I am 18 years old and currently on a 'gap year', having left sixth form last June. The vast majority of people my age, like me, worked their way through GCSEs, A levels and diplomas of some sort and were then told last year to make the decision what to do this year and effectively- what to do for the most part of their life. This was most likely some degree at university that they and their parents, who they were probably anxious to move away from and be 'independent', liked the sound of. It is also usually the case, I have realised having asked many of these young people myself, that most 18 year olds that fit this description haven't thought any further than the next three years and still have absolutely no idea what they want to do with the rest of their life or how they will utilise their degree which often means very little, perhaps even nothing to them at all.
I am trying reasonably hard not to sound catty or to stereotype every young person who leaves school and heads straight to university. This is honourable. Many of whom have a set aspiration and career path which requires a certain degree which they have undoubtedly worked hard to attain grades for. This progression is logical, it makes sense. What doesn't make sense is the thousands fleeing the nest to university each year, many likely to be attracted to the student lifestyle rather than academic benefits, when fees are at a record high before living expenses are even considered.
I ask, what is the rush?
It seems to be feared by the general post-18 population that anything other than instant succession into further education will result in being deemed as a failure. Personally, I think this is bullshit. I'm open to accept that, as I fall into a different group of young people with different aspirations, the rush is justifiable to other 18 year olds. But for me, I just don't see it.
I do however differ slightly to this stereotype as my desired career path is even more uncertain. I decided when I was 16 that I wanted to be an actor. With a degree in acting, you are even LESS assured to a direct career than the majority of other courses. Like I say, I know that it is in no way easy in any occupation to ensure work immediately or soon after graduating. Please understand I am in NO way implying this.
But for acting, it just isn't the only way anymore. Well I assume it never has been but now, more than ever, headliners in all kinds of stage and screen are derived from other platforms- soaps and pop music talent shows and the like.
I am very sure about the fact that I would definitely like to train at drama school in the future. But I am also sure that at 18 (admittedly almost 19), I'm still not ready for that yet. Though this wasn't something I was always sure of. I went through the process myself of auditing for schools last year for entry September 2016 and strangely, what made me realise how NOT ready I was, was getting a place. Though I'm glad for the experience of the process for when the time eventually comes and I try again, I realised just how much I wanted to achieve outside of acting before I commit to degree level training and also how I needed to mature mentally first to cope with the intensity of a course in the field.
Another thing I realised was the type of degree I wanted to do. Having been introduced to acting through music and singing, the courses I auditioned for were musical theatre. These courses usually have a heavy focus on all aspects of performance and train their students with a heavy emphasis on pursuing a career in musical theatre. With my dance ability often leaving much to be desired, on a side note- my 'I'm not a dancer' stigma is something I'm officially, finally trying to get rid of, I also realised when I thought about it, that even though I love singing, I always approach a role from an actor's perspective and a career in all forms of drama intrigued me far more. So I researched the courses for straight acting and found them way more suited to the type of performer I am, or more importantly, the performer I aspire to be.
So. I'm not at drama school. Where am I now?
This is something that, as I am approaching the end of my first year away from education, I get asked and ask myself a LOT. Well strangely though still at home, I am at the most motivated I think I have ever been throughout the last few years of my life. Where I've often struggled from lack of said motivation and finally after the past year of not really being sure what to aim towards; I now have a set of solid focuses.
I want to travel.
I have been lucky enough in my first gap year to have seen some amazing places, early this year I visited Amsterdam with my boyfriend and discovered how easy it is to visit cultures in Europe and discover things close to home, even in just a weekend. Then I travelled to Bali, Indonesia in March and fell in love with the immensley different culture and the thrill of being so far away from home, on the other side of the world. And after all that, decided my primary focus was doing more of this so that is one thing I am to do before training.
I want to perform.
I often regard the last year in my mind as a time where I could have done more to gain acting experience but in retrospect I am happy with the diverse experience I have acquired over the past year and I have definitely challenged myself with the theatre I've been involved in. My first play 'Blue Stockings' was a mint experience which taught me a lot about the refined approach to drama where I couldn't hide behind a singing voice. I have also been involved in a Shakespearean Sonnet Walks on the streets of York and am currently rehearsing for a community project with York Theatre Royal about the Suffragettes, all things which are exposing me to people I can learn from as well as being a part of two of my favourite musicals; RENT and Legally Blonde last year, a stage where I feel far more comfortable but still, there has been a definite diversity. I aim to continue my own development pre-training before auditioning for schools again in the future.
I want to achieve.
Finally, there are so many things that I have said 'I'll do that this year' about, that I want to finally tick of my list. Some are small and maybe trivial like reading a certain book or watching a TV series, some are more important like writing a play and working on my photography, improving my dance. Most of the things on my list, I have talked a good deal about this year but it's only recently I am actually knuckling down and actually getting somewhere.
So, that's where I am and that's what I plan to do. This blog just seemed to be a good way of documenting all these things and probably is only fractionally a slightly manic attempt to justify myself and where I'm going and why I'm not already at drama school or university. Beacuse oddly, it's something I do feel I need to justify.
It seems daft after everything I've just said to admit that there is a self consciousness there about lack of progession or achievement and I guess all I really wanted to say at the start of this was; if you're thinking you may not be ready to commit to a degree or apprenticeship, or whatever it may be that will give your life some form of platform or restriction, just yet or you just need a break from eduction. Then don't.
You have time.
All I want to say is I haven't met one person yet that has regretted taking at least one year out. In fact I've met far more that didn't and regret the opposite. So please, take time in your decsions like I am, because I can already say that after one year, I'm in a far better place than I was 12 months ago.
So I'm going to attampt to blog these next few years and let's just see where I end up and what I end up achieving.
And with the two main focuses on my blog to be my two main aspirations- travel and theatre: Shakespeare's 'All the World's a Stage' seemed a good fit.