I think I originally chose this title for its alliteration. It’s a game I have been playing with myself, at least for the Pagan Blog Project, where I try to make every word in the title match that week’s letter. (I’ll just wait here while you go look; it’s obvious once you notice it.) I am not sure how much longer it will last, but it keeps me on my toes.
I came close to changing it though; choosing topics based on my ability to string alliterative words together must look a little puerile for what should be a serious subject. I was going to write about Plato instead and discuss a famous work of his which touches on the nature of divinity, but I realised that this would be cheating.
Instead, I am going to talk about myself again. I might even repeat myself a little, but that just helps to reinforce the important points. Contradicting myself is also possible, but that doesn’t necessarily make either conflicting statement false.
I’m a bard, you might remember. Maybe at some point before the end of the year, I will be an ovate, but don’t hold your breath. I’ve been a bard for almost five years…
I have worked some strange jobs, but generally they had certain things in common. Theatre, writing and game-design are probably obvious, but even the other ones touched on creative disciplines. When I worked in retail, it was selling games. When I left that job, I went to work in a castle. Oh yes, a castle, with history and stories and even a ghost or two.
Wherever I went, there were stories to tell. Even working in a shop, which I did to pay the bills and because my girlfriend of the time (now my wife) said I could move in with her once I found a job, I was selling games. I could talk to customers about the stories and the experiences they were buying, the new universes they would discover. I think at the back of my mind I had some targets or something, but I was mainly trying to introduce people to worlds they had not previously imagined.
This was not always true. In school, I excelled at mathematics and science. They wanted me to read chemistry at Oxford. I even started the application process, with some idea of biochemistry at a less-prestigious place as my back-up plan. In fact, from the moment I started grammar school, they were quite adamant that I was to be an academic success. They humoured my decision to study Latin, perhaps because it might be useful for Law or Medicine, but I was outright banned from even joining the drama club and I was told not to even ask to study music or art beyond the initial compulsory years.
I hated it.
I’m not sure I ever really understood that I was unhappy, but it was killing me. I was losing my mind. There was a Plan (oh yes, so definite it deserves a capital letter) and that was for me to use my brain, because I was not a practical person. I was awful at games and PE, could not saw a bit of wood straight, was so mechanically-inept that I could bend a drill-bit just by looking at it. Best to hand him a set of complex equations and let him do the job of a calculator.
Half-way through my A-levels, half-way through applying to Oxford, half-way to a nervous breakdown, I quit. I wandered into a drama-school on day-three of a three-day hangover and still managed to pass the audition. I handed in my books to the school that same day and walked out to be creative in spite of them.
I’m sure they laughed, decided that I was doing it out of pique, but I think that was the first time I had really made a decision about my future in six years that was not guided by that school.
People talk about callings as some kind of guiding force, something that will help you find the right track, but they forget something; you need to see a path before you can take it. For five years, I did not even experience my creative side. I had a calling that I never even knew about, because it was considered not to be in my best interests to explore it. What’s a kid with straight A-marks in maths and science going to get out of theatre? Why work for £5 a performance (the actual pay I once received) when you can earn a six-figure salary working out how to make ice-cream melt more slowly (an actual job a chemist might have) instead?
I was 17 when I first stepped onto a stage in front of a few hundred people. I danced a little, sold an egg and spoke a line of Shakespeare as part of a chorus. Six months later, I was attending drama-school in London. That is the power of having a calling. From discovering it to acting on it took six months.
You know the funny thing? I gained stamina and fitness, suddenly being able to run and jump and jog and carry heavy stuff without tiring. I suddenly found that I was able to saw a piece of wood straight without even trying. I could use power-tools confidently, no longer risking my life and damaging equipment.
Through the theatre, I found my faith too. Pagans abound among free-thinkers and creative people. The second I could think clearly about who I was, what I wanted from life, I discovered that I could also work out what I believed.
I suppose if there is a moral to this story, rambling as it is, I would say that deciding you know what is best for a child is the height of arrogance. Maybe also that I still have some unresolved childhood issues…