On Enthusiasm

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I’m a big believer in sharing feelings. As an actress, it is quite literally my job description to share feelings with the world on the daily. As a human person alive on Earth, I think it's nice to do so regardless of whether I’m getting paid for it or just chatting to a friend.
 

I’ve always been an open book, and a very enthusiastic one, too: I was my High School friends' laughing stock, and have been labeled crazy by more than one ex-boyfriend because of my… eagerness, shall we say. And while at seventeen, of course, it did feel like the worst thing in the world to be different and weird and too much, what the last five years gave me, besides a lot of UTIs and a chance to truly perfect my karaoke rendition of every single one of Celine Dion's songs, is perspective.
 

And now? I fucking love it.
 

I LOVE being an open book. I love getting excited about things, getting so excited that I start crying in the middle of London or jump around my room at 3AM (come on, doesn’t everyone do that?).

 

Loving something so much that your heart starts racing and your stomach jumps up to your throat, your brain short-circuits and you just want to JUMP UP AND DOWN LIKE A FOOL? It’s the best feeling. Be it a book, a song, a film, a boy, a girl, a new friend, a puppy, an upcoming trip -anything works, as long as it makes you feel alive.


It’s a feeling I wish on everyone I love -but lately, I’ve been feeling like maybe some people I love don’t wish it on me. Not in a mean way, necessarily, just in a ‘I don't really get what you're saying nor am I interested in learning more about this thing that makes you happy' way. Which, while not mean spirited, still hurts like a bitch. 

 

I thought I’d left the "you’re so weird, Anna" years behind, which is why I didn’t really know how to react when, over the past couple of months, I started feeling like the odd one out again. Again. Five years on, still the weirdo with the big hair who gets too attached and cares too much, feels too much, laughs too hard. And I’m sick of it.


I don’t understand it, and I don’t want anything to do with it. Maybe it’s a British thing (nothing against Britain, obviously, which I love -just a note on stereotypically British reticence), which is why I’ve always felt at home in crazy-sister America, where no one will spare a second glance if they spot you jumping up and down the street in excitement -or even better, they might join you. And look, I know, America has a lot of faults. So do I, for that matter. But at least we’re trying. We might fail while we're at it but at least we're trying. And we’ll be the weird ones, we’ll be the odd ones out, but fuck it, who the hell cares.

 

Seventeen-year-old me? She would have cried a lot and obsessively studied the cool-girl’s moves to try and change herself, try to be quieter, more complacent, more appealing. But here’s the funny thing: twenty-three-year-old me couldn’t care less.

 

Twenty-three-year-old me is going to be as loud as she wants, and as enthusiastic as she feels like being. She’s going to talk about the books she’s reading, and the songs she can’t stop singing, and the films that have changed her life. She’s going to keep gushing about cute boybanders and that one cute puppy she saw on her way to work, all the while dramatically singing along to Celine Dion.

 

She’s done trying to appease you. She’s done trying to change you and your cold, cold ways. Wondering if she’s being too much if she should stay quiet, if she should bite her tongue, if she should pretend this song doesn’t make her want to dance when it really, really does.

 

So many songs make me wanna dance, and I want to dance to all of them. I want to talk about what inspires you, what infuriates you, what makes you FEEL something, anything. I want to spend time getting to know you and loving every minute of it, not waking up one day and realizing I never knew you at all. 


Thing is, our time is limited. And how we spend it matters. For every bad date I leave wishing I'd stayed home watching Friends re-runs, and for every coffee date with people I haven't seen in years, whom I have nothing in common with anymore, I could have been doing creative work, playing with a puppy, or eating the best pizza of my life.

 

For every conversation I have that leaves me wondering if the person I'm talking to cares at all about what I'm saying -or worse, leaves me feeling belittled, patronized and uninspired- I could instead talk to someone who ENCOURAGES, MOTIVATES and EMPOWERS me.

 

Someone who might not necessarily like the same stuff I like, but will love that I'm excited about said stuff. And in return, I'll listen to them telling me about what they love, because isn't that what we're here to do? 

 

To love people and things and places and puppies (but especially puppies), as much and as hard as we can. To cry at movies that touch our hearts and be the last ones to leave the theatre. To laugh really loudly and jump up and down and dance in the street and share these experiences with as many likeminded people as we can. Because that's when the magic happens. 


When we share feelings, instead of simply feeling them, we contribute to creating more art and inspiring more people than we would just going, 'uh, I kinda like this' alone in our bedrooms.

