It’s half-term this week, as you’ll very likely know by now if you’re a British schoolchild or a parent of one. I know it’s half-term because I work as a nanny and Boyfriend is a history teacher, so we’ve had the week off as well. A lot of people with normal jobs probably think adults who get a half-term holiday mostly spend it drinking, clubbing, going to late-night showings of films (“50 Shades”, anyone? Nope, definitely not us.) and “relaxing”, whatever that is. What have we actually been doing?
Spending the week at Boyfriend’s parents’ place.
The principle activities this week have been things such as: eating far too much cake, doing the crossword with Boyfriend’s dad (“What do you reckon 5-down is then, Sam?” “I don’t know, Geoff, that’s why I left it blank.”) and playing the kinds of card games you play to pass the time on a camping trip when it’s raining. Oh, yeah, and there’s also been a lot of Thinking About the Terrifying Looming Future.
You see, this July will ring in rather a lot of changes for us. I’ll be graduating from uni and Boyfriend will be leaving his job at a school in Surrey to move to a school in Bath, near his hometown of Bristol. So we’ll pack up our Brighton flat into lots of boxes, haul them into a van, and plop them back down in Bath, which will be our home for the foreseeable future.
Now, to be clear, I am super excited about this. I am thrilled about this. I’ve wanted to move to Bath for ages, and I definitely think now’s the right time, especially since I’ll be leaving uni and joining the “real world” and all that other glorious shite you have to do to be a proper grown-up. But this week, whilst we were strolling around Bath talking about how we wish we were millionaires so we could buy a townhouse on the Royal Crescent, I started to get a horrible lumpy, crampy feeling in my stomach. (And no, it wasn’t from eating too much of Boyfriend’s mum’s Lemon Drizzle cake, although I did consider that possibility.) It was from suddenly being very aware that, come July, the proverbial rug is going to be yanked out from under me, and I am very likely going to land flat on my not-so-proverbial arse.
Mind you, it would be like this wherever we were going to live after I graduate, whether we stayed in Brighton or moved to the bloody Orkneys. The fact of the matter is, I have no job prospects (because I want to be an actor), no fall-back options (because I want to be an actor), and will probably have to continue doing student jobs, i.e. barmaid, Saturday shop assistant, nanny, etc (because I want to be an actor). The current name-of-the-game is to get on Spotlight. (For those of you not in the UK, Spotlight is an online database of actors used by agents and casting directors. You have no cache as an actor in the UK if you’re not on Spotlight.) To get on Spotlight, you need to have done 4 PAID acting jobs – not short films, music videos or adverts – and to get those jobs, you need to have an extremely flexible schedule. To have that kind of schedule and still pay the bills, you need to work as a barmaid or a waitress. Maybe a part-time nanny. Either way, you’re not bringing in much money, and you certainly don’t have any kind of guaranteed financial future.
All of this dawned on me during a very nice day in Bath, when I should have been getting excited about starting a new chapter in a new city with the man I love. Instead, I spent most of the day feeling totally depressed, and then had a quiet, Emma-Thompson-in-Love-Actually style sob to myself back at Boyfriend’s parents’ house.
I guess all soon-to-be graduates have to admit this to themselves at some point, and I admitted it to myself this week: I am utterly shitting bricks. And there’s nothing for it except to plunder my way through my last term of uni, save up a bit of money for the move, and hold out some kind of faith that it will work out.
Yes, it will mean submitting myself for every paid job possible on Casting Call Pro. And yes, it will mean pounding the streets of Bath handing my CV to every pub and restaurant – even the ones who aren’t advertising for help – or potentially taking on another badly paid nannying job. But I did the exact same thing three years ago after I abruptly left drama school and that didn’t go too badly. And then – hopefully – one day, my fantasy of Julian Fellowes popping up out of nowhere, pointing at me, and shouting “You, girl! You will star as a recurring character on the next series of Downton Abbey!” will come true. (By the way, Lord Fellowes, I’ve already got my character’s storyline totally written out if you’d like to peruse it some time.)
In all seriousness, I know the best I can hope for is that, some day soon, an agent will take their chances on me and then maybe I’ll get some bit-parts in a few TV shows. It may never make me a millionaire – it may never even make me a living – but I have to try. Because if I don’t, I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering “what if?”, and I would never forgive myself. But that doesn’t make me any less scared or any less unsure of myself. I wish I was the kind of person who would be happy taking a desk job. It would make my future a lot more certain and it would make July a lot less scary, but instead I appear to be a victim of the stubborn resilience that apparently runs in my family. The only thing I can focus on right now is what I am able to do right now.
And the other night, when all of this was running through my neurotic-ass head, the only thing I was immediately able to do was to go downstairs and have dinner with Boyfriend and his parents, and laugh about his dad’s outright refusal to get a hearing aid. Because he seriously, seriously needs one.