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.

In repair

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So, the last couple of months have been tough.

Can't get out of bed tough, like, ignoring calls and texts and deadlines and meals tough. And while I love escaping from my problems as much as anyone, this time I'm very aware that they're just gonna be waiting for me at Heathrow with open arms, looming and cruel and snarky. Oh and it's probably gonna be raining, too. 

 

But.

 

But, there's something about big skies and shimmering lights, or are those stars, or are they your eyes, something about walking for miles every day and crying whenever you damn feel like it and drinking sangria at a table for one and meeting strangers in taxis and singing along to your favorite songs together with 6000 people on a hill under the stars swaying and swaying and swaying 'til you gotta hold each other lest you all go down. 

 

And go down I did. 

 

I spent July pretending I was fine, skipping lunch and dinner in favor of an entire box of chocolate cookies at one in the morning. Every morning.

I went home and kissed my parents and brother and dogs a lot, and thought maybe, the worst was over.

At the end of the month, I dialed a number I’d been avoiding for longer than I care to admit, and thought fuck, the worst hasn’t even begun.

 

I spent August working working working pretending pretending pretending dodging questions invites emails worried looks and frantic phone calls from my mother. I took down pictures from my bedroom walls and bought a lot of plants in an effort to feel like an adult, but they died within two weeks because life just, doesn’t work like that. 

 

I cried in a tiny pharmacy in Kentish Town and a convenience store in Dalston and on Embankment bridge and at Waterloo station at rush hour where a woman asked if I wanted a hug, which only made me cry harder but in retrospect might have been the nicest thing a Londoner has ever said to me. 

 

I went home again because my parents’ ultimatum was “either you do or we’re getting the first plane to you” and because twenty-three might not be that young but it might just be young enough for parents to still know best. I locked my phone in a drawer for ten days and read a lot of books, ate more pizza than anybody with a dairy intolerance ever should, and smiled in pictures for the first time in a while. 

 

At some point I turned my phone back on and asked for help. I asked anyone who would have me, and I tried my damn hardest to actually listen, for once in my life, to accept the help I so desperately needed. 

 

One friend suggested I dive back in the madness, one that I go back to university, one that I move home, and one offered me a job. 

 

I got on a plane to California instead.

 

Before I left, my mother said to look for signs wherever I could find them, so I did. I looked for one in Silver Lake and Malibu, on Wilshire and on top of the Hollywood Hills, on boys’ lips and in songs and in friends’ warm hugs, in a sketchy vintage store where I found a Mick Jagger vinyl I’d wanted for months and in overspilling American portions of what could be described as “comfort” but definitely not food.

 

I watched the sun set in a blur of blue orange purple fireworks and cried a little, fell down the Griffith Observatory stairs, twice, got lost more times than I can count, walked out of a couple of pilates classes, sang, well, screamed every word to What Makes You Beautiful surrounded by teenage girls having the time of their lives, cried some more, mumbled something unintelligible anytime I got asked “what do you do?”, and decided that I like making signs up as I go along more than I do looking for them. 

 

It’s an Aquarius thing. 

 

It’s also a stubbornness thing -the stubbornness I’ve inherited from my father and two out of four grandparents, how we just can’t accept that sometimes you try and you try and you plan and it’s all for nothing, because when you think you’ve finally got it down life shuffles all the cards and finds a way to bring you right back to start. 

 

So from that start you’re gonna have to come up with a new plan, and fail at that too, and fall on your ass so many times that you’re never gonna want to get up again. Until you do.

 

And like I said, go down I did. 

 

But I'm also luckier than most, surrounded by so much love it makes my heart burst, and looking down at the city of angels with supernovas in my eyes as my plane takes off towards rainy Heathrow, right and wrong turns, real life. 

 

It sings back to me, you're in repair. Not together, but you're getting there.

 

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.

 

Arms Wide Open

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This post was first published on Dear Damsels.
 

We wake up early on our last day, and fittingly, it’s a Monday. It’s also uncharacteristically grey and cloudy, which might be San Diego’s way of saying Don’t go. I like to think so.

