1 week ago, the wonderful James broke up with me.
For most of that Sunday afternoon, I felt lost. I wheeled into a sea of despair until I couldn’t quite see a reason to go on. My job was too stressful, my personal life was in a mess and I’d I had pushed so many people away this year that I felt there was no-one to turn to. Thankfully, there was Tom and Jim, and between them they pulled me back from the edge. More specifically, from the pile of sleeping pills which I had placed next to my bed and wanted to use to knock myself out.
As I pieced myself back together, not knowing how I was supposed to pick myself and carry on for the next week, I considered myself and all the myriad of things which were negative in my life. Not wrong, necessarily, but which certainly weren’t right for my own welfare and happiness. I decided that I would leave my current job sooner rather than later, that I just couldn’t handle this level of stress. That I needed to find something more, something which I could get up every day and look forward to, even if it wasn’t as highly paid, even if it wasn’t as glamorous, it would still be something that made me happy.
I’d been chatting with Marina the other week and when the question was pitched of what we’d really love to do as a day job, for some reason, the words “staff writer at The Stage” jumped out of my mouth, and now I can’t shake them out. To have a job where my role was to simply write interesting articles about interesting productions…I honestly can’t think of anything better. And I miss writing in my role. Some days, I’m so heartily sick of having to care about tweets and Facebook paid marketing and blogs that all of that that some days I want to scream with frustration.
To just be me and my words again seems most delightfully simple.
On Tuesday I was invited on a whim by a friend to attend Phantom of the Opera’s 30th Anniversary gala show, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most extraordinary nights at the theatre I’ve ever had. But for me, it was far more than just the theatricality of the show and the special guests after, more than seeing the creative team in the flesh or the various celebrities and media darlings in the audience.
The Phantom of the Opera is one of the theatrical productions which has defined my life more than any other. I remember when I first heard the strains of the score I was entranced; I could feel myself transported into the closeted backstage chambers of the Paris Opera. I read the original novel by Gaston Leroux and loved that same intimate feeling, surrounded by the romance of Paris. The first love of my adult life was one of the cast, who met me outside the stage door after a show. It was the music on which I first bent my voice and learned how to sing. All through the years it has been there, like a magically entrancing score, like the most romantic of stories, like a comfort and sanctuary of sound.
As I watched it in the beautiful setting of Her Majesty’s Theatre, once again carried away by the story, it hit home to me how far I had fallen. This world, the world of the arts, was the one I was supposed to be a part of. That world of beauty and imagination. I knew then in my heart that I was meant to have been a performer, I suppose I’ve always known somewhere. And I think I could have been great at it, too. But that is past and I’ve made my peace with it.
But it hit me harder than ever that the theatre has always been my natural home. And through the chords of that score which have entranced me since I was 16, it was calling me back. Perhaps not as the actor I always wanted to be, but perhaps through my writing I can join that world once again as something else. I’ll never regret all the digital marketing skills I’ve picked up along the way, and I’m sure that they will serve me well in whatever I end up doing. But spending my days freaking out because one client doesn’t like a tweet or another feels there should be more Instagrammers in their database is not where my heart lies. As much as I try, I cannot feel passionate about it any longer.
There is a difference, I think, between realising what it is we think we should do and what it is we really want. I wish everyone could be happy in their career and when people tell me how much they hate their job it makes me cringe inside. But it also frightens me how normal it is. How commonplace. It gets to the point that people just accept it as a part of a mere…existence. We chase higher and higher salaries and bigger titles in order to try and make us happy, but of course they never do.
Well, I’m breaking out. I’m going to do what will make me happy, not what my parents or friends or society or anyone else thinks I should do. And I think I now have a much clearer idea of what will. I’m not saying I can wake up tomorrow and make it happen, but I am saying that I can pursue it now. I can begin setting myself on the road I want to be on.
A road that takes me away from all this silly pressure over nothing, a road that takes me back into the world of the arts and lets me properly explore my talent for writing, the one thing I always knew I could do. I know people will disagree and say that leaving my current role early is a mistake. Maybe it is, and maybe I won’t leave tomorrow morning exactly. But I feel so certain that this is the right road for me. Sometimes we know things within ourselves that nobody else can, and no amount of explanation will fix. But trusting our own instincts is something which nobody seems to consult anymore. And wouldn’t we all be far happier if we did?
When it comes down to it, wouldn’t we be far more successful if we run after what it is we love rather what we feel we’re supposed to do? I mean, how many stories show us the dangers of doing so, and yet hundreds of us blunder in and do the same thing time after time, year after year? I look at some of the people in my working life, thinking back on the companies I’ve worked in, and I’ve seen previous few who are truly happy.
Perhaps, in the end, that is a far better group to aspire to be a part of than any sort of professional elite.
Even after a break-up, the horror of trying to bring myself back from the brink, making a wrong job work as best I can and all the rest of it, theatre has once again been the saviour. What better thing could I do with my life than embracing it?