Becoming A Landlubber

Becoming A Landlubber

Getting involved in Pirates of Penzance was meant to be my chance to experience student life. Not just the work side of it, with lectures and essays and supervisions, but the extra-curricular things too: to get involved in amateur dramatics and operetta in a way that I won’t easily be able to do in the future.

It turns out that my body is not about that life.

Look, I’m aware that as a student at pretty much the best university in the country, I don’t have time to do everything. But sometimes it feels like I don’t have time to do anything. I don’t go clubbing — I don’t drink and that whole scene is just not my thing. My main activity other than work is sleeping, which occupies way too much of my time, and I’m only really an active member of the ballet club and the ceilidh band. It’s not like I have a packed social life.

So I got involved in Pirates, but about halfway through rehearsals it became apparent that I don’t have the energy.

I am exhausted right now. I’ve been sleeping badly and at weird times — yesterday, I fell asleep fully dressed at 9:30pm, only to wake up at 1am and spend three hours reading to try and get myself back to sleep. I’ve been dealing with fatigue that kept me in bed most of the day on Wednesday, and while I’m having blood tests next week, I’m not sure they’re going to find anything to explain it.

black bags
Today’s hot new accessory is MASSIVE BAGS UNDER MY EYES

I’ve had a cold perpetually since I arrived at uni. My wisdom teeth are coming through and aggravating my jaw which is in turn wreaking havoc on my (stupidly sensitive) ears. My lower back clicks slightly out of place every time I lie down (or is that it going back into place? I can’t even tell). I need new glasses, because my vision is getting worse.

As ever when I want to do something, my health has decided that no, I won’t be able to take part.

This evening, I emailed the director of Pirates of Penzance and explained that I was dropping out. I’ve offered to help with backstage, e.g. costumes — my experience of cosplay on a budget might help there. And honestly? I think that’s probably more my thing when it comes to theatre. I like dance shows, because I love dancing and also I have to go to ballet anyway (physio’s orders), so it doesn’t take extra time. But being on stage and singing and talking is less my deal.

While I love the camaraderie of shows and how easy it is to make friends in rehearsals, I’m aware that with my inconsistent health, an actor’s life is not for me. I’m a backstage kind of person, and if that means sourcing costumes for charity shops or sewing up rips in a French flag I accidentally stole (wait… that already happened), I’ll do it.

I’m disappointed that I can’t take part, but I’m also relieved. I’m relatively on top of my work at the moment, but if I’d had to do all those rehearsals, that would have changed very quickly. This way, I’ve got a chance of keeping ahead of deadlines, and that takes a huge weight off my shoulders. I also don’t have to schedule my doctors’ appointments, physio sessions, and hours lying in bed around rehearsals (which is what I was doing before).

Maybe I’ll even have the energy to socialise with a few friends.

I don’t want my university experience to always be a case of prioritising my work above everything else, but much like the rest of my life, it does involve prioritising my health. I don’t have the spoons to spare to do a show. I just don’t. If I’m going to spend two hours in a studio, it’d better be doing ballet, because at least that’s helping my body.

I’m writing this to remind myself that this was my choice. Could I have pushed through and just about survived to the end of the run without utterly failing my degree? Yes, of course I could. I’d have been exhausted, and I might have missed a deadline or two, but I’d have managed it. Was that a good idea? No. So I decided not to try: I didn’t think putting myself through that would actually create any good memories, and that seemed to defeat the point.

I’ll find a way to make my university experience a well-rounded one, that involves creative and social activities as well as work. Just not in a way that forces me to cut back on sleep, or any of those other crucial activities.

So yeah, I’m disappointed, but I know it’s for the best, and I’m going to spend the next two weeks looking after myself and doing whatever bits and pieces I can to help out with the show in a way that won’t exhaust me. I think I’ve made the right decision.

Oh, and I guess I’ll be carrying on with NaNoWriMo as well. I’m on my fifth short story of the month, #6 in my ‘Folk Stories’ series, and I’m almost out of folk songs to write about…

3 thoughts on “Becoming A Landlubber

  1. Have you raised this with your tutor? While universities put study ahead of other things, they mostly don’t want that to be the only thing undergrads do; so they might be able to provide assistance in fitting both work and relaxation with your specific health situation.

    1. I’ve talked to a few people about it. My Director of Studies (who is responsible for my academics) isn’t the most sympathetic, and my tutor (responsible for my welfare) only has a certain amount of sway over the actual work situation. In the end, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done. The work either gets done or it doesn’t, and hey, it’s Cambridge. If I couldn’t cope with the workload I should have gone somewhere else, right? (That was sarcasm. Nowhere else even offers my course.) :/

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