While she’s in the kitchen, I sneak into her bedroom to leave a couple of boxes of tea on her nightstand, together with her favourite chocolate digestives – because having a friend who lives in London has got to have some perks – but then she goes back in to look for a necklace and my surprise is ruined. It’s the thought that counts, I tell myself.

We make a gallon of coffee and drink it in the car. We listen to a podcast I haven’t heard of, complain about traffic, stop to get petrol. My coffee’s cold by the time we pull into the station, so time must have passed even though it feels like we only woke up minutes ago. Maybe I’m still dreaming. 
 

She helps me get my luggage out of the trunk, and we walk to the platform in silence. It’s sunny now. Don’t go.
 

We hug but don’t speak. Touch but don’t move. Then:
 

‘Come back soon, yeah?’ she says.
 

Yes, I nod.
 

‘Thanks for the visit. Love you always,’ she adds.
 

Miss you already, I think. Or maybe I say it. I think sometimes with us, there’s not really a difference. And then I blink and she’s gone, so I stand on the platform with my eyes on the car park and my heart in my throat.
 

We’re lucky, I think while I gulp and try to hold back tears. We’re lucky to have this, something good, and we’re lucky we met because the way we did is so improbable that it could easily not have happened, and then we’d have been robbed of moments like these. Years like these. 

We’re lucky, I tell myself. I just fucking hate goodbyes.
 

‘There’s nothing quite like sisterhood, is there?’
 

I turn in the direction of the voice and find a woman’s eyes on me. She’s sitting on the bench by the vending machine, shielding from the sun, and looks like the kind of grandmother you’d love to have over for a drink, or two; a warm, kind smile on her face and a big red poncho covering her shoulders. 

‘You ladies have something special. It’s beautiful,’ she says.
 

I smile a big smile, full of teeth and teary eyes, and she smiles back like we’re sharing secrets. 

‘I’m going to see my daughter in LA, and from there flying to New York to visit my sister. We’re very close, me and her, very close.’ Her hands move with her mouth, her long silver strands are in her face, in front of her eyes, still she smiles big. Secrets. ‘Are you going to LA, too?’
 

‘Yeah,’ I nod. ‘Going back, actually, I was just visiting.’
 

‘So you live out there, uh?’ she asks.

‘No, I— I live in London.’ 
 

‘Did you have a good time?’
 

‘It was wonderful.’ 
 

‘What was your favourite part?’ She looks at me like she wants to know, like she’s actually interested, and I haven’t seen that in a while; not in London. 
 

I guess for all its faults and cars and false bravado, America’s still a place where people ask questions like they want to know the answers. Funny.
 

My favourite part?



When we hiked while listening to a 2010 playlist and laughed ’cause we still knew all the words to that one Owl City song. When her parents had us over for dinner and made pizza from scratch because, ‘It’s in your honour, Anna’. When we saw a movie under the stars, and I met her friends and ate a burrito so big it took me 45 minutes to finish it but by the time I did I was smiling so wide you wouldn’t even notice that I’d spilled sauce everywhere and got pieces of rice between my teeth. When we sat on her couch and watched The Office all afternoon, because real friends are the ones you can spend an afternoon doing nothing with, and still have the time of your lives.
 

‘We saw some seals. That was really cool,’ is what I settle on. Then, ‘But I think— I think just being here was my favourite part. She always comes to me, you know? This was different.’ 
 

‘It’s very different. I love it over here. I’ve lived out East, too, but I never . . . I guess it depends on what you like. What you need. It can be everything, you know. Do you know what I mean?’
 

I nod. I do. It is everything.

‘What’s your name, dear?’ she asks, eyes wide open. 
 

‘Anna.’
 

‘Oh, my grandmother’s name was Anna, too! She was so beautiful. Like you, you’re very beautiful.’
 

I smile another big smile. I knew it was coming. This is California, after all.
 

Welcome home.

