(I wrote this blog post more than a month ago, but with everything that happened I kept postponing it.)
The other day, while I was busy with one of my Facebook binges, I came across one of those name test things that look at your profile and give you some sort of witty answer. This one was a bit different. It showed you how you have changed over the last five years. Of course I clicked in it and it generated a result. In that moment I realized something:
I’ve changed. A lot.
A while ago I came across the term ‘Quarter Life Crisis’. It’s legit, you can check it out on Wikipedia.
A quarter life crisis is essentially when someone in their early to mid 20’s reaches a point of thinking, ‘Oh shit. What now? Who am I? Why am I here? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?’
Well, in the year 2015, at the age of 23, I started going through my Quarter Life Crisis.
I suddenly realized that I really am an adult now. I’m still too young to be taken seriously as one, but I’m too old to hide from the heavy weight of responsibility that comes with adulthood. I’m struggling to find work, struggling to know what work I’m looking for, struggling to… breathe.
Most of all, I started struggling with the purpose of my life and what I was doing with it. I started to question why I’m here. I don’t significantly contribute to society. I’m not a doctor, teacher, or policeman that helps people in dire need. I am a struggling actor… and kind of a writer.
When I say that I’m “kind of” a writer, I’m saying that because for more than a year I have been avoiding it. In fact, I pretty much abandoned it. Part of the reason was that my friend Jodie passed away and it really messed me up, but also because I no longer really wanted to be a writer. I was on a relatively good track. I had published two short stories and reached the top 14 in a radio drama competition at a big radio station. I was doing well, but then I stopped. I stopped because of the compliments I received, ironically. People would start saying things like ‘You’re a really good writer. You should try to focus on that more. Do you know how many people study drama and become writers instead? They make lots of money.’
What they didn’t realize was that I felt as though they were trying to say that I’m not really such a good actor and that I should give up and look elsewhere. This began to bother me so much that I stopped writing. I mean, obviously I didn’t stop completely, but almost everything I’ve written in the last year or so has felt forced or without substance. I decided to throw the writing aside and dive into acting instead. I took a film acting course, got an agent, and started to run from audition to audition. I felt determined to show myself and everyone else that I am a good actor and that I am worthy of this unforgiving industry. And I acted, a lot. I performed in a good number of shows this year. I even shot a commercial. But it didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel good enough.
Furthermore, I started to go on a heavily self destructive road with men. I was like a matador with a red cape. I wanted them to chase me. I wanted so badly to feel alive and young. I’ve never felt young, even as a child. I’ve always felt that I’m somehow out of touch with people my age, and this translated into my dating life. Older men are less pressure. They don’t expect anything from me. I don’t have to have a bronze six pack or party like a rock star. They are past that point in their lives. The problem is that they are also more clever and cunning, and I often end up getting left behind.
This year, three critical things happened that changed me. I went through a mammoth friendship breakup, my grandmother passed away, and most recently I also lost my father. I feel like somehow these experiences hollowed me out. My grief ripped my heart out. They say that change is growth, but I’m not sure that growth is necessarily a good type of change. I mean, I’ve definitely grown through my pain and mistakes, but I can’t really say that it made me a better person. I’m harder, meaner than I was before. I have to be. I am in an industry where no one is going to pick me up when I fall. I’m the only one who can truly protect myself.
I think that I’ve lost my belief in romance and true love. I’ve made peace with it. I may never love and I may never be loved in return. It would be nice, of course, and it can happen. But I don’t think that it was meant for me. I’m a lone wolf. An outsider. I’m not easy to love.
Recently something happened that also changed me, but perhaps in a good way. I performed in a play that I co-produced with a few friends. We put together a production of “Drif” by Reza De Wet. I can truly say that it was one of the most fulfilling acting experiences of my life thus far. We were led by a brilliant director that made me feel like I could do anything. Performing the play was somewhat of a religious experience. And at the end of the run I received a big surprise. I won the award for best actor at the festival we took part in. I had absolutely no idea that there would be awards. And that made me think. I truly enjoyed the performance because I loved the character and the story. I did it for myself. If I had known that it was competitive, would that have changed my approach? I was at my best when I was doing it for myself and for the love of my craft. I didn’t care about what people thought of me. This made me come to the conclusion that art is selfish. It has to come from within you. You have to do it for yourself. If you do it for other people and what you think they might like, you will become an artificial artist who tries to produce creativity like a meat grinder.
And so I look back at the last five years:
I was in my final year of high school. I was supposed to have finished the year before, but because of a major bout of depression and a failed suicide attempt, I finished a year later. I was closeted and weighed 100kg and dreaded every day of school. The few friends I had were assholes mostly. I kept myself going by reminding myself that I would spread my wings and fly to the magical city of Pretoria where people would accept me and life would be wonderful.
I was in my first year of college and at the peak of my college career. I moved to a big city and lost 15kg. I felt like I could do anything.
My second year of college was a nightmare. I fell into an all consuming depression and fell out of love with acting. I teetered on the edge of suicide, but somehow came back from it. I rediscovered my love for acting and defeated the depression monster. I finished my college career at the top of my class, despite all the odds against me.
My first year of trying to be a “professional actor”. It was a year of excitement and fear. Being 22 was a good age for me. It was a year of firsts. I started this blog. It ended on a very dark note however, as I lost my friend Jodie and my cat, Pikgittina.
This year I’ve felt like a rubber ball desperately trying to bounce back from one tragedy after another. I came to realize how fragile life can be and for once in my life I really want to live. I no longer ponder over death. I want to breathe, taste, hear, and touch. I’m 24, that’s not so old, right? I know that I have difficult times ahead of me in terms of work and money. But I will dive into the shark’s tank and swim. I won’t give up on my dreams. I will fight. And in time I might find myself able to forgive those who hurt me and lay it to rest. More than that, I hope that I will be able to forgive myself for the things I’ve done.
And I’m writing again. Because this time it’s for me and not for you. If you happen to like it that’s nice.