It’s been 10 years since I started at drama school. Holy crap on a pancake.
In many ways it feels like it’s been 10 years- I’m certainly not the same person that I was back then. We’ve all grown up, gone in different directions, passed a few milestones.
But in other ways I can still remember so vividly the first few days of nervously formed connections- like bonding over a shared love of brightly coloured jeans, and the utter joy of knowing I was about to spend three years working at something I was truly passionate about.
I had come from a very sheltered world- having spent secondary school in an all-girls environment I only had a handful of male friends, I’d never had a boyfriend or even an ‘official’ date, had never been offered drugs (though very few people have offered me anything since then to be honest, presumably on the entirely correct assumption that I’m a total square), and had never felt such a sense of belonging as when I met this rag-tag bunch of students who all had the same acting dreams as me. I also had the bizarre belief that as a 20 year old I was going to be way more mature than all those silly 18 year-olds who’d be on my course. Oh, you naive little narcissist Penny.
Those three years at Birmingham School of Acting changed the course of my life, in much the same way that any big choice changes the course of your life. We were at drama school (enter glitter cannon)! The world was our playground on which to do want we liked…which turned out largely to be devising overly sincere movement pieces.
I learnt many things about myself and met exciting and interesting people- some would be friends for a season and some for life. I feel very lucky for those who I’m still in touch with- thank you for allowing me to cling to you for a whole decade.
Why am I thinking about this now? Well, I realised a month or so ago that we’d passed the ten year anniversary of starting the course, which felt like a big deal- whilst I’m still relatively young there’s not many events in my adult life that were a decade ago!
But I’m particularly thinking about all this now because I went back to that same city today for the first time since leaving over seven years ago. I’ve been through it a few times on a train or a coach, but this was the first time I had set foot on Birmingham soil since I was a newly graduated young woman.
And oh, the ghosts. They were everywhere- so much so that I was almost confused at how everyone around me was managing to go about their business as normal. So many tiny moments came back to me- I’ve got a picture of 20 year old me holding a balloon on that escalator over there, here’s where I would walk to get the bus, there’s where I first held hands with X. I nearly started crying outside a Tesco Metro for Christ’s sake (‘That’s where I used to do my food shop!’ *sob*).
Nostalgia is such a funny thing, bittersweet and belonging to a version of yourself that no longer exists. But I wanted to acknowledge the ghosts and give them a little bit of brain space for a while.
I lived here. It was significant. It is no longer who I am, but it is forever a part of me.