Do we ever reach the end of an era? Or are we just beginning a new one?
I notice how this may seem entirely meaningless and insignificant when we are going through a global pandemic. And it is. My intention for writing here is not to trivialise the scary and strange times we’re currently in, but to use this as a forum to explore my own emotions to everyday events throughout this crazy ride we call life. Those that raise questions, prompt reflection and influence change.
Right now, those emotions are surrounding the end of a path I’ve been on to follow a lifelong dream. To become an actor. A singer. Not so much a dancer anymore though (cheese and wine got in the way there!). I love writing, I love performing too. In my last blog, I wrote about What I’ve learnt about chasing dreams. Spoiler alert: Dreams are worth chasing. A must. A have-to. A need. That’s the short answer, anyway.
The long answer read like this: “I guess I’d reached the stage where I figured I could listen to what that voice was saying, jump (or make small steps) out of my comfort zone and embrace failures and lacking self-worth to challenge them. Or I could continue stuffing. Fortunately, I went with my curiosity. And I’m so grateful and happy that I did. I’m trying to listen to that instinct, that voice more and more.”
Eras and Change
I wrote those words two weeks before my musical theatre came to an unexpected, surreal and what felt like, abrupt end. Ever since I found out I’d got a place on the course last September, I’d moan and groan at piling onto the train three times a week at 5pm to do the Fleet to Clapham Junction to Peckham Rye journey, and back again. It’s all too easy to find misery in what really is joy.
Perhaps it’s a defence mechanism so I don’t pin all my expectations on doing this thing I truly love. I might fail. I might not be able to do it. It just simply might not work. Yep, that’s what I was doing. I was nervous, self-deprecating and didn’t prepare enough for the shit-scary stand-up-in-class singathons that I’d need to get over if I was ever going to perform on stage. Yet, I’d try to embrace the fear, uncertainty and that uncomfortable feeling of being totally raw and vulnerable in class, take on the honesty exercises with as much courage as I could force, and show up.
From September to March, that’s what I did. Knowing that all this would lead to a final showcase where we’d get to saunter in, with our headshots in the forum for all the audience to see. We’d put our passion for the stage out there. Only Covid happened and our lessons, rehearsals and any sniff of stage sauntering was put on pause. For the first couple of weeks, I was relieved. Trying to be present in class, manage my business, deadlines, family crises and my own brain proved overwhelming. No drama school. No work. No social gatherings. I breathed a sigh of relief. For a little while.
July came and our course director found an appropriate end to our course; one where we were equally protected from entering the building which was still closed but one where we could finish the course (and see each other). So for three weeks, we’d rock up to Zoom on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays (just like the old face to face drama days of four months prior). We’d create scenes, sketches, sing songs — all spontaneously. It was bliss.
That was until last week when we had to team up and prepare short films. The panic set in. The overbearing sense of overwhelm raised my anger and perfectionism levels ten-fold. I liked the class environment. I trusted it. I felt safe. I was happy with my efforts. Remove that and I’m screwed. Totally lost. Without a shred of confidence that I’m doing it right. Whatever right in creativity is?!
I got through it. And on the final night, with my bunny mug of prosecco in hand, we said goodbye. Our teacher for the three weeks wished us all the best and said he hoped to see us in something one day. I was an emotional wreck. Off I went to my husband’s early birthday drinks, thank god. But I was an emotionally-charged bunny myself. And not the good kind! I’ve not since been able to shake the feeling of what now? Where do I head? How do I stay creative? Stay passionate? Become talented? Overcome the 13+ years of future inertia again (the time it took to even give it a punt) to pursue what I love? Rejections from drama schools didn’t help my case.
I remember having the exact same feeling 10 years ago when I finished up my journalism degree. The sense of inadequacy. That without a planned structure, a purposeful instructor/mentor-led day, I wouldn’t have a clue.
And then I had the sudden thought: What if I’m so busy trying not to be a nobody, that I’m trying way too hard to be the best body to everybody. Put too much pressure on myself. Force productivity, creativity, progression. When really I just want to laugh, feel alive and enjoy performing for the sheer fun of it. The whole world’s a stage after all! It’s the end of that era, but another one is coming!