I knew I’d struggle not having a job. I don’t like being bored. Boredom and sadness go hand in hand for me I’m sure it’s the same for most people. From the first few days of being off, I very quickly lost interest in things that, while I was working, I spent so much time craving. I had little interest in games (compared to normal, anyway. World of Warcraft was the only game that really kept my attention, and I’m even sick of that now.) I didn’t want to leave the house, which made me resent my dog because I had to leave the house to walk him. I didn’t want to do my coursework, I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to listen to music. I just sat there.
I say didn’t, I still don’t want to do most of these things. I’m listening to music again, but I’d say 90% of my music listening-to is the same My Chemical Romance playlist on repeat. I still hate walking the dog, but that’s because he’s a pain in the arse, and wants to eat everything in sight.
But that’s part and parcel of being sad. You do lose interest in everything, I’ve been here before. I know at some point the clouds will part and I’ll be hit with that inspiration again. I can, and will, get out of the self – pitying hole.
The things I can’t get back, and the things I miss the most, are my friends. And at the moment I can’t see a way out of that.
To clarify, it’s not as if I left work as was instantly forgotten by my colleagues. Two of them ring, I’m still in the work group on WhatsApp, I’m still tagged in all the memes – it feels like it did when I was just missing on a show. There’s that same FOMO, the same friendly jealousy that they’re all together, chatting in the Green Room, having a laugh and making show-specific jokes. But there was always a date when those feelings would finish, when a new show would start that I would be part of.
Theatre is very intense, and it’s hard to describe. You’re sat in a room for two weeks, and forced to watch people act out the same 100 pages again and again and again. And then you get into the theatre and watch those same 100 pages, but slowly, so the sound and lights can be added. Then you spend the next month watching those same 100 pages once or twice a day, 6 days a week. So you have to like each other, you have to be able to communicate perfectly with each other, you have to feel perfectly safe with each other; otherwise you would go mad. And we were lucky in a way, we needed to be in work two hours before the show started, but our resets were often done in half an hour. So then we just sat together, for an hour, and chatted. And then we would do our preshow checks, and spend the next two hours chatting – only these time professionally. Then the show would finish and we would go next door for a pint, and chat.
The thing about theatre is, for the most part, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a job, yes, and there’s a huge responsibility on everyone to make it a performance, as opposed to just a show, but you know throughout it all, everyone has everyone’s back. If I missed a cue, sound would play it anyway. If a prop broke we would all come up with ideas on how to fix it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But we knew we could count on each other.
And with that comes really unshakable friendships, ones that you don’t appreciate until they’re gone. A message in WhatsApp isn’t the same as being with everyone on stage picking up the confetti for the confetti drop, and cleaning it piece by piece because we weren’t allowed to order any more, while talking about our day. It’s not the same as getting everyone’s order and popping to the coffee shop, and then talking about what quiz show you’d be willing to go on, or where gills would go on a human. It’s not the same as all singing along on comms to the song in the show, but with the words you’ve made up. We didn’t need to actively socialise outside of work, because work was so social. And they still don’t need to socialise – and to be fair to them all, they wouldn’t have time to anyway. Theatre is social but it demands everything from you.
I don’t need to give to it anymore, but it means it doesn’t need to give back. Those coffee shop trips, those post show pints, the comms banter and the Green Room games aren’t things I can contribute to now, so I won’t reap the rewards. My friends are doing everything they can for me, but it’s not enough. I know this all sounds very over-the-top and self-pitying. I know it’s the same with anyone, in any job that they leave. But I don’t know any other job. I know theatre.
Or I guess, if I want to be dramatic, I knew theatre.
Now I feel like I don’t know anything.