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Burning the candle at both ends by Jay Keeler

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In the past twelve months I have taken on a lot more, socially & professionally, and have been told by family, friends and colleagues alike to be careful, to slow down, to stop burning the candle at both ends. And as one friend said, burning the candle at both ends and starting in the middle too, whatever that means!

For me though, I am doing something different. It may seem I am doing a heck of a lot, but in my mind I am simply living life to the fullest.

In the past at different times in my life, I have had to live a very restricted life due to a multitude of health issues including Crohn’s disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, end stage renal failure, haemodialysis and, in 2010, a kidney transplant.

So this past couple of years, because I have felt healthier than I have done in many a year, I decided to start living life again.

I chanced my arm and submitted articles for this very online magazine. I began YouTubing in earnest. I began writing more, producing a family friendly pantomime, something I am intending to repeat this Christmas. I have taken myself into London many times to see a whole raft of shows, both on my own and with friends. I went to the Anniversary Games at the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford. I attended the London Pride event. I took my self to Summer in the City, a YouTube convention, two years running to meet people who had inspired me to be the best me I could possibly be. Recently I have become involved in a charity about celebrating diversity (The Being Me Campaign) and given talks about my life, with another one planned in next month. I have also successfully auditioned to join a new amateur dramatics / operatic group where I have expanded my group of acquaintances some of whom I hope may become actual full on friends (as opposed to the Facebook friends they currently are). I put myself out there as well in terms of the dating scene. Sadly it went nowhere, but at least I can say I tried.

Professionally I took the next step, again chancing my arm and got myself a promotion. Along with this I started working full time again after four years of being part time. As part of this, I have had to also take on a one-year distance learning, Masters level course –  which is going quite well at the moment (although I probably should be working on that rather than writing this article!).


When I think of the famous people we have lost so far this year: Alan Rickman, Ronnie Corbett, Victoria Wood, Gene Wilder, Prince and David Bowie to name but a few, all of whom have had an impact on my life in one form or another, it makes me stop and really think about the point of being here today, my purpose if you will, (have now started to sing Purpose from Avenue Q, that’s going to be stuck in my head for days now!).

The final part of that particular song actually sums up my point quite well: “I’m gonna find my purpose. I gotta find me”. And if I have to be putting myself out there to ‘find me’, then that is exactly what I am going to do!

Not to be morbid, but we don’t know how long we have got on this earth. Disaster can strike any one of us at any time. We could just be in the wrong place at the wrong time and that could be it for us. Or we could be struck down with a horrendous disease that takes our life away from us.

I’ve kind of been there, experiencing renal failure and ending up on treatment 3 times each week for four hours at a time. Being told later that if I had not started the said treatment I was only weeks away from dying myself was not only a huge slap in the face for me, but also for many people around me.

Then about four or five years after receiving my life enhancing, my life elongating transplant, I realised that I had kind of fallen back into the old routines. I was enjoying life more than before, sure, but I was in a rut of sorts. I had to give myself a kick up the backside and remember that I had been given a second chance at life and to squander it with normality of life would be doing the greatest disservice to the person who signed the donor card and joined the donor register, enabling me to be in receipt of one of their organs.


So yes, maybe I am putting a lot on my own plate. Maybe I am doing a heck of a lot, possibly too much really. Maybe I am burning the candle at both ends, but wouldn’t it be more of a crime if I didn’t?

I wrote a song in 1996, when I was back in high school called ‘Live Life’ – which sounded very similar to Robbie William’s ‘Old Before I Die’ which came out in 1997, but that’s a whole different story – which has some lyrics that were pertinent to me at the time and have continued to be so throughout my life (I apologise now for the appalling rhymes and use of slang terms):

I’m gonna do all the things I wanna do,

If you’ve got any sense you’ll be doing ‘em too.

We could all die tomorrow, that’s the truth,

To work that out I ‘aint not super sleuth

But I ‘aint worried, no I don’t care

Life gives opportunities, I’m gonna take my share

And that’s why I say what I say

Don’t worry ‘bout tomorrow, gonna live for today

And that is just what I am trying to do; live for today.

Am I tired? You bet.
Have I been on the edge of exhaustion when I’ve had work deadlines, course deadlines and songs to learn for the show and been struck down by illness? You bet.
Has that made me want to stop? To retreat back into the solitary and safe life I had been living before? No chance.

Life is for living and I am determined, for as long as I am able, to live my life to the fullest.

Burning the candle at both ends, I may well be doing. But socially I am enjoying myself and making memories and professionally I am enhancing lives and challenging attitudes and I am more than happy about that.

(Photo credit: Salvani Studios for Being Me Campaign)
(Photo credit: Salvani Studios for Being Me Campaign)
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