When The Big One Hits

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Still I dreamt of garnering all rave reviews

Just believably a little north of God's own truth

He's a national treasure now, and here's the proof

In the form of his major label debut

A little less human with each release

Closing the gap between the mask and me

 

So I never learned to play the lead guitar

I always more preferred the speaking parts

Besides there's always someone willing to

Fill up the spaces that I couldn't use

Nonetheless, I've been practicing my whole life

Washing dishes, playing drums, and getting by

Until I figured, if I'm here then I just might

Conceal my lack of skill here in the spotlights

Maya, the mother of illusions, a beard, and I"

 

-Father John Misty

 

This is how we slip away

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First, it’s a missed phone call. You’re distracted, on your way somewhere, it’s rush hour and raining and it’s only a missed phone call. But you stare at the screen until it stops ringing, and only then look away. You will call back. 

 

You forget. 

 

Nothing’s wrong, is the thing. You have a lot on your mind, it wasn’t intentional. Why would it be?

 

You’re busy. 

 

Next, you reschedule a coffee date because something came up, but the truth is you woke up in a foul mood and just want to stay in bed and cry a lot. It’s not her, it’s not, it’s just -life. 

 

Raincheck? you ask. Sure, she says. 

 

But you don’t set a date, and neither does she, and it doesn’t happen.

 

Nothing’s wrong. 

 

You leave town for a day, then for a week, and send a picture of a sunset because you think she’d like that. She replies with a smiley face, and it’s fine. It is.

 

You start saying things like, I think she went to some party last weekend, and, I guess she has a new boyfriend. You’ve deleted Instagram but check her profile on the web version every day, which is something you wish they’d have warned you you’d start doing because, wow. 

 

You wince when you see new pictures with new friends in new places laughing at new jokes but maybe that’s the whole point of Instagram, really, so you let it slide. It doesn’t mean anything anyway.

 

You get mean and jealous and stroppy, and it’s ugly. You hate the words coming out of your mouth but it’s too loud in your head to stay silent. You repeat it doesn’t hurt enough times that people start believing you.

 

You hear about her big promotion and wish you could text but it’s been so long you wouldn’t know what to say. You hear about her breakup and wish you could call but you still hang up after the first ring. 

 

Nothing’s wrong but everything’s on fire.

 

Someone asks you about her weeks later and you catch yourself in time, but it’s a close call. You smile a good smile and say she’s doing fine, and it’s believable, really, it is. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you didn’t miss her at all. 

 

You find a note she wrote on a napkin months ago, tucked between the pages of a book you haven’t picked up in a while, and it falls out as soon as you open it but your breath doesn’t hitch, it doesn’t. You’re just surprised, that’s all.

 

You’re my best friend and I love you a lot, the note says.

 

Your breath doesn’t hitch. It doesn’t.

How It Should Have Ended

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On their last night before the party 

she locked herself in the changing room

ate four arancinis one after the other,

like an animal, 

heart racing and cheese dripping,

and her hands losing their grip,

her legs shaking with the force of it, 

and she cried.

 

She cried tears of desperation

for the months she’d spent pretending

for the weeks she’d tried to hide it;

hidden like oh my, 

look at this mess 

look they’ve made a spectacle

now.

 

Things would’ve been different, 

if she’d heard him come in.

 

Her dress was itching 

and she tried to make a joke,

when he put his hand on her leg

and the arancinis threatened to come up.

 

Things would have been different.

 

She ran out on the street but November’s a real bitch

and she almost froze to death trying to shove two fingers down her throat.

 

Not very glamorous, 

but that was their goodbye;

that was how it died

with a hiss and a clash,

in the clamour of the night

in the cold,

in silence.

 

 

 

November Love

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It started as a fantasy, like all the best stories do. It started with a promise, long nights conversations / summer breeze sweeping us up in temptation.

I had a dream we’d move away, before my chest started aching / before your song started fainting / and your hands lost their touch while you played and I laughed ‘cause I was young but I wasn’t stupid.

It ended when it came to be the realest thing I’ve ever felt, because I’ve moved two cities and lived five lives but I think loving you was still the bravest thing I’ve ever done. 

There was a red light blinking in the distance and there was me playing a different song, counting mistakes / but when the tide washed up you hadn’t changed much anyway. Much like I couldn’t tear my eyes away, while you were looking over, much like I dreamed of a different life. What’s a little pain, anyway, what’s ripping your soul out, anyway. 

