28 November 2015, 11.04pm.
Christmas musical weekend at my college. And I'm not there.
I see the pictures from my friends who are still there. I can almost smell the makeup and hairspray and plywood from the set, I can see the spotlights cutting through the artificial fog on the state-of-the-art set, I can still hear the voices of the school's best singers and performers, I can feel the angel robe draping over me, and I can still taste the apples we were provided with backstage.
How many times since I graduated have I dreamed about this place? Literally dreamed -- at least once a week I find myself back in the dorm hallway, overjoyed to be back. Invariably I find a friend or two and am disoriented when I find a freshman in a room that once held someone else. And then I wake up. Suddenly the nine-hour drive I thought was behind me is undone, and I'm still here in Alberta.
It wasn't school itself that I liked. I didn't exactly enjoy finishing out a ridiculously hectic semester by writing four papers in 36 hours. Oh sure, I loved some of the classes (all the performing ones, anyway -- musical theatre workshop and choir and dance and voice lessons), but mostly what I liked was performing. And in prairie Canada, that school was probably the best place to go to cut one's theatrical teeth. If I could go to that college without having to actually take history classes, that would almost be a dream come true -- something so good I might commit to never leaving.
So why am I not there this year? And why am I not sure if I'm going back next year?
First answer: money. College is not cheap. Especially when your $1800-a-semester meal plan is basically unusable to due the horrendous schedule and you end up spending even more money to buy food because you're not actually eating in the cafeteria.
Second answer: dance. Longtime readers know how much I love dance. I thought I could give it up -- and I committed to giving it up for two years when I went to college. Long story short, I didn't have to give it up entirely, but I did have to go from training at Advanced One to taking classes at Grade Three. And I lost a lot of stamina, a lot of technique, and a lot of the joy in my life. I've spent my year in Alberta so far overdosing on dance classes -- I'm currently taking the heaviest dance schedule I've ever attempted and I still feel so far behind my peers who kept training at the advanced level during my two-year absence. The stamina and technique and definitely the joy is back in my life, but the thing is, to return to college, to return to theatre, I have to give this up. Yes, there are some dance classes at the school, but the reality is that for all intents and purposes, I have to give up dance. I have to pick one or the other. I have to either go back to college, back to theatre and the life it infused into me after years of just being a shell and turn my back on dancing or I have to stay here, keep training at my actual skill level in dance and dying inside every time I see backstage pictures from the many performances that the school puts on every year.
I've been agonising over this decision ever since I realised this past semester how much I loved acting. And the pressure only got higher when the people around me, the people in my program and the people in my dorm started telling me that I should stay, that I should continue on for a Bachelor's degree in performing. I didn't know what to do with that. I'd never received such validation -- ever, in anything. Most of the time, people never notice me as a person, let alone any strengths I have.
And I'm going to end up hating myself, no matter what decision I make. It probably won't matter if I pick theatre or if I pick dance. I'm always going to be thinking, what if I had done the other thing...?