Circus Life – an introduction

When I was twenty-two years old I ran away with the circus.

One day, that will be the first line of my memoir, I think.[1] For two years and seven months I lived on the road, with no fixed address, travelled all over western Europe with a hundred and fifty other people who became my whole world.

It was a time in my life that changed me and defined me in ways that I’m still trying to understand more than a dozen years later. I hate goodbyes, and yet I’m far too good at them. I can’t stay in one place, in one job, for any length of time without getting restless, and yet I long for a home and a family and some stability. I’ve built a life that I’m happy with, and yet I still check the circus’ job listings on a weekly basis.

I’ve tried to sit down and write about those years of my life half a hundred times. I struggle because it’s too big, because there are too many digressions, too many explanations, too much backstory. How do I even start to turn those three years of my life inside out to let other people in? Do I start at the beginning? Start at the end and look back? How much information is too much information?

And, more crippling, there’s a part of me that feels like I don’t have a right to tell this story. I worry about what the people I shared those years with will think. That they’d scoff that I might have anything to say about our adventures. I worry that I disappeared from the collective memory and that that means I don’t get to lay claim to it.

Because, I’m an introvert. Clinically. Chronically. Any time one of those memes comes around Facebook – How introverted are you? or whatever – I tick every single box. I observe the world more than I interact with it. I internalize it. I need alone time at the end of the day to recharge. So when I was on tour, I didn’t go out partying as much as the others, or chat at the dinner table as much, or sit in the hotel bar after work as much. I wasn’t out to make a mark on the circus; I let it make its mark on me.

We used to say, ‘it takes a certain kind of person to go on tour,’ and that kind of person is usually pretty extroverted.

But… when I was twenty-two years old I ran away with the circus. I was paid to travel through Europe for nearly three years. I lived in a series of hotels, moved every six or eight weeks, picked up two languages, and packed my whole life into three suitcases. It was amazing, and adventurous, and lonely, and difficult, and exciting. And I have stories to tell.

The blog format frightens me a lot less than sitting down to craft a full-blown memoir. So for my half-a-hundred-and-first attempt, I’m going to tell some stories here. In bite-sized pieces. I’m going to begin at the beginning, and digress as much as I want to. Maybe a few people out there will be kind enough to tell me when I stagger over the line into too much information. And we’ll see how it goes.

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1. The eventual second memoir, about my time working in Canadian theatre, will be titled, “’Do You Have Your G-String On?’ And Other Tales from Backstage.” (BACK TO POST)

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