I got in the tub filled with lukewarm water and thought back on bike rides and goodbyes, not forever, but for a night / how you held my hand under the table, and asked to be excused ‘cause we were being so obvious. 

You picked me up and I laughed like a kid, I laughed in their faces, ‘cause more than anything I wanted them to see. The way your fingers digged into my naked thighs, the way your brother cheered as we ran through the crowd, freezing and soaked and young and so in love we couldn’t breathe right.

You gave me your sweater because I was shaking, one you’d found in a forgotten drawer / and I say I’ve forgotten but still I hide in the bathroom, sit on the floor, and think about the fabric on my skin, your lips on my skin, that knock on the door when you were gonna ask me to stay / and I smile like the actress I told you I’d be, I grit my teeth and I think, the sun can’t touch me here.

//

I have a different name, now, one you haven’t heard of. I move to different rhythms, move to foreign cities, find myself pretending. Sometimes for a living, sometimes for the hell of it. 

There’s arms ‘round my shoulders and fingers in my hair. There’s eyes on me now, there’s an ache in my chest / persistent, like it wants me to listen. 

He takes my hand and drags me through the crowd, through the mass of bodies stuck together by sweat, and music, and the fact that we’re all out here looking for something, staying for nothing, crying for everything. 

It's hurried, and frenzied, and there’s nothing romantic / about it. But it’s real and it’s happening and it’s better than the three before him.  

I’ve changed my tune, too, you wouldn’t believe. 

I breathe in and out a couple of times, and I start shivering because my legs are cold and my face exposed. One, two, three buttons. Let’s make it all up, pretend we were out there all along, there in the lights where the magic happens. 

“Are you staying?” He beams, bright and hopeful.

“I’m going.” I say, before I can regret it.

“Let me walk you out. Strange city, wouldn’t want you to get lost.” 

I tell him, “You don’t sound like you’re from here yourself.”

“Seattle, moved a few years ago.” A pause. Then, “It’s the place to be, isn’t it?”

Four, five, six buttons. This is where the magic happens.

“I guess it is. Maybe next time I’ll see you on the big screen.”

Something flashes across his eyes, and I almost ask about it. Almost. 

“When was the last time you had an epiphany?”, you asked all those years ago.

I think I knew all along. Even though it hurt, even though I couldn’t see, even though she was staring right at me / while you kissed the side of my face and I prayed for closure when all I wanted was another day.

You felt like butterflies in my veins. And home, you felt like home.

Love Don't Wait In Line

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There’s a story I read all these years ago, about a traveler who roams and roams and can’t find somewhere to call home. A boy who’s lost his place and is looking for something, is looking for meaning, is reaching for sky.

 

He walks nameless streets and kisses muddy lips / he wonders if this all there is, he wishes for a better start or an arrow or a heart or the kind of love that makes the stars burn / like he wishes he could. 

 

He falls hard and fast and runs faster; he hopes maybe running gets easier once you start forgetting what you’re running from, and isn't that the whole point? Maybe it gets harder once people stop waiting for you to come home.

 

It wasn’t a happy story, no, but it was a special one. 

 

I sat in my pyjamas at the desk in my old childhood room, with the red chair turned towards the window and a flower on top, and I cried over a boy who’d lost his mind, because I am the runner I am the sinner I am the frail hopeful half / I am the boy.

 

It's funny how long we spent trying, how we walked every road and looked in every corner; but the answer is never that well hidden really / it's in front of your eyes really. 

 

But running is easy and roaming is too, once you find your footing, you start to recognize the signs; you can always tell once you’ve kissed the last pair of lips before it’s night again and you’re on a flight again and there’s weeping and breaking and people calling but you’re only looking, you’re only wishing. 

 

Wishing it’d get easier, maybe / wishing you could stay.

 

*

 

I don’t know where my boy is now, or how his story ended, but I hope he found what he was looking for. I hope his days don’t keep him up at night and that maybe one time there will be a right time.

 

I wish him the best, I do.

 

I still sing his song, I do.

 

I still carry him with me, in case he changes course, and I wait for the sign / that this world might be changing, but he’s already changed his mind.

