Photo: Wylona Hayashi
Have you ever eaten and slept so well that you have to go buy a pregnancy test to make sure you’re not in fact pregnant? I did. Twice. They were both negative. Needless to say, I was relieved. I’m only 23. I was not ready for babies, nor did I want to have babies with the last boy I had sex with — Well, babies and boy being in the same sentence is probably telling enough. That said, looking at those ClearBlue sticks in the trash bin made me want to laugh out loud. That’s the thing about adulthood, isn’t it? I do what I want when I want it because I can, like saying hello loudly to everyone at the local drug store while casually picking up some pregnancy tests and condoms (then finding out baby is just belly fat).
Or drinking Whiskey two nights a week. Or buying designer shoes when I’m sad, with the second credit card. Or having sex with both men and women and sometimes Harry — my big and thick 8-inch dildo, black. Or eating peanut butter straight from the jar — most likely a whole half of it all at once. Or having a personal trainer and a therapist constantly nudging for payments, which I clearly cannot afford but still try to rationalise somehow. Or taking pills, either medical or recreational, though often both. Or wondering to myself on a Friday night whether I should call my Facebook-unofficial boyfriend Richie or stick to the reliable silicone lover Harry. Sometimes I do neither. Sometimes I just want to sleep. So I sleep long and deep.
I want to become an actress, a mega rich and famous one whose name is relevant at every dinner party and red carpet. I want to be on the classy rank of Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Julie Roberts or Anna Hathaway. I want to have my nails and hair done professionally every day, own millions worth of homes including a penthouse in London and a villa in California, two Ferrari’s — one in white and one in sky blue, customised two-floor walk-in closets, private sushi chefs and world-class home spas. I want to be able to walk in any 5-star Michelin restaurant, say my name and immediately get the best table, accompanied by utmost adoration and admiration.
And — this is important — I want my movies to be timeless and respected. I want my roles to be iconic and groundbreaking. I want my career to go down gloriously in history, making me one of the few outstanding unicorns the media only has good things to talk about. Okay, that sounds a bit boring. Not another Emma Watson. Scandals are fine, nude scenes are fine, but please, at least on any thumbnail of DailyMail gossip posts, I must look effortlessly in style. Black slip dress, messy long hair, whiskey and cigarette. Doll eyes and sultry lips. You picture it. Even when I snort cocaine for the 8th time in a night at, say, Leo DiCaprio’s pool party, half dead inside, thirsty comments would still be flying.
That’s the dream. Then I wake up to the annoying sound of my phone’s alarm clock and the reality of a 23-year-old living paycheck after paycheck in a tiny rented room in hippie East London, eating ready meals for dinner and waiting for calls from agencies. That does sound trendy and more or less like the rest of the twenty-something millennials out there — relatable, but trust me, if any of us has a choice, we don’t want anything to do with ready meals, or hippie, or agencies. Definitely not agencies. I don’t want to be another broke and dreamy cliche constantly running the risk of being delusional about my own abilities and never amounting to anything. Unfortunately, I kinda am that cliche. That’s where I’m at in life right now.
Though to be fair, it’s not all that bad. I only eat takeaway like once a week mostly because I’m lazy. I do actually have a decent full time job, my colleagues are the typical well-meaning White middle-class who can’t shut up about their monkey children. My shared flat is on the 7th floor of a tower block near London Bridge so it’s more modern than hippie. And I do get calls back most of the time — I just haven’t gotten the part I want yet and definitely not the big hit that would boost my name straight to the A-list. But I would still like to whine like a little bitch once in a while. I think I deserve it. Not just super poor, super unfortunate, super miserable kids have the rights to be sad and feel bad about themselves. I do too. My body is aching too. My heart is bleeding too. Come on, I don’t even have a soppy story to sell. At least allow me my own pity.
See, my lovers often poured into my ears that I looked like someone who would become a big name. Strangers take notice of my look on days I dread catching myself in the mirror, mistaking me for actress X from that blockbuster Y. Friends call me their motivation and inspiration. They would watch the occasional low-budget short movies I starred in on Youtube and tell me how mesmerised they were by my acting, how much they would love to see me on the big screen, and that if I went for a casting, I would definitely get it. I thought so too. I look into the mirror and when depression doesn’t eat me alive, I do see something marvellous. I even feel it in my bones and veins like a quivering ocean.
I’ve been told so many times that I’m different, I don’t belong to the mediocre 9 to 5 office life, my passion is too big and I will become an amazing actress. So bloody convincing. I try and I try and I keep waiting for my Youtube videos to go viral, or to be tapped on the shoulder down the street by some silver-haired woman with a lousy title along the line of ‘Director of Art’ but it just hasn’t happened. It’s painfully frustrating. It’s like the world leads you to believe for so long you deserve something and if you just hold on for another minute, you will definitely get it, yet it never lets you have it. You’re always so close, always almost there but not quite it. It drives you crazy. It makes you, even the most confident and self-assured person, question everything. What are you. What is your worth. Are you even worth anything at all.
