I’m continuing to share a bit more of me for all of you to get to know. If you missed Part 1 of this blog post mini series, click here to read about my other life changing experience.
Today we will touch on the beautiful subject of dreams, and what happens when reality checks in on us. So what was the next major thing that changed me and the direction of my life?
Film school in Los Angeles. Well, it’s obviously a little bit deeper than that, but in its essence that’s what it was. Film school started something within me that I would continue to work on for quite some time even after I left.
But why don’t I start from the top:
When I was young I wanted to be an actress. A film actress, specifically. And when I was 15 years old, I came across this school called New York Film Academy. I immediately knew that was the school for me. I decided that I was going to attend the school’s branch in L.A, located at the Universal Studios lot.
Now, when I set a goal, I make sure to reach it – as you might have understood by now. I strongly believe (and know) that there’s nothing that none of us cannot do!
So for the coming years I was constantly working towards my film school dream. I was going to be a film actress – it was decided – so everything I did, I did in order to get there. I got through high school knowing what was waiting around the corner, and I started working during weekends and summers to save every little penny that I earned.
Straight out of high school I still didn’t have enough money to go, so I decided to take on a couple of jobs to keep saving. I also applied for a bunch of scholarships and I managed to get two – one from the school, which was a significant amount of money. That’s when it first hit me:
It was happening! I was on my way!
But the road before take-off was paved with obstacles, especially the few months prior: paperwork getting lost at the company I was applying through; the visa process; housing getting cancelled the week before I was leaving… You name it – everything that could possibly go wrong pretty much did. But I refused to let anything stop me. I kept my eyes on the prize, and I was going to get there one way or another.
And so, of course, with a lot of faith and trust, I finally boarded the plane headed for Los Angeles! This was a year and a half after graduating high school, and just over five years after I first heard about this school of dreams.
But just a week or so in, I had this strange feeling… Things were just a bit… off.
I loved the school and my class mates and everything, but there was something that wasn’t right. Something that didn’t click, if you know what I mean. I figured at that stage that maybe I was just tired, jet lagged, or maybe a bit homesick. After all, there was a lot of new stuff going on and I had gone over all by myself. That’s a big step for anyone!
Still, weeks later, I hadn’t been able to shake that feeling. And I didn’t feel well at all – emotionally and physically. But suddenly I realised what the whole problem was: the dream I thought I had wanted, wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. And I felt stupid for it, but I didn’t like filming. In fact, I found filming so ridiculously boring! Not the acting itself, but having to stand in front of a camera and repeat the same scenes over and over and over again.
Guys, I’m just not that patient, I think…
I tried to push through it, though, cursing myself relentlessly for feeling the way I did when I was living the dream.
But things within me kept getting worse, until I got to the stage where I felt like I disliked everything (even though I didn’t). So I decided it was time to make a decision: push through, or go home.
I was unhappy because the dream I had been chasing didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. I was furious over the fact that reality sometimes suck and isn’t at all as much fun as dreaming is.
So I decided to go home. After finishing the first semester, though (only because I’m not that much of a quitter! Stubborn child, haha).
Once I had decided to go home, there was definitely a weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew things were changing, and I decided to enjoy the rest of my time while I was there. Around this time we started rehearsing for a live stage show, and that was probably the best that could’ve happened for me – simply because I still loved being on stage. That was what I wanted. And also because that’s when I started coming out of my shell.
During my time in L.A. something huge happened to me. I was far from the same person when I got back home. And that was tough in its own way, because everything was still exactly the same back in my Swedish home town. How is that possible?!
So coming home was certainly not the end of the journey. Coming home was just the next step, and in a way it was almost harder than what I went through in L.A. It was back home that I completely broke down and thought I could no longer go on. It was when I got home that I felt like a failure, because I was actually never meant to go back home – wasn’t that what I had decided?
I was so angry – with myself, with my family and everyone around me, with reality, with stupidity (yes, I felt stupid and ashamed at the time), with boring everyday life… And I was heartbroken from life. I thought I was falling apart, drowning in a well I couldn’t get out of.
Worst of all is not knowing or understanding what’s going on inside of you. For me, someone who was used to being a pretty happy and optimistic person already back then, I didn’t know what to do with all the scattered pieces of my sorry self.
I finally reached the breaking point, where I realised that I couldn’t do any of it alone. I needed help. But for some reason I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, take help from anyone I knew. I think it was all about the shame and sense of failure that I felt at the time. My mum tried to reach out, but it didn’t work for me. So I booked an appointment with a counsellor.
I cried myself through, I think, four or five sessions, bleeding out everything inside, from things I went through as a child to things that was happening with me then and there. And this lady just listened and asked a few, very well-chosen questions.
When I started going through sessions without crying, I could see myself starting to heal. It’s a strange feeling, almost like an epiphany. You start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And so, one afternoon, weeks on, I realised there was no reason for me to book another appointment.
The road that was now waiting ahead was one I needed to travel on my own.
My whole problem going through all of this, was that I blamed myself. I felt stupid for painting that beautiful picture in my mind, and realising that it wasn’t beautiful at all. So I blamed myself for the fact that my dream wasn’t what I expected it to be; I blamed myself for not making the most of it while I was there; for not pulling my shit together; for not knowing what I wanted to do with my life; for my relationships being crap; for basically everything bad that had ever happened in my life. And I blamed myself for everyone that had ever hurt me.
As you can see, it really just kept escalating.
But months after the struggle began, I was finally able to forgive myself. I realised that none of it was actually my fault. Things hadn’t turned out the way I thought, but hey, sometimes life just happens! And life had something else in mind for me.
I could now see that despite it not being what I thought, I had still fulfilled a dream. I had done it – the “impossible”. And it helped me bloom into a stronger, smarter, wiser, braver and more open human being.
Sometimes life has something different planned for you than what you expect or want. Things that you think you want might turn out differently than you hoped, and dreams that you once pursued might not be what you need to pursue any longer. Making a dream come true is a wonderful and marvellous thing – something to be incredibly proud of – even if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it. At least you did it!
But reality is reality, and I’m actually grateful for that. Even though I went through a couple of hells through this experience, I’m glad I did. It taught me many life lessons – knowledge that I still use to this day, and will continue to use for the rest of my life.
Through this life-changing experience I came to understand that I can do whatever I want – that nothing is too big. Whatever obstacles I meet, it will never be high enough to push me back. But moreover: whatever it is that you need in life, at a certain stage, is also what you’re going to get. I needed this experience to figure some things out, and to get to other places in life. Like the place I’m in now.
Tell me in the comments! What “failures” have shaped you and your life?
PS. Stay tuned for my next post on a lesson I learned in L.A.: quitting and why it’s good for you!