Not since I saw the plus sign on a stick I had just had to direct downwards in my urine stream, while trying to keep my hands clear of rogue splashes have I had the overwhelming feeling of change. You can still feel your life as it is but on the horizon is a storm of the unknown and it’s heading directly for you. You can’t step backwards because suddenly without you realising there is no longer a place to step back to, the past has fallen away and all that you can do is forge a path straight into the eye of the storm. My son turns five in just over a week and he starts school shortly before that. HE STARTS SCHOOL. It’s not that I am completely unfamiliar with the concept of children going into education he has been at pre school for two years but it was part-time, just a few hours and if I wanted to take him out for the day as a treat I could, he was still mine, my baby. With him starting school he is going to belong to so other many people as well. Don’t get me wrong he will always be my baby but he’s growing up (not sure when that happened) and his journey into formal education starts here.
He went to stay with his dad this week as he always does over summer. The funny thing is I was really looking forward to having the house to myself for a week,, enjoying the quiet, relaxing, late nights, lie-ins, clearing up no one’s mess but my own, doing nothing. What has happened however is quite the opposite. You see I have always loved to perform, I used to put on concerts in the living room (complete with costume changes, diva needs costume changes!), sing with my mum when she used to compere karaoke, anything I could do to perform and I’d do it. My passion to perform wasn’t directed into acting until a little later in life when I was attending college, I got a part in my first play, ‘Red Devils Trilogy’. I was bitten and since then have been in love with acting.
Initially when I fell pregnant I knew my life was changed but didn’t understand the full scope of how much it would stop my career path. I grew restless, depressed and withdrew into myself. The love for my son was never in question but it was the love for myself that faded, I was no longer who I knew myself to be, physically or mentally. So I would dream of freedom, of being able to swan off on tours, like my friends were, go to a last-minute audition but it just brought me more sadness and I disappeared into being a mum and nothing else because I was so caught up in being an actor as my identity, I had nothing else to be. The results were devastating, I fell into self harming behavior as a way of escape but that only dug me deeper into my depression. There were two things that kept me going during those first few years of being a parent. The first was that I wanted to provide a safe environment for my son to grow up in, one that I didn’t have as a child and the second was acting, the idea I could be that again. So slowly after a lot of support, I pulled myself closer to being healthy by focusing on my son and getting the odd acting job here and there when it fit into my crazy tight ‘me time’ slots. So I survived but I would often think of when my boy would go to school and the freedom it would afford me, what it would mean. I could be an actor again, feel like me as well as a mum.
So let me tell you how much of a shock it was last Friday when I had been aching to take little man to his dad’s so I could start my ‘holiday’ that I started crying, almost had a panic attack actually. I was overwhelmed with emotion and I had no idea why and then I realised. This is it. This is the time I have been thinking about, only when I imagined my freedom to be an actor I had left out one crucial detail, my son wouldn’t be here. He would be at school 30 hours a week. I had spent so long thinking of the things I would gain for ‘me’ I had neglected to think about what I would lose as a mother and I think that’s when I realised there was no longer a separation between ‘mum me’ and ‘me me’, we had become one, I was a new person, I would never go back to being a young girl with complete freedom. I realised I was a woman, I was a mother and I was an actor. I was all three. I wasn’t split down the middle, I was whole, complete.
I can’t think of the last time I felt so free as when I realised that, then of course the crying returned as I realised both me and my son now stand on a precipice of change, our old lives together are gone. No more crazy full days together doing whatever we liked (until holidays), it was time for him to start his own journey, one that I could support and encourage but not be fully part of. That’s when I decided that I wouldn’t fight against this change, I would embrace it. I would be realistic about the impacts and the growing pains but I would embrace it nonetheless. So the next day when I woke up I felt free, alive and happy and I decided it was time to act so I did. My week has consisted of sending out nearly two hundred emails, 30 odd letters, applying for jobs, seeing theatre, attending casting directors workshops. I have prepared a complete balanced timetable to help me stay a balanced person, it covers acting practice, acting theory, industry knowledge, fitness, family time and ‘me’ time. So instead of sitting around in my pants eating crisps, I have worked and prepared for the oncoming storm and I’m no longer shying away from it, I’m looking it dead in the eye. While my son is being educated, I’m going to be re-educating myself, when he’s home I’ll be present and when he sleeps I’ll honour the things that make me , me. The things I enjoy doing.
As my mum used to say to me, it’s a new chapter and honestly I couldn’t feel more excited to begin reading.