 

I hope his fire burns just as bright and bold and beautiful, and that he isn’t as lonely as he seems from my side of the glass.

 

It’s a fragile glass, and I think the boy is itching to break free. It’s a glass he spent a long time building, and a longer time behind, so it’s hard to forgive and forget and let the pieces fall to the ground in a mess of color and noise and icy blue eyes reminding you to stay. But sometimes that’s all we can do. 

 

Sink or swim. 

 

Fight or fly, like my boy did. Like I wish I had / I wish I could / I wish I will.

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. 

 

Comfort and Gold

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“I found this necklace in a shop in Morocco, where tourists weren’t allowed but we made friends with the owner so he let me buy it anyway ‘cause I said it was for my sister. I think he knew you were the right person for it.”

 

My brother and I sit sprawled on the floor next to the fireplace, even though it’s September and it really isn’t that cold. But it's coziness we're looking for, it's comfort found in closeness and in tea in the kitchen at 4pm and the kind of hugs that are reserved for family. 

 

Three years ago I wouldn't have allowed myself to admit I miss it, but these days it's all I talk about. Home home home home. Take me home and never let me miss my mother's embrace again, for breathing feels a little easier here from the quiet of my childhood bedroom.

There’s a new painting in my old room because a thing that happens when you leave home is that your parents re-decorate the whole place. It’s yellow and white and there’s a pink flower growing in the middle and I think it stands for a new beginning. Dad is listening to Einaudi and the dogs are alternating between licking his leg and my feet, where it tickles the most. His hand reaches out between songs and he caresses my arm, kisses my forehead. 

 

Is it good to be home home, he asks.

 

I’ve lived here for 19 years and I’ve never felt more at peace with this whole damn country than I do right at this moment, I think.

 

One of the dogs moves away from our legs and scoots closer to my chest, tries to lick my face. I act like I’m not gonna let her for a whole 5 seconds, before caving and turning her over so she has free access to my face while I kiss her neck. 

 

It’s a good afternoon.

Things that make me worse, things that make me better

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Things that make me worse:

 

Being away from people I love.

Waking up at 4AM to eat a three-course meal.

January.

Crying in the shower.

Pretending.

Forgetting to drink enough water.

Comparing myself to others.

Fitness blogs.

Chaos and crowds.

Googling 'Kendall Jenner bikini pics'.

Staring at my thighs as if they're not part of my body.

Too much makeup.

Peer pressure.

Fear of failure.

Sinking my nails into my arms when I cry.

Waking up sad on a sunny, summer day.

Instagram.

Bad kisses.

Cold, windy days.

Cynics.

Boys who turn out to be assholes.

Girls who turn out to be assholes.

Dumbing myself down.

Shutting myself off.

Saint Saens.

Leaving crumbs all over the bed.

Convincing myself that someone doesn't like me.

Not doing enough.

Photoshop.

Regrets.

Bad auditions. 

Overworking myself.

Looking up the girl who made my life miserable in high school on Facebook.

Staying at the party even though I want to go home.

Things that make me better:

Eating cereal in bed.

Watching re-runs of Friends.

Asking for help.

Walking to the top of Primrose Hill and feeling very, very tiny.

My dogs.

Going for a long walk by the river.

Warm soup.

Writing it all out until it's not just in my head anymore.

Home (the place).

Home (the song).

Running in the rain.

Calling my mom/dad to have a good cry.

Calling my friends to have a good cry.

Good kisses.

Changing out of my pyjamas.

Smelling my favorite perfume.

February.

Dancing at 3AM by myself in my room.

Hampstead.

Dessert.

Extra portions of dessert.

Re-watching 'Wish I Was Here'.

My brother.

Shutting off my computer.

Christmas.

Singing in the shower.

Favourite books.

Making lists.

Fairy lights.

Ice cream cocktails.

Acknowledging the pain and giving it the respect it deserves.

Hot baths with candles and a jazz playlist.

Cleaning my room.

Tea and honey.

Waterstones.

Old diaries and boxes filled with memories.

John Mayer.

Re-reading JK Rowling's Harvard speech about failure.

Good poetry.

Bad poetry.

