We are sorry to tell you that you haven’t made it through to our 2018 workshops.”
The message I received from the publisher. My mind traces the email over and over, feeling the knots in each word. A hollow and heavy pain claws its way inside my chest, and a piece of me is enveloped and sealed in the nice icy letter.
I must return to the drawing board. It is the time of month where I am clutching on to my last two £20 notes. This month though, I am performing in a play and the notes will take me to and from rehearsals. I pull myself about the city, struggling to keep timings, respond to emails and messages, quietly losing momentum. I stop doing the things I learned to do to keep me afloat, like going to Lewisham market where on my best day I will find four mangos for a pound and 50 limes for 50p. Instead, I let the tide pull me into its wide, curious waters and missing meals becomes a form of financial preservation. I do not know what to do. I truly believed that my application would be successful, that I might be mentored by someone who has been where I would like to go and could maybe show me the way. And that perhaps, this time next year, I would be published by Penguin. I feel the failure in my bones.
In rehearsal we have become so in sync. Between the scenes we become the sea we flow seamlessly between crackling thunder and riotous joy. We are reaching notes in ways we never imagined we could, the room is dripping with talent and every time I perform I enter my prism and let it all go.
I remind myself that this time last year when I wasn’t cradling my sick self in bed I was crying desperately into my pillow, never imagining that who I am now, I could be. The rehearsal room vibrates with a captivating richness. Nine-o-clock rises up like a black wave from the sunset, and on the bus that feeling rises up with it. So heavy it pierces the barricades that keep my mind in tact, the thoughts rush in. Now my mind is on work, on the last show and first day back- I have been offered a salary increase, but still under-earning. I feel bitter and betrayed. I so badly want out.
I could look for a new job. I could train to become a qualified teacher (if I do this I’d move to a mainstream school and immediately earn £8,000 more than I do now). But the frosty formalities of mainstream make me tense, and what sense would it make to invest more time and money, furthering myself in a career that isn’t my end goal? Right now I am singing and dancing and connecting and creating and it feels like I am wrapped in electricity.
I found a university that offers master degrees in novel writing. They would see me through to the completion of my novel, as excruciating and exquisite as that is. But what about the National Theatre? They’ve offered me the opportunity to be in ‘As you Like it’ next year. And what about the promise? Everything is premised on the promise. To Travel.
As I spread out the options before me, life stretches out a hazed map of my past, I run my fingers over the splintered doors and crumbling ceilings that have left me scars. And suddenly, I think, I know where to start.