8am: Eyes snapped open wide, instantly awake. I blinked hard twice then sprung straight up as if I was Macaulay Culkin realising I had made my family disappear.
This is my last full day and night here!
Tomorrow Mum will be coming to collect me and I will get to see my family in beautiful, currently Covid free New Zealand!
I will get to hug Mum and my big sister and nieces. I will be free to walk around the streets again fear free, mask free.
I wrestled the blankets off me with legs and my feet then jumped out of my bed with an instant spring in my step. I felt like I was eleven years-old again waking up on the eve of Christmas.
I opened the blinds! There was blue sky and the sun was shining bright with, I swear, a happy face printed on it! I’m so excited I can barely contain myself.
My friend is standing there quietly. I can tell he is sad that tomorrow I will be leaving him. “Thank you for your loyalty tree”, I said. “I’m sorry I must leave you.”
His leaves wave to me in the wind.
New faces, new half faces, are walking back and forth, back and forth past the window. They arrived last night from the UK. ‘It goes fast guys’, I thought to them.
9.00am ‘knock, knock!’ The nurses are here already! I slept in. “Any symptoms Amy?” No, I’m all good! She took my temperature, 36.6, and gave me a fresh mask for the day.
I called the restaurant to order my coffee and quickly went to collect it. I had quite a lot of work to get done today. I wanted to finish everything so I could have all week to be free with my family.
I had three scripts to read, a few pages to write and one scene to work on, acting wise. I also had some boring tax stuff that I needed to finish. I also needed to start packing!
I tried to sit still and read these pages but I couldn’t concentrate. I could barely contain myself.
I put my earbuds in and grabbed my skipping rope and ran outside.
“Hi Amy!”, Emma from The Navy said. “You must be on your way out now?” She said as I was on my way outside. Brandon was also there next to her signing people in and out.
“ Yes,” I said ecstatic. “Tomorrow!”
Beaming under my mask, I ran outside and began to do sets of 30 second skipping cycles to burn all of this crazy energy.
There was a couple nearby on the grass area playing lawn bowls with giant rocks and pebbles they had collected from the garden. I watched them play as I skipped. In between cycles instead of resting I had to dance. I had too much energy.
After my workout I went back inside and looked around the chaotic mess in my room. I will start packing up tonight I thought.
The day went by quickly. I read some incredible stories from fellow writers in my group. So much talent. I write a few thoughts down that I think may potentially be helpful and then decide to go outside again before I read the next one. Before jumping into a new world, I will get some fresh air.
Outside was busy. The UFC fighters were training again, shuffling around in circles making air jabs. The mother/daughter power walking/talking duo were not walking/talking but were soaking in some sun, playing a board came outside on the ledge by my window. There was a blonde girl with lots of cool piercings wearing pink overalls and dr martin boots holding a large yellow bag, walking around in circles talking on the phone. There were a few new smokers and a couple more newbies that I didn’t recognise. The three families from my flight were sitting on the ledge outside my room, soaking in the sun, talking from a distance. Like me, I could tell that they were buzzing. The kids were running around, climbing the small tree in the yard, laughing, playing. They too felt like it was christmas tomorrow.
The little blonde girl who lost the frisbee was there, she waved to me. ‘Hi’, she said happily.
I waved back and said ‘Hi’ under my mask.
We had all received our negative test results the day before. They let us know via text message. But if we test positive they, the ministry of health, come and tell us in person and they remove us to a new facility where we would stay for approximately 28 or more days.
But everyone from my flight had tested negative on day 3 and day 11 so everyone was happy and smiling. I waved to them as I walked past and sat further along where I could lean against the wall.
The sun had already started to make its journey down. The light was piercing through the black bars of the fence that separated us from the outside world. Long thick black shadows beamed across the lawn and crept up onto our faces making us look even more strange and like inmates to the human’s in the outside world.
“It’s ok” I thought. “Tomorrow we will be on the other side”. I sat down and decided to practice my harmonica.
I clicked on my Spotify and typed in Billy Joel, The Piano Man. I was getting more confident so I wanted to see if I could play along the song.
I pressed play and the beautiful piano intro began…. 123, 123…
I took off my mask, held the harmonica to my lips and did my best to play along with Mr Joel. I was actually very impressed that I could keep up! This is so fun I thought. I love this new found hobby of mine.
A nice older man walked past with his mask on. He looked at me and clapped and cheered. “ Well done!”, he said. “Thanks!”
I laughed and blushed and then continued to play proudly. I was happy he enjoyed it.
I thought about my family of musicians. My great grandfather played the guitar. He was a ukulele teacher and romantically serenaded my great grandmother Hazel who was a ballerina and toured Australia in a dance troupe.
My Uncle Barry is also a really great musician. He can play jazz on the piano and can sing. Maybe we could have a jam I thought. I remembered watching my Uncle Barry ride into his school assembly on a motorbike at Auckland Boys Grammar. He was the High School Dean there and used to perform in his band and sing Mick Jagger to his students.
My uncle Trevor is also a really good guitar player and can play the harmonica.
So it’s in the family I guess.
I learned piano from an early age so it was easy enough for me to read music which also helped. I often thought about getting back into piano lessons. I played from when I was about 8 years old to 17. I graduated all my exams with good marks but I never really was that amazing at practical. I was distracted by my love for dance so couldn’t keep up with my practice and I was better at reading the music.
I was one of those kids determined to be good at everything. My mum drove me around from gymnastics, to dancing, to piano, to saxophone, to drama classes, to tennis, to netball, to swimming, to aerobics. I also had guitar lessons at one point.
