Sometimes I ride my bicycle uphill to my apartment, straight towards the Hollywood sign, and I’m just in awe of what my life has become. Of the fact I actually spend my days working from home and coffee shops, doing auditions, discussing movies, meeting new people… The fact that riding a hot pink scooter through the Hollywood Hills is part of my weekly routine, that the words Los Angeles are in my address. I think about where I was 5 or 10 years ago, and I’m not so much proud of how my environment has changed, but how I have changed. I am such a different person. Granted, each person goes through a ton of personal development in their twenties , but there are certain things I credit my dream of becoming an actress with. This ongoing journey – while crazy and sometimes soul crushing – has definitely made me a better person…

It Taught Me Humility

Okay, at the risk of coming off like an ass here: I did not have a hard time at school or University. I basically did very little, annoyed people in class with my boredom, and still got stellar grades. And it’s really easy be cool and casual about things if you don’t have to work for them, while others do. I was never arrogant or anything, but I certainly felt those people taking it all so seriously were just silly, and was dismissive about their feelings.

Well, the whole becoming-an-actress-thing suuure put me in my place. In the beginning it made me very uncomfortable, suddenly being the one who took things seriously, who really cared. And then having to be vulnerable on cue and be judged for it, and rejected… I see it go two ways for actors: Either they become more humble and compassionate, or they become a total ass trying to compensate for their tarnished ego. Most also go back and forth between the two (see Birdman for a fabulous depiction). As for me, I think I belong to the first category. For the most part. I bloody hope so, anyway.

It Made Me Healthy

Let me introduce you to my 22 year old self’s idea of healthy food: “I cooked it, so it’s healthy.” Didn’t matter if that meant pasta every day. Didn’t matter that I ate one or two pizzas a week. Also, I never – ever – worked out. I had pretty much accepted the idea that I wasn’t athletic. My childhood experiences had taught me that pretty well. Luckily in Amsterdam everybody rides their bicycle all day every day, through crazy winds and weather, so I was never overweight either.

Skip to now: I work out five times a week, go on hiking trips, and have thoughts with words like “empty carbs” and “glycemic index” in them. At one point I even went all LA and uttered the word “gluten” (I am still embarrassed by this). Anyway, I don’t look slimmer or anything these days, but it’s not about the esthetics, it’s about how I feel. The fact that I am pretty flexible now, that I have some muscle here and there, and that I’m getting closer and closer to being able to do push-ups and a split makes me feel awesome! I never knew how empowering being fit could be, and now I could never go back to not working out regularly.

It Taught Me Work Ethic

During my lazy student days I was mystified -mystified!- why my acting career wasn’t developing. I wanted it, why didn’t I have it? Then one of my hard working friends asked me what I actually did to get an acting career. And the answer was: not much. Why would I? I didn’t really work hard for anything. I didn’t even take my side jobs seriously. Life’s so easy when you just don’t care about anything you do. I did daydream really hard, though.

But you can’t really be a girl in the middle of nowhere without any artistic connections and expect to become an actress without working for it. You certainly can’t expect to get a competitive visa and move to another country without working for it. So I finally started admitting I wanted to be an actress to people (a big step for me), doing short films, and actually creating a plan of action. And while I’m not where I want to be yet, I’d say I’m pretty well on the way!

If I hadn’t had that overwhelming need to be an actress, I probably would have just rolled from one thing into the next, never stepping out of my comfort zone, never being pushed to work hard. I might have felt cool and been content, but I would never feel the self efficacy I do now. Without a clear course or daily routine of distractions – such as a steady job or school- you really get to know yourself. Especially when you move to another country on your own, and have a highly irregular schedule. It leaves you to your own devices, alone with your mind, going: “Now what?”

This business may be a tough one to stay sane in sometimes, but if you keep your head on straight and put things in perspective, it also helps you grow. Just make sure you do a little extra soul searching when you find yourself repeatedly uttering the word “gluten.”