Dated: 7 Sept 2011
I am sat, on a fast train hurtling headlong from Coventry to London Euston. I’m thrilled, and ever so slightly nervous. This afternoon, I start my new post (also part-time) in the Shakespeare programme at the British American Drama Academy (BADA).
It’s been three very long years, but it seems that finally, my career is on the rise, and I am returning to the classroom, albeit on a less than full-time basis. The three-year hiatus has been good for me in so many ways. A time to write, and more importantly to reflect on what it is I actually want from/for my career.
When I walked away from my full-time, tenure-track faculty position at NYU, three years ago, my friends, family and loved ones, save precious few, called my sanity into question. I had made it, they advised, to the top of my game, I’d grasped the brass ring, joined the ranks of the privileged few – how on earth could I walk away from all that?
Truthfully? Quite easily. My life in NYC was a buffeting stream of extreme highs and gut-wrenching lows. The City that Never Sleeps leaves you drained and exhausted. The collective drive is relentless, and the sleepless nights all the more unbearable when you spend them alone. There is something about “being alone” in the mega-metropolis that is New York, that is a type of ‘aloneness’ like no other. Perhaps, because amid the constant din one can always hear the party you’ve not been invited to happening non-stop somewhere just around the corner.
So, there I was, “at the top of my game”, curled up on the settee in my bijou, shoe-box apartment, with Lucy (God bless her!), Lily, a large bottle of Shiraz, take-away pepperoni pizza and re-runs of “Coupling” on BBC America…
Of course, once I left the halls of academe, I reveled in my new-found wonderful English countryside life, but lost an essential sense of my own identity, as who I “am” has always been so intrinsically tied with what I “do”. As happy, joyous, free, loved and liberated as I have felt in my new life in England, I have simultaneously felt lost and rudderless, without real purpose and direction.
And what a refreshing adventure! For the first time in my life I was “defined” by my relationships as opposed to my achievements or ambitions. I have been forced to create and cobble together a new sort of ‘career’, more or less a “portfolio” of gigs, projects, and one-off assignments, etc. I have had to engage fearlessly in the not-so-fine art of shameless self-promotion and PR, and channeling my inner-American, and “putting myself out there”.
I have re-tooled my cv more times than I can count. I have applied for jobs that would have proved ludicrously poor matches for me – or them. But, we do that, don’t we? You feel desperate, and any job that is vaguely within the realm of possibility looks appealing: “Well, I could do that.” The subtext: if there’s nothing else going. And that is no way to live a life.
And then, there’s the Rejection. And, tons of it. I have been turned down by a myriad of secondary schools, libraries, community colleges and universities. I survived on “bits and pieces” that came my way (Thank heaven for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the RSC!). And, now, I’ve finally got hold of a bigger “bit and piece”. And the “Bits and Pieces” lifestyle suits me fine. As slapdash and haphazard as it has felt, I would not trade a moment of it now.
The only trouble now, what to wear?! A ritual purging two years ago saw me mindlessly throwing much of my professorial “work wear” into the charity bin!