That doesn’t mean I know what I do want to do though. And twelve years later, I’m still trying to work it out.
University was, pardon the pun, the staging ground for a life of ‘I’m not quite sure’. Even throughout the course, I wasn’t entirely sure quite what I was honing and achieving. Yes, I did learn a lot and yes, I enjoyed several projects along the way but university is what you make of it and I would certainly do it very differently given the opportunity to go back and do it again.
What do I wish I could say to my younger self?
- Make university about trying new experiences that you may never encounter again;
- Stretch yourself and your mind;
- Don’t make choices that will enable you to prove what you can already do: go and learn something different.
I know this now and have made a point of passing it onto students who are leaving school to go off to university themselves. This is followed with a mixture of excitement, pride and awe tinged with jealousy as I see my fledglings take flight and hear their reports back about their daring choices and the opportunities they’ve sought out to enrich their time away.
However, my failure to do this the first time round has certainly spurred me into making up for it since and I became even more of a hungry learner since falling into the teaching profession. During my decade as a teacher (sometimes of Drama, sometimes of English, sometimes of both and occasionally of neither), I researched and signed up for any theatre-related weekend courses I could find to enrich my knowledge beyond just seeing theatre -or worse still, teaching it without keeping an active involvement; a fear that became more and more real with the pressures and demands of the education system. I’d pop to London for workshops at the National and spent a day doing puppetry with Olly Smart at the Little Angel Theatre. If I couldn’t go and experience it, I was combing through pinterest and twitter for links to insightful interviews, video feeds and articles. I soaked up everything I could at the Edfringe and then took my sixthformers a year later to see and learn more with me. I didn’t want to just teach, I wanted to be learning the skills of the trade and hooking my students in with the latest trends and ideas in theatre so that they would be as enthusiastic as I was about its diversity and possibilities. I always came away from these sessions with a notebook full of ideas for schemes of work and projects that I jotted down on the train ride home. And as a result, even the children in the rural Cotswolds were getting to explore Alecky Blythe’s Verbatim Theatre, Toby Olié’s puppetry and Melly Still’s storytelling exercises, which to my mind is much more engaging than following a textbook drama course.
Leaving teaching: what next?
I loved my job as a teacher. Many of the students thought I was bonkers. They weren’t wrong but they were also being pushed to create innovative theatre in an otherwise sleepy countryside school and it was exciting. Often the ideas themselves weren’t mine but I felt honoured to be able to bring fresh concepts and interpretations into their learning space and to make them accessible. I loved the research too. It has kept me learning and that, I firmly believe, is something we should all strive to do with an open heart and mind.
The thought of having my own children scared me. I couldn’t work out how and when I would be able to leave teaching at a good time so as not to impact on the learning of the children that I had worked so hard with and cared about so much. There were exams and productions and there was no good time to ‘go’. On top of that came the fear that I wouldn’t be able to return to the job that I had given my life over to do and be a mum at the same time. Something was going to have to give. And with a wrench, teaching was it.
It was the best decision I have ever made. I stepped out of a cloud of stress that had built up around me and started to dull the reward and enjoyment of the job. Being a parent is a true gift. Not everyone is lucky enough to receive that gift and not everyone takes to it as well as others. I’ve found it more challenging than I could ever have imagined but it gave me the all-encompassing distraction I needed while I moved away from teaching and began to contemplate a new career.
Here and now
Two years on, life as a mum is pretty wonderful and I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding family life. But the working world still tugs on my heart strings even though I am still not entirely sure what that new career is going to be. A great deal of reflection and active involvement in the things that I still know and love has helped me to take steps towards working it out:
THEATRE: To adopt and paraphrase Shakespeare’s metaphor, theatre is the dreamy stuff that rounds my little life. It is the sleep that I can’t live without and I’m never more at home than when I’m in the rehearsal room, working with actors and being an outside eye to help sculpt and fine-tune their preparation and performance work. I simply love directing and this has to factor somewhere, on some scale in whatever I go on to do.
WRITING: Having trained in TEFL and taught both Theatre and English up to Oxbridge level, I have extended my long-time love for literature into an ambition to write. Thus, my collection of beautiful notebooks continues to grow and the stories, poems and plays are beginning to seep out onto the page in the hope that something worthwhile might materialise in time. Writing doesn’t pay any bills but nobody ever followed a passion for the money.
NURTURING: There is still a large hole in my heart for education. Theatre outreach holds a massive appeal and my head is spinning with ways to make this work.
The question is, how do I find a way to balance parenting with investing time in an immersive new career. The blogging world holds inspiration as there are so many wonderful parents proving that it is possible. So while I learn, I’m here to join them and all the other bloggers who have written such helpful posts to inspire and get me started. If you want to follow, I will be here: exercising my passion for writing, continuing to delve into my love of theatre-making and hopefully still soaking up and sharing my findings along the way.