My happy music playlist.

Getting up from the floor.

Graduation: one year on

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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.

This is how you start over

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The first thing you notice is how green his eyes are. The second is that you’ve seen him before, and you’ve had the same thought, and your heart skipped a beat last time, too. Old habits.

 

Then you’ll notice how you gravitate towards him, and that your lips tilt into a smile every time he looks in your direction. Which is often. You steal a glance and he returns it, you bump your hip and he takes your hand. It works.

 

Next comes a revelation: that maybe, maybe this is how it was meant to be all along. Maybe this is why it didn’t work out with that other guy, and the one before him. Are you crazy, lady, you only just met. But we didn’t, this was months in the making. Don’t you see?

It’s the blind leading the blind.

The fifth thing you notice is how you can’t stop looking, touching, laughing, wishing. How you feel like a teenager again, and for the first time in a long time, that feels like a good thing. Maybe it’s a new start. Smile for the cameras, here comes the good bit.

 

You can’t stop fixing your hair,  your ankle, your mascara. You angle your body the right way and look out into the crowd in what you hope is a wistful pose, a grainy black and white shot with a cigarette and rain and jazz playing in the background. It’s not.

 

Your hair is flat and there’s black smudges all around your eyes because your mascara is running out and has gone lumpy and your feet hurt and probably smell a bit, too. But you’re happy. So damn happy.

 

You go for the candle instead of the straw and you laugh, you laugh, you laugh.  He laughs with you.

 

Looks like your brain to mouth filter took an extended vacation, because none of what you’re saying makes any sense and all of it falls into the “things not to say to an attractive guy” category but hey, you only live once. His eyes sparkle. You’re doing good, kid.

 

The next thing you notice is how you never want this to end. 

 

You say goodbye and he says he’ll call. You almost get the wrong train, you almost forget where you are. Your legs are shaky and your head feels fuzzy, maybe you’ve had one too many drinks. Maybe you didn’t think this through.

 

Are you gonna wake up tomorrow and wish you’d never talked to him at all, wish you’d said you weren’t ready? Would you have meant it?

 

You go home to an empty house. You spend 25 minutes taking off your makeup because your hands are useless when you’re drunk so you sit on the floor while you do it, while you wait. Wait for what? Water, you need water.

 

You’re suddenly cold and maybe it’s the alcohol in your system or maybe you’ve been sitting on the floor for too long but it’s not a good sign and it’s not a good start and you panic. You’re terrified and shaking and this was a bad idea.

 

Maybe you’re not ready. Maybe you’ll sit on the floor a little longer.

 

Yesterday he asked what your type was and if anyone at the bar had caught your eye. You tripped on your words and mumbled something about bankers, and how this is not your kind of bar. “So, hipsters, then? You like them weird?” It took all of your willpower not to blurt out, I just like you. I don’t know what to do about it, but I like you.

 

What if you’ll never be ready?

Get up from the floor. Stop waiting for the perfect guy, the perfect night, or the perfect moment, and savour the taste and the touch and the feeling instead. Savour the moment. Kiss boys under streetlights, drink strawberry cocktails, get on the wrong train. Miss the train completely. Hide in the toilet, laugh 'til it hurts. Get yourself together, and then get yourself out there. Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle.

Summer drinks and fuzzy feelings

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He pokes my side and passes me another bottle. I turn away and smile into the basket where we keep the oranges, where I think he won't see (he will).

 

I think maybe this is a chance. I think of an Arctic Monkeys song. I think of the oranges. My friend gives me one look and laughs as she pours some more drinks.

 

“Anna, ma tu sempre così te li trovi!” Anna, you always fall for the same kind of guys.

 

She’s seen this scene before. Different set, different time, different clothes. Same me, same longing. It’s a strange kind of longing. Something more than just an itch but less than a real need. There’s no need, just want.

 

Like I wanted someone to break my heart in November. Like I wanted someone to remind me what butterflies feel like. Like I tried to ignore it, avoid it, and then deny it, until I went home one night and got in bed with my clothes on, and I couldn't breathe right, and I wanted to punch something, or run away. And it was over.

