I always cry in airports these days. My days as a military kid have given them enough familiarity to make them feel like home; perhaps there’s something in that which seems to break through my emotional walls every time. Right now I’m
sitting crying at gate C57 in Heathrow, waiting to board British Airways flight A293 to Washington. I’m going home. But it feels more like I’m leaving home.
I don’t know what it is about England (I tried to explain it to my mom this morning and couldn’t), but I feel more like myself here than I ever have in so many places in the States. Maybe it’s the cultural mindset that means people tend to have temperaments closer to mine. Maybe it’s the rolling hills and countryside that looks like it jumped straight out of all my childhood wishes. Maybe it’s all the flower shops and dogs walking about (it’s probably that). Whatever it is, it’s warmed my heart and refreshed me like no time as short as this one ever has, and it doesn’t feel right to leave yet. At least, not for good. And because I’m a 20-year-old student without a credit score and not a gypsy fortune-teller living in a caravan, I can’t predict the future and know for sure that I’ll be back, no matter how much I’ve told everyone I’ve said goodbye to that I will just to make myself and them feel better. So I’m sad, and I don’t care what the people at gate C57 think of my tears. Oops, we’re boarding.
(26 hours and an Atlantic ocean later)
Coming home was strange. I wanted to feel ecstatic or dramatically sad, but I felt a weird mix of the two that compounded to create a general confused numbness. Almost everything about home felt comfortable and familiar in that intangible homey way, but it was almost too familiar. It felt like nothing had changed, I’d never left, England was still a faraway imaginary country and I hadn’t lived in a flat in London by myself for four months. I realized how easy it was going to be to return to Gordon and feel like my time away had been nothing more than a long nap where I missed the fall colors of Boston. I wanted to feel different, and everything was too much the same to remind myself of all that I’d done and learned.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I want to take away from this semester. What do I want to tell people when they ask how my time was? How do I want to be a better actor, student, friend? What are some places in my life that could stand to be shaken up a bit? It would be beautiful and revitalizing if I could switch on all this growth and progress in myself as soon as I set foot on American soil again. But I made my usual (American) pancake breakfast this morning and caught up on shows that British Netflix didn’t have and wore my galaxy jacket and the overalls I’d missed so dearly. In lots of ways, I’m no different back home and that might never change. I’m okay with that.
On the plane, I realized it’s going to be hard to live out the things I learned in England without England there to remind me how. I can set New Year’s resolutions just as firmly as the next millennial (and don’t you worry, I will- stay tuned for that), but nothing will replace the gentle, British voices of my LAMDA teachers telling me to expand my ribcage, or the encouragement of all the voices of HTB Students praying over me at the same time, or the panic of diving out of the way of the double decker buses reminding me that hey, this whole life thing really isn’t about me most of the time. How am I supposed to be my better, fuller England self in America?
For now, all I’ve got are these ideas:
-Reading The Actor and The Target by Declan Donovan (Super straightforward and practical, but wow is it frustrating to be told your own problems and then told not to try and solve them or you’ll just make it worse.)
-Keeping in real touch with the important people (That means not just comments on photos; it means emails, guys. Even letters.)
-Find some people older and wiser than me to hang out with and actively learn from (If you fit this bill, give me a call. Seriously.)
-Setting aside a couple hours every week with no obligations so that time can be given to others (Whether that’s getting coffee with someone new, helping build sets, etc. so that I stay available and don’t get lost in my routines.)
It’s not much, and I’ll probably mess up most of it, but I figure if I start the year with lots of momentum a fraction of it will carry over. Right?
This turned into too much of a New Year post. I wanted it to be a better send-off to my time in London. Okay. Things I’ve learned.
-Literally everyone is in their head, all the time, not just me (“Bright as a button Abigail, but a bit busy behind the eyes…” was one of my evaluations); so it’s not crazy, it’s just not helpful to being an actor.
-Imperfect people make for better friends.
-It never hurts to ask questions. Ask random questions! Ask the same ones over and over! Ask ones you think are dumb! Everyone’s probably dying to ask it.
-There’s so much value in surrounding yourself with people who disagree with you. Everyone learns more, and gets better at respecting each other.
-BUT, when you find people who get you in a deep, real way, even on something very small, it’s so special and you have to hang on to them.
-I can sing after all! I’ve been told so by people who would know.
-Putting in 100% of the work, all the time, even if you don’t need to or it’s a waste of time, always gets results, and you never regret giving your full best every time. You can tell when someone’s doing something for the right reasons and that person is always a treat to be around.
-BUT putting “the work” above your personal health, other commitments, relationships, etc. isn’t what it means to give 100%. Actors need to be fully rested and well-fed to be able to play Henry V over and over. They need to care about other things and other people. Taking care of yourself is part of the work. It’s very freeing.
-Everyone just isn’t going to like you all the time. And you don’t have to like everyone all the time. Even the people that everybody else likes.
-You can make rules and plans for yourself ahead of time and then change them later when you realize situations are different than you expected. Adapt rather than compromise. It’s a key distinction.
-A billion other things that I can’t summon to mind right now but ask me sometime and I’ll tell you funny stories of that time I was a total idiot or wide-eyed child.
I guess I have to change the name of this blog now. I’m certainly not done writing (as I’m not done having adventures and thoughts about them), but from now on it will be under a different name. We’ll see. I’m no longer abroad, but don’t worry Britain. I’ll be back. You haven’t finished with me, and I haven’t finished with you. Thank you for so many moments of wonder, confusion, genuine pain, freedom, and heart-exploding joy. I look back and can’t believe I almost didn’t go purely out of fear of the unknown. It was the best decision I’ve made in my young life.
Cheers, mates. It’s been a privilege.