32 hours – give or take – after yesterday’s lecture on the expressive arts and I still cannot stop thinking about it. I knew this lecture would resonate with me particularly well as I have triple threat of qualifications in the form as a unit in Advanced Higher Voice, as well as in Higher Drama and Higher Dance. If you hadn’t gathered by now, musical theatre and the arts have been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember – however, this is no longer the case.
I can’t count all the times I’ve missed group dinners, left parties early, turned down going on dates with the excuse of ‘sorry, I have a rehearsal’ but I would not for a second take that back. Through being part of a theatre school, numerous dance teams/troupes and choirs, I gained such a strong sense of commitment, team work and most importantly to me, belonging.
Not knowing where I belong is something that has always created anxiety in my life and has set me back all too many times. As much as i appreciated my education and teachers – school was really not for me. I always considered myself weird in primary, but this didn’t bother me as I didn’t have much of a need for belonging then. I still had plenty friends and plenty of fun and that was enough for me. This flipped in high school however, when all my class from primary had been separated, and those who went to the same school separated in to smaller friend groups. I look back now and can see that set off a lot of stress that left me unsure as to where I fit in, and eventually resulted in my personality completely changing from a loud, confident little girl to an introverted and insecure teenager who wanted nothing more to fit in.
In this time, I also made a decision that I have since regretted to this day, of leaving dancing and very nearly leaving my theatre group too.
It wasn’t until being forced into dancing in third year PE, closely followed by being cast in the best role I have ever had to this day of Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. I realised that the arts were a release for me where for a couple of hours a day, I’m no longer Eilidh Carlisle, which I must admit can be quite emotionally draining at times. I had a chance to lose all my stresses and anxieties to both be someone else, as well as learn more about myself and who I am by challenging myself to reach within to portray complex characters.
I spend all this time saying this to really push the fact that having the arts available to children from a primary age is absolutely vital. From my experience, doing this improved my mental health, gave me a reason to improve myself, rebuilt my confidence and encourage me to really comprehend the complexity of humans and how we feel. I was always more than just lucky to have a wealth of opportunities in the arts through both primary and high school including getting to be a part of regional choirs, receiving tickets to fringe performances to review them after, dancing competitively and as part of a performance team for a top Edinburgh college programme – all of which was for free. The thought that others may not have these opportunities which both myself and the two students who spoke in the lecture found a sense of escapism in, truly does break my heart.
It has always been a goal of mine to ensure if I ever worked in a school with a lack of arts present, I would lobby to ensure they were present, much in the manner many of the teachers who inspire me did. With already having coaching qualifications, as well as delivering drama classes to primary age children over summer, I am confident I have the ability to one day do so.
On another note – this lecture has encouraged me to be open to myself and recognise that at this current moment in time, I am not in my best headspace at all. Before beginning university, I still engaged in all my theatre classes and therefore used that as an outlet which I no longer have. Although I am really struggling at the moment to so much as get out of bed and face the world, the lecture yesterday made me remember how much I got out of having those hobbies and tomorrow – I’ll be attending a dance class. I am using myself as evidence, that theatre is a tremendous resource that develops transferable skills and a permanent bond that can be utilised for the rest of your life. I fully and wholly urge anyone with a tie to theatre to reflect on theatre and how it affected you, as despite being known as the nippy theatre pal, I can hand on heart say being a part of something that feels more like family than just a hobby has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.