 

This is short-lived, and less painful. This is good. This is what it's supposed to feel like. 

 

A bar, a garden, oranges. 

I think of that song again.I can't keep the smile off my face. I walk back to the bar and the guy behind the counter gives me a look, are you okay? I don't know, sir. See, I'm in too deep. I'm not used to this anymore, I've forgotten what it does to me. And I want to remember.

 

I've got this stupid smile on my face and my heart aches for something more. I want to remember touches. Tender, light, almost a whisper. Just to prove I can.

 

He flirts with the girl in the leather jacket and it's suddenly November again, and Curly is sitting opposite me but there's another girl in his lap and I'm talking about greek philosophers, and why am I talking about greek philosophers? His hand on her leg, her fingers tracing his jaw.

It's November again and I'm desperate and lonely and I don't want to be there.  

 

I smell oranges.

 

I'm back. It's May and I'm light and I'm free, Curly's long gone. 

 

I bump into him on my way back. I touch his back just to see myself do it, because I want to know I can. It's carefree and fun and something I need. Just to feel something.

 

I'm never gonna see him again and somehow that soothes me, it makes me feel safe. It eliminates the possibility of running into him in Liverpool Street when I'm wearing leggings and no makeup, so at least that's different from last time. 

 

He calls me over and motions to the drink behind the bar.

"Look, I kept that for you."

"Thank you."

"It's a strong one."

A pause. I take a sip. It's a good one.

"Your name is Anna, isn't it?"

I nod. He already knew that.

My friend laughs again, yells "Sei impossible! Tutti così!" You're impossible, they're always like this! She makes another drink. I take another sip from mine. Then another.

Back in November I'd told her I could never be with Curly because he's the kind of guy who crushes your soul and spits you out before you've even had a chance to figure out what's going on.

It's been six months and that doesn't scare me anymore, it almost makes me laugh.

It's almost what I want.

 

We hug and say goodbye at the bus stop, and I watch him turn the corner and disappear from sight. I look up at the sky, and it's still bright blue. The sun is still out. 

It's late on a Saturday evening in May and the sun is still out. I am light and free and glorious, and November is just a distant memory, something I can't relate to anymore. Now I smell oranges and I feel butterflies, and I can't remember the last time I wanted someone to break my heart. I am anew.

I notice a group of teenagers staring, and then laughing. I instinctively think I must have something on my back. On my jeans. Maybe my shoelaces are untied. Oh god, did I have something on my face the whole time I was talking to him? One of them comes up to me and says, "Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude but... Why are you so happy?" His friends laugh. I look puzzled. "I don't mean it in a bad way, I just haven't seen anyone look that happy in a long time. You were walking around with this big smile, looking like you just won the lottery." A pause. "Did you win the lottery?

I laugh. You know what, kid? Maybe I did. 

Forget Saint-Saens

This is my fantasy, if I want it. If I take it for what it is, and look at the bigger picture instead of trying to get the details right, this can be it.

I tell myself I didn’t get what I wanted because my blue-eyed-guy isn’t here to play for me and I’m 5 pounds heavier than I was at seventeen and I’m a bit of a mess at being an adult, but I’m not. I haven’t fucked up as much as I think I have, and I refuse to be too scared to see that I got exactly what I’ve always wished for. I’m gonna call it what it is, which is happiness.

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The one who runs away

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“Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind?

You should change your soul, nor your sky. 

Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you.” 

Seneca, Epistles 1-65

 

I did a lot of translating from Latin in high school, and although I’ve forgotten most of it, this one maxim is still burned at the forefront of my mind, as if I’d read it yesterday for the first time.

 

The actual first time I read it was in High School, and I remember how my friends all laughed because oh Anna, isn’t this funny, oh Anna, doesn’t this remind you of someone. 

 

Me, it reminds me of me. 

 

I’m the One Who Runs Away.

 

When things get tough my animal instinct has always been to run for the hills. To give in to the voices in my head when they get too loud -the ones that likes to think life will be so much easier once I’ll find another town where people won’t know my name and restart from scratch. 

When things go right, sometimes I get so scared that running for the hills is the only option.

