After 12 months away, 10 of which onboard a cruise ship, it can be easy to forget what real life is like back at home. Home - where you leave your loved ones to go about their lives everyday. Everyday the same. Except without you.
When I first got the contract offer back in November 2017, I cried. I cried because I wanted the job, however realising that it meant leaving some pretty special people in my life, one of which being my supportive and ever understanding fiancée. She was the one who gave me the nudge and told me to go for it. So it is to her I give thanks, because if she had not done that, I may never have taken that leap of faith and wouldn't have had one of the best experiences of my life.
After rehearsals in Miami for 2 months, I signed on to the Royal Caribbean cruise liner the Anthem of the Seas. For 10 months I had the honour and privilege to perform with the best cast I have ever worked with, not just in terms of individual talent but also how we worked as an ensemble. Yet more importantly, these colleagues became friends and soon became family. I joined the ship with my colleagues as friends... but I also made friends whilst aboard... and by the time I left... all these friends were my ship family.
The toughest thing about working on ships is leaving people. Its different to when you leave home, because you leave home expecting to see those people again. On a ship, especially if you make friends with people from other parts of the globe, you have to prepare yourself to say (as a good friend of mine put it) "Bye Forever".
I have never felt this close to a cast before... maybe because of the length of time spent together, or maybe because there was just something special about this group of people, put together in such a wonderfully fortuitous and serendipitous way. We were made up of 3 Scottish, 2 American, 1 Canadian, 3 Aussies, 12 English, 1 Welsh, 1 Maltese and 1 Hungarian. And we just... fit. It just worked.
So fast forward nearly 12 months since the start of the contract. I'm back at home, writing this, wondering where on Earth the time went? Was I really gone for so long? Will I ever see some of these wonderful humans again? I hold out hope... And sometimes that hope falters and I shed a little tear or two.
Driving a car is like riding a bike (apparently... I never learned... more on that another time), and home is where I left it, a constant that hadn't changed when after a year, I had.
I feel a sense of loss that likes of which I've never felt after completing contract before. I am mourning the end of an incredible job; Playing 'Khashoggi' - a wickedly fun role in the hit West End musical 'WE WILL ROCK YOU'. Lamenting the end of an amazing adventure; I got to spend quite a bit of time in the Caribbean, New England, Canada and Bermuda, Probably could have got more of a tan but hey-ho. Grieving the absence of close friends; It's still hard to come to terms with the fact I may never see some of these truly inspirational people again, inside the cast and out.
That... and it's kinda weird to lay in a bed that isn't undulating slightly from the swell of the Atlantic Ocean.