I moved to London in my very early twenties to go to Drama School. I didn’t know much about Drama School so I chose an old famous one because I thought that a combination of old and famous would mean it was so strict that I would have to adhere to their rules. And that there would be loads of these aforementioned rules to stick to.
And then I would be sober. And then I would be safe.
But. Just in case I was wrong about the rules, I chose a course I knew l would struggle with. One I had no natural aptitude for. And one I knew nothing about. I thought it would be a fresh start for me. That I would leave the drinking in Newcastle and finally be free and happy and normal. Please god just let me find something that makes me feel normal.
And so Musical Theatre made its way into my life. I thought it would be light and bright and happy. That’s what my limited knowledge of Musical Theatre was. That if I surrounded myself with light them I couldn’t feel encased in darkness anymore.
I quickly learned that there are tons of dark and twisty musicals. Truly. Bloody loads of the buggers. And I was wrong about this new life saving me. It didn’t. If anything I sank to some of the lowest points of my life during this time.
It did start a lifetime love of beautifully crafted musicals though. And that will never leave me. Genius abounds amongst Musical Theatre composers and lyricists, but a few stand out in a class of their own.
Jason Robert Brown wrote a stellar musical called the Last 5 Years whilst I was still a student. It’s a musical with just two people in it. The music is astounding and the vocal dexterity required to perform it is mindblowing.
But it’s the concept of it that always stuck with me. That 5 years of anyone’s life could be expressed in a Musical. Imagine that…
My life has changed at warp speed since I stopped drinking. If you’d taken 5 years of my life and turned it into a Musical whilst I was drinking though? It wouldn’t be terribly varied.
The occasional downward spiral. Peppered of course with the frequently dangerous situations I would put myself in. Maybe a scene or two dedicated to the playing out of terrible relationship after terrible relationship, for good measure.
Nothing ever changed though. I never evolved, I just descended. Worse and worse versions of the same personality. Stuck on a hamster wheel. Hardly scintillating viewing. No real craft required to perform it.
I held a mistaken belief for a long time that sober was a static place of being. That it was starting with an instantly perfect package. Luckily I was wrong. Because if I had been right. If sobriety had turned up in the guise of instant perfection? Well that would make it the end, rather than the beginning. I couldn’t have gone anywhere from there.
I would have just sat alone. Isolated in my perfection. Terrified of letting life in to disturb or ruin it.
The Last 5 Years have been even more dramatic than the first 5 years of sobriety were. I’ve changed at lightning speed. I don’t look the same. Think the same. Feel the same. I work in a totally different industry. Have completely different friends. I live in a totally different place.
There would not be one scene dedicated to drinking, or the Art of Not Drinking, because I’ve thought about neither in a personal capacity in the Last 5 Years. There would be scenes of friendship, of romance. Of heartbreak. Of happiness.
Of discovery, mainly.
And that’s the biggest thing for me. The ability of being able to discover or cultivate a new side of myself every day, or week, or month. A solid knowing that it will all accumulate into a wonderful finale. Ready for the next 5 years.
Because I have absolutely no idea where the next 5 years will take me. Who I will be at the end of them. Who will turn up in my life. Who will leave.
I know I’ll be here. Wherever here is by then. I know that once again I’ll not have one scene decidated to drinking, or Art of Not Drinking. That my sobriety got way bigger than that many, many matinees ago.
I know I get to choose which songs to sing. And how the action plays out, I know I get decide this, one scene at a time. And that I finally trust the inner orchestra’s conductor these days.
I know that I will go wherever the music takes me.
I know I don’t need to know anymore than that.