 

Fangirls are the ultimate proof of the power of enthusiasm and LOVING STUFF SO MUCH YOU WANT TO TELL THE WORLD ABOUT IT. Yes, they get a bad rep (wonder why, uh? Funny how it's all good and dandy when it's men caring about football, but as soon as a teenage girl likes a boy with a floppy haircut it's the end of the fucking world as we know it) but they are the prime and sometimes sole driving force behind multi-million dollar industries, providing just as many jobs. And their voices are loud, so loud you can't ignore them: which is why you all know about Justin Bieber and that guy from Twilight but nobody knows anything about sports unless they're really into sports.

 

That doesn't mean you have to like Justin Bieber, just like I don't have to like sports. What it does mean is that if your twitter bio reads 'A bit of madness is key' but you make fun of people for being too much, and make them feel guilty and apologetic about their enthusiasm, then you might not be that #mad (UGH) at all. Really, you're just an asshole.

On success, and choosing a life for ourselves

Lara Angelil Portrait

The first time someone told me “You’re going to be very successful”, I was eight years old. All big hair and pink velvet trousers, I was a loud, chatty and sometimes bratty overachiever with a heart of gold and a lot of plans for her future: from princess to teacher to queen of the world, and occasionally, President. Of course.

 

I wasn’t shy nor silent about my plans, either, which is why adults would always take a shine to me. They’d give me a big smile together with a pat on the back and repeat, “You’ll go far, kid”. I would smile back and store the moment in my ‘happy thoughts’ mental folder, where one after the other they’d start accumulating. But the more people told me how great my life was going to be, the less it began to feel like a friendly auspice, and the more it did a weight on my shoulders. By the time I graduated High School I’d lost myself under a pile of responsibilities and too-high expectations I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to meet, and I loved but simultaneously hated the idea of success.

 

Success no longer felt like a shiny gold thing to strive for, but instead a burden weighing me down. Suddenly I was no longer sure I even wanted to be successful, but I had no clue what else I could be since all I’d been told for the better part of a decade was that I was going to “make it” -whatever that meant. I tried to sabotage myself and my scholastic career, then when that didn’t work, tried the opposite strategy: aimed higher than everyone else, higher than I realistically should have, higher than anyone I know. And while I don’t consider myself by any means a failure of a (young) woman, I am just not as successful as everyone thought I would be.

 

Which prompts the question: who knows better? Is it the people looking in from the outside, the ones who will never know my feelings, struggles or path? Is it them, with their futile advice and uninspired opinions?

 

Or maybe, maybe I do. Am I not the only one who can decide what success should look like to me?

 

Whether I want to be the CEO of my own company by the time I’m 30, or move to Spain to grow tomatoes, is my own choice. I am the only one who knows what will make me happier -and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a CEO, we need to start asking ourselves whether that’s something we actually want, or if we’ve just been conditioned to believe we do.

 

Having been born and raised in the western world in a post-capitalist society, I do not know what it feels like to grow up without hearing every single day of my  life that ‘if you want something badly enough, and work hard for it, you will get it’ -which is a great idea in theory but works to my disadvantage if maybe, just maybe, I don’t happen to want what everybody else wants.

 

My grandfather is still convinced that simply graduating from University -any University- is enough to qualify for a great number of the highest-paying and most competitive jobs in the country: not out of naivety nor stupidity, but because when he was my age, that was in fact the way things worked. Of course, that’s not the case anymore. We all want more, we want better, we need to have it all. We have raised the bar so high that landing a nice, secure job is now practically considered the bottom of the ladder, a starting point from which to start climbing up to the top. Higher, always higher.

 

Sleep deprivation, impostor syndrome and stress-induced illnesses are rampant, while less and less of us consider themselves truly happy -and no one even really knows where we’re going with any of it! What happens when we’re all multi-millionaire CEOs with the perfect Instagram feed, but overworked to the point of needing hospitalization?

 

We need to stop idolizing successful but possibly miserable millionaires (American politics, I’m looking at you), and instead start looking at the great number of happy people doing perhaps small but beautiful, important work. We need to ask ourselves what it is that we truly want to dedicate our lives to, and dig deep into the why behind that. What that why is, and where it comes from.

 

Because hey, if it turns out you do really want to be CEO of a company, all the better. But if you should find that what your heart desires is to grow tomatoes in Spain, please, allow yourself to start accepting that, too. And maybe book that flight. 

To the ends of the earth

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I’d been eighteen for less than three days when I first said it out loud. I’d been thinking it for a long time, but eighteen is when it came to a head and I was forced to lay my cards out on the open. Saying this is it, this is why, can’t you see? This is why I’m leaving. Why I can’t stay.

