I have always, always adored writing. From a young age it came very naturally to me. When we were set creative writing exercises in English, some of my classmates would sit and groan, but for me it set off an energy that made me want to attack my school book with every thought that I could. I have always loved it and I always will love it, mainly because it has always agreed with my free way of thinking and it *cliché alert* sets no boundaries.
(Where I make all my notes before typing them up)
However, there was a time when I wasn’t always as set on this course. For a long time my intention was that after I finish school, I would audition for Drama schools in the hope of becoming an actor. I started year 12, all excited and ready for the new year, being fixated on the idea, so much that the thought of not doing it just seemed ridiculous. ‘Acting will be my life’ I always thought. Even then I wasn’t always happy doing it, but people had told me I was good at it. It brought me a joy that even now I still can’t quite explain. I think I liked eating the pie a lot more than baking it, if you know what I mean. It took those long two years for me to realise that I was wrong in this fixation, that following this path would be a mistake.
I was going through a difficult time during these last years at school. I can’t deny that it may have had some influence on my decision, but mostly I believe that it was just… me. My drama teacher could tell you how I used to stand in front of the boiling hot studio lights shaking amongst my more confident, but lovely, classmates. I was completely out of place and out of my depth. I wanted to be good, but I felt like nothing I did was ever good enough. Part of me loved what I was doing, but part of me hated it too.
The start of year 12 was a big wake up call in this. We started studying ‘The Rise and Fall of Arturo Ui’ by Bertolt Brecht. Our teacher told us to read it. Its hidden political context meant that I barely understood a word of it. This lack of understanding started to make me feel unintelligent, like I wasn’t good enough for the vast theatrical world out there. This made me become very self conscious, and then I used to dread going to lessons because I was worried about performing in front of my classmates that to me, were so much better and knew so much more than I did. I can honestly say, to this day, that I have never felt quite as self conscious as I did through my year 13 final performance. It. Was. Hell. Mostly because of the part when I had to be a bimbo waitress in the style of Berkoff’s theatre (very over the top and physical), but also because I didn’t enjoy it. Not one bit. And I think my teachers knew that, hence the rubbish grade I got for it. But it taught me that if I was going to make this my full time career, I had to enjoy what I was doing. For those 30 minutes, I absolutely hated what I was doing.
I told myself that I could do it. ‘There are plenty of miserable actors out there’ I thought, ‘And they’re great at what they do. I can hide these feelings from everyone and with time it’ll make me happy’. Yes. I really did think that. To be willing to put myself through all that feeling every day for the rest of my acting career. Sitting here now telling you about it, I think that I must be mad. But even now, when I go to the theatre (as I like to), a teeny part of me wishes that I was up there on stage, that I could be Eponine in ‘Les Miserables’ or Christine in Phantom. Okay, I’m not a very good singer, I know. But hopefully you can see my point.
I am more than aware of how much drama at school used to bring me down, yet even now, I still wonder if I could have done it if I’d really given it a go. My teacher once called my acting “stunning”. Truly she did. I so wanted to believe her, but I just felt embarrassed by it and assumed she was only saying it to boost my confidence. I think that there is a small part of me that will always wish I had tried harder. That I’d pushed through these feelings and stuck it out. But then I think: what’s the use in that? It clearly wasn’t making me happy.
A question that I can never truly answer is this: why is it that something that made me so miserable is still in my system somewhere? Your guess is as good as mine.
Throughout all of this, I remembered what did make me feel happy. I realised that nothing else in this world makes me feel quite as free and excited as opening a notebook and writing down whatever I want. And the thought of these wacky thoughts of mine being read by others… that’s terrifying and exciting at the same time. I think that my feelings towards drama are a little too far on the terrifying side, dulling out the true excitement that I should have felt from it. I still wish it could have been different, but I love what I’m doing now. If I could go back, I know that I would make the same decision.
What excites me even more than anything else is the novel that I am working on, and have been for 3 years. No production could ever excite more. Its a dystopia called ‘Finding Beauty’. It has become my life now, every day I add something new to it. I can’t wait for the day when I get to share it with the world.
I hope you’re all keeping well. Remember: do what makes you happy. Always.
From the young M.A. Garrett.