Monday, 6 January 2014

#GetGutsy. My Gutsiest Moments in 2013.

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. I’m participating in Jessica Lawlor’s #GetGutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details.
(At my gutsiest)
I sit on a bench, Zizzi napkins crushed and streaked with mascara on my lap, gripping my phone in one hand and an obnoxiously red University of Greenwich drawstring bag in the other. My poor mother sits beside me, passing me the napkins and mopping away the puddles that have formed on my chin and wobbling lower lip. She's the only person I'd want with me right now, and at the same time, the worst person I could ask for help right now. My future lies before me, possibly in the form of a Masters degree, possibly surrounded by truly magnificent pearly white walls and grand staircases, and possibly costing me £10,000. Or I could go home, take that step backwards, get together some money and make my own way, someday, most likely after a year or so. I'd be sacrificing my independence, the freedom and self-confidence that it took me three long years, several buckets of alcohol, a whole heap of hair dye, a wardrobe stuffed with psychedelic leggings, and several successful one night stands to accumulate. I'd be living rent-free, not having to cook, or wash up, or do laundry. I'd have access to fast and furious WiFi, HD television, and central heating. I'd be living in the room next-door to my parents. I'd have no real base of friends, and I'd spend a significant proportion of my 'saving up year' job-hunting.
Cue more sobs, more cries of frustration and more tear-soaked napkins. Mum is losing her patience now, trying to shake me, to stop my worries spilling out of me at an alarmingly high volume in the middle of a London high street. She asks me what I want to do. What would make me happy. What, ultimately, I can picture myself doing if I throw myself forward a whole year. The mist clears, my eyes sting, and I set my mouth firmly to form the words: 'I want to just... Go for it.'
***
No matter how hard I scrub, it just won't come off. I'll be tinged pink forever. Tinged pink, and stinking of alcohol. Sounds about right. Cotton wool sticks between my fingers, the smell of the cheap liquid makes my vision blur and burn, the little torn bits of skin under my nail beds are squealing in pain and I feel I'm washing a little part of me away as I take away each coat of red. I've removed my rings, all nineteen of them, and concealed them in my baggy costume's discreet pockets, to keep some semblance of myself while I'm out there, under the harsh and blinding stage lights and laid bare for all to see - thank goodness for the mask. The ugly, misshapen papier mache mask that slides down my nose and gives the impression that I just have two massive empty sockets where my eyes should be. Why am I doing this? I hate this play. It used to be one of my favourites, but after the past six weeks, it's everything I hate all at once. I hate my fellow cast members. I hate my director. I hate Antonio, I hate the sea, I hate the twins, and I hate the Duke. I hate love. Right now, all I can think about is what will happen later tonight, the excuses I'll make to get out of going to the pub, the long walk home in the freezing cold, and the damp little box room that awaits me. At least I won't be here, right now, in this moment with so many dirty looks being cast my way and all these lies circulating viciously in this stuffy little dressing room. We're doing one last speedy line run. We're rolling our eyes. We're taking mirror selfies - or rather, they are. I'm trying my hardest to dissolve into the background, to fall through the wall behind me and into another theatre somewhere, another show with a more friendly cast who offer me cups of tea and don't judge me for the way I look, or how I can't sing or dance. 
...And then we're in the wings. He and she are exchanging wide-eyed looks which scream with obvious. I'm pressing my face firmly against the black flat, still invisible, trying not to hear the pompous theatre manager onstage introducing our utter train-wreck of a Twelfth Night. This rehearsal period has been the worst time of my life. I'm terrified that everyone watching me in the audience will see this. They'll see past my mask, and they'll see the ugly truth beneath it. 
Suddenly, I make the conscious decision to change my mindset. I'll never get this night again. I'll never be this character again. I'll never perform this again. I'll never talk, text or wave hello to anyone I don't want to again. I'll never have to do any of this ever again. Now, these thoughts, contrary to the internal explosion of self-loathing and utterly Shakespearean contempt that's been manifesting itself inside my head for the past few weeks... These thoughts make me happy. These thoughts give me hope. I stick my chin out, push my mask up high, and walk onstage.
***

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