I thought about how much of a pain that must have been and how supportive mum and dad have always been to me. How they let me try out new things to figure out what I enjoyed the most and were flexible if I changed lanes. They listened to me and let me lead the way down my own path, always watching and gently encouraging me at each turn.
I’m looking forward to showing Mum this new hobby that I can add to my list. Lol. I played for a little longer then decided that I would read.
I turned the page and read a paragraph where Michelle Obama describes a meeting that she had in her final year of highschool with her guidance counselor. Michelle had told her that she intended on going to Princeton for college and the guidance counselor had just replied with a cold ‘I don’t think you are Princeton material”. This resulted in a deep set feeling of ‘not being enough’. She then talks about ‘failure being a feeling long before a result; and that’s exactly what her ‘adviser’ was planting.’
I put the book down and remembered my 7th form meeting with my career advisor at Avondale College.
This paragraph had struck a chord. It’s unbelievable how reading someone’s specific journey brings up so much. Universality through specificity. Miranda Harcourt always taught me that at Drama School and it’s something I’ve always thought about and remembered while writing.
Anyway, my ‘Career Advisor’ at Avondale College, a woman who had never met me before, asked me what I wanted to do for a job when I left school and where I intended to study.
I told her what I had known for a long time.
‘I’m going to be an actress and I want to go to drama school. I have planned to go to WPAC in Wellington until I am old enough to audition for Toi Whakaari, The NZ drama school. I’ve already begun my application process’ I said surely. Not really wanting or needing her help.
This woman who had never spoken to me in my life and knew nothing about me, looked up at me and sniggered. Laughed at me. She took off her glasses and leaned in. “Amy, Toi Whakaari is a very hard school to get into and it’s extremely hard to make a living as an actress in New Zealand. Only very few make it.”
Failure long before a result. I’m not enough. Not enough.
I told her that I am going to audition anyway and I intend to move to America.
She laughed again and said ‘Ok well you can give it a go but maybe start thinking about going to AUT and training to be a dance teacher’ I was confused at why she thought that I wanted to do that and why that was going to be a more lucrative option for me.
I looked her in the eye and I fiercely thought “I’ll show you bitch.’
This became my ongoing mantra in life. My engine. That voice in my head was my drive, my stubborn determination thinking that I had something to prove to her and also to myself. I’ll show you.
But instead I politely said, ‘ Ok. Thank you.’ I began my search for the perfect contrasting audition monologues which in the end, worked.
Now I get that being an actress is really fucking hard, and definelty not the norm in NZ and she was just probably saving me years of rejection, being broke and panic attacks but I really felt like her words planted that fertile seed of doubt in my stomach. That seed would grow and grow, some seasons it would be out of control and would strangle me and other seasons I would have to trim, groom and maintain it so it wouldn’t take over the rest of the house. And yes she was right, it hasn’t been easy. AT ALL. But I don’t think being a dance teacher, or owning my own dance studio or any job is easy. Life isn’t easy. So I’m glad that my stubborn ass stuck to my guns as I have had the most incredible adventures and met the most incredible people and I love my life and my job, both here and in America.
I’ll show you. Hmmm. I think this voice isn’t so loud these days.
I continued to read the rest of the chapter. Oh “I’ll show you” also became Michelle’s mantra.
I know that my experience is different from Michelle’s. For one my ‘advisor’ wasn’t judging me based on the color of my skin. I understand my privilege. But my experience of feeling ‘less then’ was similar and I remember it just as clearly as she does.
I put the book down and looked out through the fence into the outside world.
Words have so much power. The words we use shape people, they shape who we are. That woman knew absolutely nothing about me. I had never seen her in my life. She knew nothing about my ability to act, my drive, my determination. When I really think about it, it is incredibly strange that she was going to help me decide on my future. The funny thing is, I actually wanted to do it even more after she told me I couldn’t. So her advice had the opposite effect.
It was 5pm and the same people I saw everyday were walking that had finished work. The same nice man with grey hair and wearing a black jacket, carrying his brown leather satchel walked past the fence. He looked at me and smiled warmly again. He looks nice I thought as I smiled back underneath my mask. Most other people walk past and either look at us angrily, or avoid eye contact. But he always looks at us with kind eyes, smiling warmly.
The sun was almost down so I decided to go back inside and begin to pack.
Today flew past.
Outside my hotel room door was a little love letter from the hotel.
Well actually it was just a formal letter explaining the exit strategy for tomorrow morning. I will have an exit interview and one final health check. My mum will wait outside inside her car and they will call me on the hotel room phone to tell me she is here.
Oh my god. I can not wait.
I went back inside, put some music on and started organising my room. It had become chaotic over the last three days.
I lifted my suitcase onto my bed and started folding all of my clothes that were half sprawled out all over the floor and half hung neatly in my closet.
I organised all of my books, my notebooks, my lights, my trip pod into a big bag and packed everything up.
It felt strange to be packing. Like I was moving out. I’ve almost gotten used to being here. But I’m definitely excited and ready to leave.
I purposefully hung my good pair of jeans, a nice turtle neck and winter coat in the closet ready for my departure. I wanted to dress nice tomorrow. It was a special occasion. I was to be out in the real world again, mask free.
I know this is going to sound cheesy but I kind of feel like this is some sort of fresh start. Like I am being reborn into the world bursting with gratitude and open to new opportunities
Dance party song of the day: Edge of Seventeen, Stevie Nicks