“I couldn’t have lived the hundred lives I’ve lived if I had a family.”

Blair, London

Blair Barnette has lived a hundred lives. She’s moved to seven different countries, pursued countless creative passions, and held down more jobs than Phoebe from Friends. We met Blair the production designer in her for-now home in London, where she shared how she’s been able to nurture herself and her community, without the day in, day out responsibility for another life. Above all, it’s freedom that makes her flourish.

There was a hot minute when the window was closing, and I thought, maybe I should try to have a baby. But that was more about making a mini-me. I’m so awesome – the only thing that could be more awesome is if there were two of me.

I don’t think I would have been able to live the hundred lives I’ve lived if I had the responsibilities of a family. I’m like Phoebe from Friends – every time she opens her mouth she’s talking about some career she had, and you’re like, “What?!”

I’ve been a ballet dancer, a professional actor, a radio DJ. I was in a J-pop band, a French go-go band. I delivered singing telegrams dressed as an Oreo. I’m a production designer and one of my first jobs was working with Jim Henson on The Muppets. I’ve built theme parks.

I’ve lived in seven different countries. I was a sketch artist in Paris for a year on a whim. I was part of the jazz scene in Manhattan, but more style over substance – I don’t know how great my voice is, but I could entertain a crowd. I’m a fine artist, I paint. I had a vintage clothing store, and an Etsy-type shop before they had Etsy…

I wish I was a vampire. I have this incredible sense of FOMO in that I only have one life. Other than the part about killing things and living off death… I just wish I could live so much longer than my body will let me live, because there are so many more things I want to do.

I had a very strange childhood, but, in many ways, very American. My parents were from California, they were both quite young. He was a philosopher, drag car racer and doo-wop singer, she was a folk singer and an artist. My mom also did not want to be a mom. She got pregnant and so suddenly was a mother, but said, “Nope, I don’t really want to do this”, and left quite soon afterwards.

My dad moved me to South Georgia and remarried. I had a wonderful, grounded family life, it was very healthy and supportive. I loved my childhood. If I could have that for somebody else, that’d be great. I just don’t want it to be me who’s responsible for it.

My stepmother was a great mom. She’s truly a Southern belle, one of the most beautiful, refined, lovely, hospitable… when you think of a Southern woman, that’s her. But I did not fit into that. I didn’t want to wear 15 different types of underwear when I left the house. It’s hard enough to get shoes on my feet!

I was automatically kind of stigmatised. Outside of my family, nobody liked me. They just thought I was this weird kid, this wild child. I got used to being by myself, doing my own thing. I was kind of like, “Well, nobody’s going to accept anything I’m going to do anyway – so I might as well just carry on”. I just stopped noticing the confrontation after a while.

I might share some of my birth mom’s genes. We are very similar in a lot of ways. She left because she wanted a different life, and to this day, she lives that life. She’s not married. She lives by herself on a parcel of land, close to the Mexican border. She’s got a lot of animals she takes care of, and just – does what she does.

Ever since I was a little kid, I didn’t like anybody trying to manage me in one way or another. I want to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and let me make my own decisions. I’m at my most fulfilled and creative when I can organically come to how I want to do something. That kind of freedom makes me flourish.

From the outside, it looks like I’m meandering, floating on the wind – kind of a free spirit. My family’s very religious, very pragmatic, so they probably thought, “You’re not suited towards the family life”. But if I went down that road, that’s what I would make my task. I’d be the best mom in the whole world.

I’m kind of an overachiever in a lot of ways. If I was a mom, that’s where all my energy would go, and that would be the only thing I got done. I like to put my influence out there, and I can do a lot more if I don’t have to focus on the day in, day out of nurturing a life. I like to nurture a community.

I’ve always been helpful to other people, and volunteered a lot of time – where I choose to. If I want to fall into a rabbit hole of getting involved in somebody else’s project, I want to be able to do that. But when I want to sleep, I want to sleep. When I want to get out and go to another country, I want to be able to do that.

This life allows me a lot of time to be able to invest in the people around me. And I don’t think I’d be able to do that as cohesively, if I had one or two or three children and had to make sure their basic needs were met every day. That in itself takes a lot of time. It’s a massive responsibility and I wouldn’t have the life that I have, the experiences I have, if that’s what my job was.

It’s all about your own self love, your own self care and feeling your own centre. At the end of the day, you can’t do anything for any other person, if you’re not fulfilled and grounded. My advice would be, don’t feel pressured. Lean into the fact that you can wake up and say, “What am I going to do for me today?” Take responsibility for your life and put yourself in a position where you’re comfortable and enjoying yourself.

If you want more, then you can have more. But if you don’t, then you can take that positivity that you’ve just nourished and put it out into the world. It’s all about just recognising that you’re not being selfish. You’re surviving. You’re more than surviving. You’re enjoying this beautiful gift of life that you’ve been granted.

Photos and Video by Zoë Noble
Words edited by James Glazebrook