I’m looking straight into the lightening London sky of the first day of my 55th year this morning. I’ll never be as young as this again. London’s skyline is stunning.
My life ahead of me once appeared to promise a vast plateau of time and space through which I would adventure, face challenges, overcome, discover, achieve, make my indelible mark on the universe, it’s winding roads and majestic mountains just waiting to be climbed and claimed; endless.
There is no denying the speed of the turning of years – my life now feels more like the pages and chapters of a relatively insignificant little paper back – left out in the garden by mistake – being blown through and rained on. A few more gusts and it will be blown shut again.
A quick scan of this particular lay-bye of life’s journeying reveals this…
I have a bit of a hangover.. No surprise there. I am in a hotel – alone.
I am painfully aware that I am awake this early because my bladder can no longer get me to to 8 am without demanding a stumble to the loo…hauling myself out of bed I pass that unnecessary full length mirror and wince.
I spent yesterday evening with a friend who I fell in adore with 34 years ago on sight and have loyally maintained my crush on come hell and high water (of which there has been plenty of in both our lives over those years) all through time.
He is now in charge of some of the courses at the field of theatrical dreams to which I travelled to from Fife in Thatchers glory years to seek my great artistic future.
I went back for the first time last night – this was where we first met in 1980, me 18 and him 19. He was intense and serious about his art, he’d even done a drama A level at school! This was a revelation to me – I couldn’t get my head around his superior talent and artistic sophistication. We didn’t even have drama A levels in Scotland…how could I EVER catch up – how could I ever hope he’d notice me?
My first struggle when I arrived there in 1980 was to get anyone to understand a word a said. “Your name is what???!” Keeetie”?!?
My second struggle was to develop enough faith in my own talent to believe I had earned a right to be there, to learn, to train…before being revealed as the imposter I was.
My ongoing enduring struggle was to allow myself to believe this great love of my life (theatre and performance arts that is – not my lovely friend) was a worthy enough career path to choose to satisfy the admonitions of the Calvinist God I carried about with me (like Jimminy Cricket) on my shoulder.
I worked hard in voice class – people started understanding my vowels in time. I did ok overall but got used to regularly coming a disappointed second to the more exotic, beautiful, talented, husky throated Jo when it came to casting. I maintained my dignity and instead spent a lot of time playing various children and honing my method character acting while secretly aching to be Juliet in a white nighty to my ever so talented and adored friends portrayal of Romeo. T’was never to be. Alack.
I worked hard none the less, believing in and being transformed and lifted daily by the power of art, the power of the story, the moment in which the ‘something beautiful’ that would stay for a second before flying away again never to be captured, hit my solar plexus. I also made some strong and enduring bonds with other dreamers.
My career didn’t really get started properly – God never stopped whispering in my ear that a life on the stage was not a worthy choice for someone like me. I had been born to stagger about carrying the weight of Calvinist responsibility on my bony little shoulders for fixing the worlds pain…At that age I didn’t recognise this as ego – so instead of maintaining a lifestyle built around attending endless auditions, I packed my art into my suitcase, heart and life and learned how use it in my work outside of the theatre, and – to be honest – I have never looked back.
Suffice to say my adored friend was always – then and through the years ahead – falling hopelessly in love with the cooler, edgier, less obviously tortured girls than I – but in retrospect, would we have been celebrating his 55th and my 54th birthdays together all these years later if I had been one of them? Doubt it.
Last night I watched a bit of the foundation student’s rehearsal for a review they are putting together. They could have been any young person from any year over the past 4 decades – feet drawing energy from the Corbett Theatre’s floor, backs straight, concentration poor (it was after 9pm before they were allowed to call it a night.)
They were pretty rubbish…but so full of potential, right at the start. They will get better. I have to admit to bit of a pang of envy.
What would I have done differently if I could go back to then with the knowledge I have now?
In truth, apart from never stopping dancing and singing, taking better care of my abdominal muscles and pelvic floor and drinking less alcohol – probably very little.
My journey has been a pretty entertaining, rewarding and – in places – moving one. I have built and maintained many precious friendships along the way. I have been in love. I have been part of a mildly dysfunctional family that has wrapped me in care and protection when needed, and I hope I have returned that when I could. I have been blessed with two wonderful daughters who just simply swell my heart with joy. I have had a great education. I live in a safe home in a close, strong community and breath clean air in the most beautiful of surroundings daily. I have and still do benefit from working with lots of really interesting and inspiring people. I get paid to do what I love best. My job requires of me to maintain belief in our human capacity to improve, strive for better and to nurture that fresh energy that is life’s longing for itself.
I’ve done ok.
Ok – so I never headlined on Broadway but I did once dance in Lycra dressed as a cat while performing Skimbleshanks across the floor of that little theatre….and I’ve sung the goddamn body electric with outstretched arms to a paying audience. How many of you can claim that one?
And so what that my adored friend never fell in adore with me back – if he had I probably wouldn’t still have him in my life now to periodically glow with delight while sitting close. He makes me feel like one of those kids from those early readybrek adverts. He doesn’t believe it. I’ve been adored in turn in my time by other blokes, who of course, luckily never knew they weren’t him.
It’s back to Scotland today. Another year older. So fluttery, damp little book left out in the garden. How those pages are turning so quickly in the fluttery gusts. What next?
Suspending my post menopausal belly fat anxiety just for this morning it’s an ‘all you can eat’ premier inn buffet breakfast for me before jumping back on the fast track from Kings Cross to the next chapter. Toot toot …
See you there.