 

I think it must have always been at the back of my mind, a voice I never managed to shut up completely -half for lack of trying and half because eighteen is when the voices get louder, not weaker. 

 

I couldn’t tell you when it started -maybe when a High School teacher suggested I pick up Chinese as it would have been ‘a terrific advantage to my introduction to the job market’, and I had to push my nails deep into my thighs to stop myself from screaming. Could have been earlier, when I sang louder and moved faster and laughed harder than all the other kids at my school recital because I’ve always wanted to make an impression. Maybe somewhere in between, when my name was on all the boys’ lips even though I wasn’t the prettiest or the smartest or even the one who’d let them win at class games but because I was loud, loud, loud, and they had no choice but to remember me. 

 

Somewhere along the line, recognition turned to validation and I wanted more, more, I wanted it all. I was powerful because I was the most, and I fed off it, I thrived off it, clutched to it like a lifeline and forgot how to live without it. Then I said it out loud. 

 

Three days into it, eighteen was bad until it got worse. Eighteen was slammed doors and skipped meals and loud headphones and heartache like I'd never known before. It was a single phrase, uttered between gritted teeth then repeated louder just to see my mother cry. “I’d rather die than be like you. Do you hear that? I’d rather die than be ordinary, live a wasted life”. In the words of Avril Lavigne, anything but ordinary please -and say what you want but if there’s one thing Avril Lavigne knows how to do, that’s teenage angst. 

 

Teenage angst, which is in great part what my outburst was about. But also: fear of being anonymous, being forgotten, being one of many. Interchangeable. If not her, a hundred others just like her. Fear of everything and nothing, of not leaving a mark, of empty days and drunken weekends and the monotony of tick tick tick, blink and you’ve missed it. My heart shrunk and twisted on itself, screaming not if I get a say in this. Not on my watch.

 

So I did. I left and I tried and I lived by that, anything but ordinary please. 

 

Then I had a change of heart. 

 

Last week, I read an essay by Zosia Mamet about success, in which she says: ‘We are so obsessed with "making it" these days we've lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms. Having a cup of coffee, reading the paper, and heading to work isn't enough—that's settling, that's giving in, that's letting them win. You have to wake up, have a cup of coffee, conquer France, bake a perfect cake, take a boxing class, and figure out how you are going to get that corner office or become district supervisor, while also looking damn sexy—but not too sexy, because cleavage is degrading—all before lunchtime.’

 

Safe to say it resonated. Deep, deep within, it struck a chord.

 

Then I went to Brighton, where rhythms are slower and smiles kinder, warm like the sun rays I soaked up sitting alone by the beach one afternoon. And I went to Italy, where rhythms are even slower and whatever had been worrying me in London suddenly seemed so insignificant, as small and artificial as all city life troubles do when examined from a solitary bench overlooking a lake in the north of Italy, swans and dogs making small noises in the water while German tourists take pictures of their gelatos. 

 

Suddenly I was hit with a thought: what happens if I get there and nothing’s the way I dreamed it up? What happens then, when I’ve used up all my cards and every trick up my sleeve, but the promised land just won’t turn to gold. When there’s no promised land at all. 

 

A change of heart, maybe in plans. Maybe.

 

No Bullshit Career Talk With An Actress

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This post originally appeared on BiancaBass.com

I spent most of my teenage years sucking my stomach in. 

 

I wish that was a metaphor for something, and maybe it is, but mostly, it’s just a sad, literal truth. As a result of several years of semi-secret bulimia, my favorite thing to ask myself as a teenager was, “Do I look thin enough? What if I suck in some more?”. 

 

Then, the summer I was 17, my wonderful mother found an acting course in Paris and sent me off to be my dramatic and absurd self surrounded by people who wouldn’t find that weird. Halfway through the course, I also had a realization: during a scene, I was so captivated by everything going on and the energy around me that I forgot to suck my stomach in. I forgot to care.

 

I think that was the moment I decided this was it for me.

 

Fast forward a couple of years and I am a professional, working actress living in London, where I went to drama school and met my incredible agent. Happy ending, end of story. HA! I wish. Then again, where would the fun be in that?

 

Let me tell you something about being a “professional, working actress”: it’s one hell of a ride. 

 

Fantastic, and rewarding, and sometimes makes you feel like you’re on top of the world in a way that I think only creative professions can. It’s such a beautiful high to get lost in the art of it. 

