Have you ever looked back at a time where you were met with success and thought “That’s when I peaked”? For me, that was grade eight, when a musical I wrote was performed at a regional drama festival. It had a cast of 20+ middle schoolers, around 20 songs, and absolutely ridiculous content. There was a singing mop in a janitor’s closet, a clown that would appear and disappear at random, a young mother with dementia… Students and teachers from all over the province lined up to see it. It actually started a snowball effect that lead me to where I am today: If not for In Love with a Loner, I wouldn’t have met some amazing mentors, transferred to a different high school, chosen Queen’s, or gone on to do a Master’s.
But now what?
Recently I found and watched a DVD with a recording of the production and its public adjudication. It made me smile, but it also made me worry. What am I doing? Why am I not writing more and presenting more work? Why am I spending thousands of dollars on a degree that doesn’t actually guarantee an actual job? How do I build on the success I had TEN YEARS ago?
I’ve been thinking about just what made In Love with a Loner possible. It wasn’t my own talent or ambition: it was the collective effort of all the people around me. I think many of us theatre folk remember the one or two events that got our younger selves addicted to the thing. For me, it was surrounding myself with others who loved being absurd, random, and intensely emotional. It was working on a musical with an incredible teacher who played out the music in my head, friends who parsed out the random chaos and made it somewhat cohesive, and organization leaders (like those at the New Brunswick Drama Festival) who allowed us to show off our hard work.
It’s possible to read this as a sad obsession with an exhausted memory. But I see it as an element of my life that can be mined, and that can give me energy to move forward.
I want to surround myself with those people again. I want to make challenging work with people who are open to being fun and imaginative, who are professional with their craft but don’t take themselves too seriously. I want to make more stuff that reflects the random fun and chaos still in all of us, not just when we were kids. I’ve recently found that I’m getting back in with the misfits, and making work that appeals to the loner in all of us.
We have all had that spark that made us want to pursue our passion. We may have misplaced it at various times in our lives, but it’s still possible to find and cultivate it into something much more.
Video: Ms Suzanne Doyle-Yerxa adjudicating the performance of In Love with a Loner in Fredericton, NB, 2008. “If you’re unwilling to make a bold choice, then really, you’re cheating your audience, and you’re cheating yourself”.