 

There was the Australian stunt that went wrong in 2011 and the New York one that went off without a hitch in 2012. There’s my parents’ house in that small town by the lake where nobody knows my face and nothing ever happens, which has been my life saviour since 2009. 

 

There’s that time I packed my bags at 19 and moved to London to be a new person, if we want to get technical. That counts, too.

 

I run away because it’s what I do best, and because staying is difficult when you’ve gone your whole life wearing your heart on your sleeve and you suddenly decide you want it back. If everyone knows your colours, they’ll always hold a piece of you. If nobody does, well. You’re safe.

 

You settle in, get a new mirror, light a few candles, pick new routines. Make new friends, change your hair, and change your accent, too. You sing new songs and name your favourite spots in the city and there’s big clouds coming but you’re safe. 

 

There’s a restlessness in your bones and the routine got old. You dream of different lands and play with paper airplanes, the sun doesn’t feel as warm and words acquire a different taste. Small and quiet and almost whispering, you tell yourself you know this feeling, you’ve felt this feeling. There’s big clouds coming and you’re not safe anymore.

 

I’m not safe. I’ve not been safe for a while now, but I’m trying to change my ways, you see. I ran away in winter because I had to, but I came back. 

I didn’t have anything but five brown boxes to come back to, but I did because I’m trying this thing called being a grownup these days and I’m told that facing life is what grownups do. 

It’s spring now, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. 

 

My feet are itching and my colours are showing, bit by tiny bit like I always knew they would. I don’t know what to do with my hands and I don’t know how to stop them from booking that flight. There’s an impatience in my eyes and I’d like to think it’s new but it’s the same me I’ve always known. It’s the me from the pictures, the one who runs away. 

 

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a sign that better things are on their way, if maybe leaving a life behind is really all it takes to get better. If I could make it work.

But I remember my high school friends laughing at me and Seneca laughing right along with them, and I remember Australia and I know what I’m trying to do.

 

I still have those boxes in the back of my closet. “Ready when you are”, they seem to say, and I don’t want to hear it but I will have to listen at some point because the only other alternative is staying. And I know I said I’m trying to change but I remember how good it felt to leave.

 

I remember how I kissed my best friend goodbye at 1AM in front of the Duomo in my home town the night before I left, and how I felt so powerful because the Duomo was destined to stay but I was done and I was free and I was flying. 

I sat on the steps and played Sweet Disposition and cried bittersweet tears and got my movie ending. 

 

What’s it going to be this time? London, show your hand. Show me how to stay, and we’ll get our movie ending some other way. 

 

Pink skies and butterflies and a girl trying to find her footing while her feet tap away, as if they were ready to go.

 

As if they were gone already.

Actual words of wisdom from my 17 year old brother

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Actual words of wisdom from my 17-year-old brother:

 

You don’t have to be scared. 

I believe in you, we all do.

It’s gonna be okay. 

You’re so strong, you’ve always been.

 

I’ll make you dinner, it’ll be great.

 

You need to experience as much as possible, and forget about figuring out who you are and what you want. 

All that damn pressure you put on yourself. 

It will all come in time. 

You need experiences in order to create who you are. 

You need to experience it all, and decide for yourself, and make an honest choice. And how could you do that if all you’d ever known was a safe life?

You don’t want a safe life, you’ve never been that kind of girl.

You did the right thing, you chose your own path.

I’m proud of you.

 

Here, have some risotto.

 

Who cares what anyone thinks? They don’t matter.

Facebook sucks.

You need to focus on you, and only you, and not care about anything else.

I know it’s scary and I know you feel lonely, but you’re not alone. 

You’re doing great, look where you are. 

Fuck everyone.

 

I’ll get the wine.

 

We’re so lucky.

You’re doing great. 

I love you.

 

And when I tell him I’m immensely proud of him, and that he’s so amazing because when I was his age I’d just lock myself in my room and cry and scream and skip meals, he tells me everything happens for a reason and that he’s sure those experiences helped me get where I am today.

Which only makes me prouder, really.

 

Let’s go sit by the fire, I’ll bring wine and we can cuddle the dogs, he says.

I love you too, and thank you, I think. 

 

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.