There will be certain moments when you’re faced with a choice that can really affect the course of your life. These choices may not feel life-altering. Perhaps we tell ourselves we can always revisit them later and make a different decision. Perhaps they don’t even feel like choices. But they are, and I would like to share with you something I’ve learned recently after facing a difficult choice myself, so that maybe it can help you with your future life decisions, or at least help you see things a little bit clearer.

As you may know, I unexpectedly had to move back to the Netherlands after living in Los Angeles about two and a half years ago. I kind of decided to just improvise, but after six months of waiting on my (already approved) US visa gained employment in Amsterdam. Actual on-a-payroll, good-civilian employment. And so, for the last two years, I’ve had a steady job. A creative one, yes, and an awesome one, but I was an employee. I came to an office five mornings a week and left before dinner (when not on shoots or editing, anyway). I had vacation days. A steady income. Routine. Safety. It was something I hadn’t experienced in, well, ever, really.

And then, my contract ended.

But for some reason, I hardly worried. Despite working in the competitive field of directing, I trusted that things would work out. I felt such confidence and joy in my path as a filmmaker. After all, it had come so easily – so unlike my path in acting. And so I had determined to go freelance. It was the perfect moment: I had built a nice portfolio and wanted to explore working for different companies.

Now I’m not saying I didn’t have my moments of anxiety. I did. I feared being home alone every day, getting isolated, my dormant eating disorder flaring up in the lack of structure… I even feared anxiety itself, because I know my mind can be a constantly raging warzone. But only rarely did I really worry that I wouldn’t make it financially.

And then, on Day One of my Official Unemployed Life/Freelance Life I got a job offer as well as my first freelance gig. The job offer was for something similar to what I’d done before (creative & director) but with more. Money. Than. I. Had. Ever. Made. Before.

So, what to do?

Suddenly all my enthusiasm to go freelance got clouded by the prospect of safety. Of knowing I would be able to afford my rent. Of a routine that forces you out of bed in the morning. Of living in the orbit most of my friends live in. Most people live in. Suddenly, it felt like an impossible choice. Like the first time in my life time that I had to choose between safety versus uncertainty.

This surprised some. After all, didn’t I once choose to quit my University education and basically upend my entire life to move to Los Angeles to try and become an actress? Didn’t that count as choosing uncertainty in a much bigger way?

To me, it didn’t.

You see, back then, I was a student. I had a tiny student apartment that I would have had to move out of after graduating anyway and I had several side jobs, so becoming a struggling actress living in a tiny apartment while doing several side jobs in Los Angeles wasn’t really a risky prospect to me. (Of course, I had many things to lose regardless, and the decision did set me on a wildly different path from my friends with all the consequences pertaining thereto, but that’s for another post.)

Things were different this time though. This time, I had my own, wonderful apartment in Amsterdam. With all my wonderful home-made furniture and plentiful Marie Kondo approved, joy-inspiring clutter. I had become accustomed to the soothing rhythm of a routine, the comfort of financial stability. I had experienced the safe life in a way I had never done before. So this time around, the decision between safety and uncertainty felt much, much more risky.

And yet, somewhere deep down I knew the right decision was to go freelance. I knew I wasn’t as enthused about this new job as I should be. People told me that I’m more cut out be my own boss. That a freelance directing career would absolutely work out for me. That I should listen to that feeling deep down.

I’d like to say now that I therefore was brave and confidently chose to trust my intuition and pass on the job, but really, that’s just not me. No, I did the much more productive thing and went into a pit of anxiety and hesitation for weeks, until the decision was made for me.

You see, after a few weeks of negotiations with the job folks they literally called me with this message: We feel like a freelance existence fits you better. Why don’t you work for us as a freelance director?

And I jumped in joy. Because that was the decision I had really wanted – but didn’t dare – to make. I felt like a weight was lifted off me and I could finally concentrate and work towards some clear idea of what my future would look like. Seeing the relief it brought, I should have just made that decision myself. But instead I not entirely unconsciously tried to steer destiny my way by postulating numerous job demands on top of a high salary, and not being the fastest with it either.

But what if they had agreed to my demands? Here’s a common scenario: I stay within that job, telling myself I’ll just try it for a while, that I can always do freelancing later. Then my responsibilities slowly grow in size: I buy a car, a house, become pregnant, have kids – every little thing slowly adding a link to the chain of excuses why I can’t take risks and try something I desire deep down. And then flash-forward 30 years later, and I still wonder what would have happened if...

I’ve seen this so many times during the many temp jobs I devoured as a struggling actress, met so many frustrated, unhappy, bitter people. I would always ask them how they ended up in their job at this industrial door fabricating/furniture selling/health insurance debtor checking company, and the answers were often saddening: They were in fashion school and took it as a side job but then kind of just stuck with it. They took the job to save up for a big world trip but then got a promotion. They got offered a permanent contract and felt like they couldn’t jeopardise that. In all cases people just kind of had let life happen to them, and weren’t happier for it.

Now I’m not saying that choosing safety, buying a house and having babies is the wrong decision. Mais non! Not at all. It’s about recognizing those moments in life when you are faced with a choice, and not making that choice on auto-pilot or based on external influences. It’s about listening to your intuition. Daring to choose the things that you feel will bring you happiness – whatever that is – regardless of how risky it may seem.

A decision may seem risky, and it may not work out right away or at all, but there’s one thing I truly believe: you never regret a decision you make intuitively. Because choosing intuitively sets you on the path you need to be on. And maybe that path is filled with road-blocks that teach some tough lessons, but it’s still nothing compared to the regret you’ll feel when you choose something due to external pressure, while knowing deep down you wanted something else.

And look, it’s hard. A.F. And I don’t know how to make my intuition speak louder or my inner ears listen better to it either. I hear meditation helps. Running. Some people lay tarot cards. But the more we’re aware we and make an effort to not just shush that voice inside, the better we get at hearing it. And the more our lives become what they need to be for us to be… content.

Because happiness is such a – you know – millennial, unattainable buzzword.