A year ago today, I said goodbye to 17 years spent in education. Last Friday, I went along to my school's ceremony for this year's graduates, and felt... funny.
Out of place. A little lost.
It was great to see everyone again, and the graduates did some truly amazing work -but as I watched them on the big screen, and thought back to when it was my final films up there, I couldn't help but feel like there was something missing. Like I was "supposed to" be somewhere different, have done better things with my time in the 365 days that had passed since then.
The only problem, you see, is that 365 days are not a lot.
They might seem like it, and yes, a lot of things can happen in a year -but in some cases, and in the entertainment industry in particular, a year means nothing. A year after you've graduated, you're basically still a kid. You've learned some things, and you've made some choices, and you've done some growing up -little by little. But those stories you read, about people just "stumbling" upon success one day? There's years of hard work and preparation behind that. Years.
Some might be luckier than others -but then again, what does luck mean in this context? Is it fame, success, money? Not for me, I don't think so. Fame can swallow you up. And if you haven't put in the years of hard work, it will be even harder to stay afloat and not let it break you. So yes, luck. But also, we each have our own way of navigating life, and while shooting straight to the top can happen, it is generally incredibly rare.
And that, I needed to be reminded of. On Friday, after watching my friends up on the big screen and congratulating them on the official first day of their career, I took a moment to be alone and remember to be gentle with myself. To be patient. To let myself live.
To allow myself to feel the good and the bad and the strange, because the more I yearn for some kind of "finish line", some special day when I can feel like I've figured life out, the more I'll miss all these fun bits in between.
I haven't figured it out. I haven't figured out a single thing.
A year after graduation, I am still basically a kid.
But I've taken little, little steps towards my goal. I've loved fiercely, and I've cried my eyes out. I've laughed loudly, and heartily, and I've lived a little.
So here's my checklist. Because I needed to write it, and I needed to cry about it, and now that I've done both maybe I can let it out into the world.
A year on, I'm a lost kid.
But I'm a million times happier than I was this time last year, and that's progress, isn't it?
Jobs I’ve had as a professional actress: 10. Some were great, some not so great, some made me hide in the bathroom and cry five minutes before calling action. Some made me cross paths with inspiring people, amazing friends, and fuelled me enough to keep going forward when things got tough. Some are still painful to think about, and I'm desperately trying to forget. I wouldn’t take back a single one.
Auditions I've had: around 25, maybe 30. My heart still threatens to jump out of my chest every time I walk into the room, but I got better at dealing with it. I got better at taking every audition as a chance to play, learn, better myself and not beat myself up about the outcome. The thing about it is that, yeah, it's tough -but it's so much fun. If I waste my time in the room being scared, I'll miss out on all the fun. So, that's what I'm working on. Baby steps.
Treated myself to post-good-audition sushi: literally every single time.
Friends I have on speed-dial for my regular post-bad-audition-freakout: 3. Thank you for listening, helping, getting me to stop crying in the middle of a supermarket, bringing me wine, and generally being amazing. You know who you are.
Inexplicably naive but endearingly hopeful emails to a super powerful casting director asking him to cast me in something I really wanted to be in but knew very well I wasn't right for at all: 1. I regret nothing.
Headshots I took and subsequently cried over, because how the hell does one choose between so many shots of the same identical face: 3700.
Agents I've had: 2.
Breakups I’ve gone through: 1.
Publications I’ve written for: 5 (Thought Catalog, She Did What She Wanted, Poets Unlimited, Dear Damsels, Soul Anatomy). From the girl who said she'd never write again, I am so proud of this one. I have no idea what it means, or where it will lead me, but sometimes just putting yourself out there is enough. Again, baby steps are all that matters.
Times I cried on top of Primrose Hill listening to John Mayer: a million and one, according to my very scientific calculations. It's always worth it, though, when I come home with a lighter heart and a happy song in my head.
Houses I’ve lived in: 4. One was a bad, bad move, and made me more miserable than it had any right to. One was my parents' house, for two months, when I needed to learn how to breathe again. One was the most wonderful friend helping me put the pieces back together when I didn't know where to turn. One is home, here, now.
Times I took the first flight home and cried in my parent’s arms until I could breathe again: 5.
Times it helped: every single one.
Pages I wrote of an apology letter, to the boy who broke my heart when I was seventeen and whom I blamed for every single one of my troubles ever since: 8. Will I ever send it? Probably not. Did it make me feel better? Hell yeah.
Volume of the squeal I let out after booking my very first flight to Los Angeles all on my own, in decibels: 100+
Boys I kissed: a handful. None of them turned into anything more, and that's the part I like the most about it. I needed the time for myself, and I needed to give myself a chance to be okay before rushing into anything I'd regret. 22 is me trying to be wise, apparently.
People who made my heart grow a thousand sizes bigger and helped me be okay again: a lot, and I'm so fucking grateful for every single one of them. Some are my closest friends, some are new friends I made (hi, Internet, you're the best. thank you for introducing me to awesome people and generally making my life better), and some probably don't even know they had a part in it. Some will surely have forgotten my name by now -but I remember them, and if I'm not a complete mess right now I owe it to all of them.
Pizzas I regret eating: none of them. Italy is good for the soul.
Pounds I gained: a few, judging from how my jeans don’t fit anymore.
Amount I care: literally zero.
Times I went running: 32. This time last year, I didn't even own running shoes, and I'd never run more than the two minutes necessary to run after the bus & still miss it. One day in March I'd just been crying a lot, and I felt incredibly lost. In a moment of clarity, I told myself: if you can do one thing today, one thing that makes you feel even just a little better, you will not have wasted today. Just go for a jog, 10 minutes, 20 max, and it'll be enough. I ended up running for an hour and crying tears of happiness on my way home, and that's how I figured I couldn't stop there.
Running shoes I now own: 3.
Times I hashtagged #adulting as a joke after tweeting about something ridiculous I'd done proving I am not, in fact, an adult: so many that it's not even funny anymore.
Times I considered giving it all up and getting an office job / a business degree / a cat / all of the above: too many to count. But I keep coming back here, and damnit, that's got to count for something. If I could go back, I'd still choose this every time. What "this" means, I don't really know. A creative life. A life that lets me go at my own pace, and figure it out along the way. A life of acting, because that's the one thing I'll always love more than anything. But also new things, or old things I've re-discovered: a life of writing, and singing, and playing the piano for nobody but myself, and maybe someday directing, or producing, or all of the above. Patience, baby lion. Little steps.
Times I cried over Harry Styles becoming an actor: you really, honestly, don’t wanna know the answer to this one.