For the last 23 years of my life, no matter how far I’ve come, I feel undone. I don’t even feel like I deserve to have fun and relax, travel and do all the big talks about dreams and passions when I’m not who I want to be yet. I can’t even let myself ever be all what I’m, running out there feeling on top of the world, because who the fuck am I to be? It’s fucking tragic. The rich and famous get the privileges, they play their expected roles. I don’t. Know my place, they say. I have to tone myself down, squeeze myself in to match what I’m. What I’m is not part of any million-pound production. What I am is not next to any goddamn obnoxious A-listers on any magazine covers, not living in a two-bed flat in North London like some would imagine when looking at my glamorous Instagram photos, not automatically regarded highly and treated royally just by name dropping some past work.
Frankly, I have nothing to show yet. Some photoshoots, some commercials here and there but it’s certainly not enough. To the industry and to the world, I’m still yet another pretty face which is readily replaceable. I’m a nobody. No matter how talented I believe I’m, or I actually am, if I can’t get my foot in the door and backed by some big names, I’m no good. When too much time has past, they will start questioning why I haven’t made it by now, suspecting there must be something wrong with me, then my value will progressively drop and I’m about done there. Or even if I manage to get some work, high chances are I will stay sorely average throughout my acting career, popping out a couple of nothing-too-special rom-coms every year until I become irrelevant even for supporting cast number two. It’s a very hard lesson to learn — heartbreaking even. Passion isn’t enough. Wanting something A LOT isn’t enough. Believing you will make it doesn’t always translate into reality no matter how much you try.
That’s the uncomfortable, ugly truth of life and of youth. It doesn’t help that the world keeps shoving down your throat endless inspirational speeches, telling you to try everything to find out what you like, drop out of colleagues, fuck the 9 to 5 corporate life, follow your dreams, and if not, trust the system, you’ll get hired as long as you have some buzz word qualities like curiosity, perseverance and resilience. And then you go to the interview, preparing to showcase your best skills and how hard you’re willing to work, you’re asked for 5 years of experiences straight out of school and given some bullshit feedback on how your answers indicate that you’re not adaptive enough. You’re fucked right from the get-go. You are convinced your passion is what sets you apart but it doesn’t. Everyone else wants a piece of the pie as much as you do. Sorry, breaking news, nobody cares about your passion. Not until it materialises into something that has real value anyway, and it can be cold.
You just have to keep trying harder and harder, not knowing you will ever make it. That’s the only thing I could tell myself right now because I don’t see any better way. Those people were right. My passion is too big. Knowing that it’s not enough isn’t enough to stop it. It doesn’t let me give up. It’s just who I’m now. Ellie, listen. Passion is not enough, you need to take actions. You need to want something enough to do the uneasy, unnatural things for it. You need to ask yourself, what are you really trying to achieve. It’s 4 am in London and my eyes are wide open. It’s like the light has shone through my path. I don’t know if I’ll ever be rich and famous and recognised but why should I be scared? I’m not fucked yet. I will always be moving, seeking, trying new ideas and pushing my boundaries because I’m wired that way. My heart will always be at the verge of exploding like I’m about to die but I’m not — I’m more alive than ever. That’s my plan.
Now comes to think of it, I don’t know if I even need rich and famous. I don’t know if I pursue it for the right reasons. I can’t want the end result, or its by-product, without going through the journey to get there, and that journey has nothing to do with rich and famous. That journey is about doing what I love and having fun while doing it. That journey is about progressing and discovering what the world has to offer, not setting a distressfully heavy bar and giving myself no choice but to feel like I’m falling short. I might not be famous, I might not be rich, I might not own 2 Ferrari’s and have a personal stylist anytime soon, or ever in this lifetime, but none of that could stop me from being all what I’m. I don’t have to try to make myself smaller because I think only someone who appears on the cover of Vanity Fair or has 1 million Instagram followers could act or speak a certain way. I’m big. I’ll own it. This is my one life and one chance to be everything I’m.
Dreams can be dangerous if you’re not careful. You will die in your dreams if you don’t wake up. I want to wake up. I don’t want to use the passion card forever. It’s exhausting and so damn boring. I don’t want to have to prove how much I want something — it should be obvious. I want to show how good I’m at it, better than anyone else.
On one of those nights as more Whiskey is poured into my glass and a boy tells me how beautiful I’m, breathing down my neck asking me, do you know when you walk in, the whole room wants to fuck you, I let him continue. He licks my ears and feeds me that same old expensive line, you will be famous one day I’m sure, I stop resisting. I look him straight in the eyes, smile like I already know that and I could tell it turns him on uncontrollably. I’m feeling on top of the world. I’m wearing a silky black dress, high heels and red lipstick. I know I’m beautiful. I know when I walk in, everyone in that room wants a piece of me.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All names and events are fictitious.