, and leaps I have taken, I remind myself of all the people I’ve met and things I’ve done since making my big life decisions. Therefore I am re-assured, because nothing, but nothing, can replace life experience. Nothing can give more emotional and spiritual maturity than simply living your life fully.

Live and Let Die

For me, living fully has meant deciding to explore my skills, wants and dreams, without hesitation. I trained for many many years to become a lawyer. It was a long journey and I ended up in an exceptional law firm, one of the best in the country.

There are a plethora of reasons for why we make decisions in our lives. What I learnt was that I wanted to make my own decisions for my life. Law gave me financial security, but it was not giving me creative fulfilment. Consequently, as the universe does in a fascinating way, it got to a point in my life where a whole host of factors aligned to influence me, and challenge me to step into unknown territory: family crisis, breakdown in relationships, health worries, therefore everything but the kitchen sink, and all at the same time. It all came together to force me to start searching for deeper answers within.

photo from Ayesha Casely-Hayford in Roll the Dice

Fortunately, I had some friends, just a handful, who were supremely present in my life. Between them, they helped me get out of bed every day, and also pricelessly, gave me the inspiration to think about what I really wanted for my life. Interestingly, my conclusion for what I really wanted for my life, was that I didn’t know! This is where the leap came. It was time to take steps in the dark. And that is what I did.

Looking Around Me

Fast-forward up to now, and I am building two careers. Both of them represent my original loves, passions, and the roots of who I am. However, what I find most humbling, is that it is the surrounding cushion of activities that have grown around me that are in fact shaping who I am in the world.

On my journey and pathway to become a successful actress, and also maintain my legal career (and all the good I can do in those respective fields) I have gained the trust of others and had incredible experiences that I could never have anticipated. Two events that happened one at the beginning of this year, and the other towards the end perfectly encapsulate this.

Year Begin

At the beginning of the year it was The Stage Awards. The Stage is a newspaper for the acting industry. I first discovered this paper when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I had some pocket money and I had wondered into the newsagents (probably on the hunt for sweets). On my way in, I passed the newspaper stand. There, on the stand, was The Stage. I was drawn to it, picked it up, and as I flicked through I will never forget my thought in that moment: “Oh My God. Someone has made a paper just for me”.

The Stage

The Stage is full of theatre news, opportunities, and blogs, and tips and endless theatrical knowledge. I was hooked. At that time it cost 50p (what costs 50p nowadays days?!), and it became one of my little girl life essentials. On my route to working in the industry as a professional, a huge part of my effort has been on making myself useful and keeping active. I joined my Equity branch early on, and was pretty much immediately on the committee. From there, I was introduced to a movement called Act For Change, soon to become The Act For Change Project.

Act For Change

The momentum of Act For Change blasted me into the heart of the acting industry’s worries and concerns, matters of discrimination and equality. As an employment lawyer specialising in discrimination, I could be very useful to the cause. I gained the trust of my new peers and moved from Admin Assistant for the first major Act For Change event, to being a Trustee of the charity and then voted as Chair of the Board of Trustees. And it was in this capacity, as the Chair of The Act For Change Project, that I got my invite to the Stage Awards 2018. Dadaa!

Ayesha Casely-Hayford at The Stage Award 2018
At The Stage Awards 2018

It is the experience along the way, that makes all the difference. After three years on the board at Act For Change, I have now stepped down. But, nothing can ever take away from all I learnt about life, and myself because of the the position I held and having that opportunity. Choosing to life fully has definitely meant no regrets.

Year End

Towards the end of the year, other interesting opportunities arose in and around my legal and acting careers. The National Theatre has been a tremendous support and provider of space to grow and learn. The learning and education department have had me involved in leading events in their learning and discussions spaces. This year, my involvement grew further and I had an incredible, unforgettable opportunity. I was engaged to chair a rehearsed reading as part of the National’s “Courage Everywhere” series.

from Roll the Dice by Ayesha Casely-Hayford
Courage Everywhere at The National Theatre

Courage Everywhere

“Courage Everywhere” was organised to mark the 100th anniversary of some women in the UK gaining the right to vote. I was part of the readings of “In The Parlour” by Judy Tate, which is about the involvement if African American women in the emancipation struggles. The other performances were called “Magda, Jo, Isabella” by Saviana Stanescu, Aoise Stratford, and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. The pieces shared history, matters of intersectionality and, in my view, setting the record straight on a few things. It was an incredible evening, and my opportunity to be part of it, was part of my leaps of faith in to the darkness.

Courage Everywhere at The National Theatre from Roll the Dice by Ayesha Casely-Hayford
Courage Everywhere at The National Theatre

Strength Within

From the beginning to the year to the end, more happens than can ever be properly communicated, but for me these two events at the start and the end represent unexpected by-products of following a universal principle of trusting the universe, trusting God. They are amazing things that have happened to me, which I could never have planned, and took place only because I leaped into the unknown.

Roll The Dice

Some of what we do in life is connected to necessity. Others family, and survival. Beyond survival, there is a desire to thrive. I’ve rolled my dice and am getting more comfortable with the unknown. Lose, win, fail…no matter what, I’m creating my history.

Let’s go. Roll The Dice.

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