 

On the other hand you might go weeks, or even months without an audition, or a job. And this is true for me now, at the start of my career, just like it is for award-winning actors. The beauty of the age we live in lies in the fact that more and more actors are able to get ahead (and stay sane) by creating their own work and publishing it online -but that doesn’t always negate the hurt and disappointment that come with a phone that just won’t ring. No matter how “good” or proactive you might be, it will get to you. 

 

That’s where a strong support system comes in, and why that’s so vital for anyone but artists in particular -artists are self-destructive. If you don’t have amazing friends on speed dial who will pick you up from the floor (literally) when auditions are scarce and you’re this close to losing it… you will 100% lose it. And artists are also quite dramatic, so chances are it won’t be pretty.

 

It also won’t be easy. Not at all. 

 

Hundreds of people graduate from drama schools in the UK every year. Five years is the ‘average’ amount of time people stick it out for, before either ‘making it big’ or giving up. There were 19 graduates in my year and I’m one of the 6 people who have been working since we left. I’m doing good. And still, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cried until 3AM because it’s all just so damn hard.  

 

Want to know the closest I’ve come to throwing in the towel? 

 

This past March, I’d just left my first agent and auditions were suddenly flowing left right and centre: I was booking jobs, I was on top of the world. So of course, that was when my skin decided to go crazy on me for no apparent reason (yay, hormones!) -the day before I started shooting my first short film. Of course. 

 

Armed with 15 layers of makeup and a great fake smile, I showed up on set thinking “I’m a professional, I can do this. Focus on the work, it’s gonna be fine.” but that quickly changed when I overheard the producer and director saying they wished they’d cast a prettier girl, ‘cause me being this ugly was gonna ruin the entire shoot. Ouch. 

 

I still can’t look at that footage without my stomach knotting up -even though my skin cleared up and that producer waited 6 months to pay me, so really, screw them. 

 

Even so: they’re not lying when they say you need to have the thickest skin of all thick skins to survive in this business. People will be mean, and horrible, and you’ll get rejected and you’ll want to quit. If you’re in it for the fame, it’s really not worth it, I promise you.

 

If you’re doing it for yourself, though? If you want it so badly that the prospect of working in a tiny, smelly theatre in the middle of nowhere fills you with joy because it might not be much but it’s acting, and that’s enough? If you’re doing it for that 17 year old girl who loved acting so much that she kind of forgot she had an eating disorder? Well, then, keep going. 

 

Keep trying, and trying, and failing, and crying, until good things start happening. And then some more. 

 

When you don't feel at home but Mom's isn't home either

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"Sometimes you’re 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and suddenly you just don’t feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home but “Mom’s” probably wouldn’t feel like home anymore either. You can’t remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now. The song is over. The coffee’s done."

 

I first read these words what feels like a million years ago, and I remember a sharp pain in my chest and thinking ‘ah, this tells me something’, but I was wrong. 

I hadn’t felt like this, not truly, not until now.

 

Until this morning, when I woke up in my childhood room bed and sipped lukewarm tea from my favorite red mug and cuddled my dogs and everything was the same until it was all different.

It’s a strange feeling, and it doesn’t sit right. 

 

I shut my eyes and I so desperately want to pretend I’m 12 again, but there’s lines around my eyes now and a heavy weight in my stomach and I am not 12. I will never be 12 again.

 

I will turn 22 in February and my childhood room doesn’t feel mine anymore. There’s boxes full of things I’ve never seen and shelves filled with books I’ve never read. My diaries are still in the grey box on the top where I left them at 19, but I know what’s going to happen if I start going through them, and I’m not quite ready just yet. 

 

My tea is cold now, but I keep drinking it because I need to feel something besides this paralysing stupor.

This is not my home anymore, and it’s not my city. 

London is my city, but I don’t have a home there either. 

 

Somewhere in between here and there is the last three years of my life, and in between now and the next three is the choices I make once I finish this tea. And that… that’s terrifying. 

 

Will three years be enough to forget this version of myself, too? Will I recognise her? Will I be proud of her?

I hope I can. I hope they’ll be the right choices. I hope I’ll find a home that can feel like one. I hope 2018-me will have a lot more things figured out than I do right now, but above all, I hope she remembers how she got there.

 

I don’t want to feel like a stranger in my own skin, I don’t want to forget about twentytwo the way I seemed to have sixteen. I want to remember the journey, I want to honour it. 

 

Three years from now and three years after that, until there’s a wrinkle for every memory and I hope I can remember every single one. 

 

The poem at the start is by Kalyn RoseAnne, Sometimes you're 23.