“If you pull the string too tight, it will snap. If you leave it too slack, it will not play.” So said Buddha. At least according to the movie Little Buddha which I watched for no other reason than my gigantic teenage crush on Keanu Reeves. The message stuck though: moderation is important. And something I’m very shitty at.
I never just like a TV show; I love and obsess over it until it consumes my every waking thought and I start writing fanfic. I don’t just start ballet classes; I practice until I literally can’t sleep for days because my legs hurt so much. I don’t just want to become an actor; I uproot my entire life and spend three years and all my money to try it in Hollywood.
I either overcommit or behave like a spoiled child that’s forced to do something it doesn’t want to. For me, it’s usually all or nothing. And that, while at times incredibly awesome and productive, can also be quite problematic.
I’ve hesitated a long time to write this post. I put tremendous value on honesty – probably to a fault. Yet I couldn’t see the point of writing something sad or negative. Because even on my darkest days, I always know the sun is waiting to come out from behind them clouds, a lesson is waiting to be learned. And those are the things I find worth sharing. I wanted to wait until I had some sort of clarity, found some deeper purpose for putting my heart out there in the open. But I think I found it, so here it is: some raw honesty about my life as an actress in LA – for your education, or perhaps entertainment.
When I lived in the Netherlands I knew nothing about fitness or nutrition. I thought pasta with cream cheese (my go-to meal as a student) was healthy, and worked out once a month at best. This wasn’t a problem because in The Netherlands you ride your bike every day, and if you want to splurge on food that’s not in your house you’re gonna have to get on that bicycle again – 90% of the time in the rain or snow. If stores are even open anymore. So you don’t splurge.
Cut to LA, where there’s a restaurant/fast food joint/takeout place every meter, all open til at least 10 if not 24/7. But then there are also gyms, Ken doll abs, skinny, attractive girls, health food stores and juice cleanses all over. Either way, in America food quickly becomes a major part of your surroundings. And for me that initially got me working out and eating healthier, my way. I hit the gym five times a week, went on big hikes, and soon enough implemented a 1500 calories a day restriction. That worked great for about a year. I fit in skinny jeans I hadn’t fit in since my teens and in the right lighting even had abs.
But, of course, it wasn’t sustainable. Because when I did “splurge” I felt horrible afterwards, hated myself and couldn’t stop thinking about it. How could I dare not being perfect with my diet! To make up for it I would try to not eat the next day, or work out like crazy, until I splurged again. It started out innocently enough but as the years went along I found myself encompassing another LA cliche: not only was I a transplant and an aspiring actress, I now also had an eating disorder.
As I began to come to terms with that little gem of a fact I started sharing my struggle with a select few people I trusted. And sadly enough I discovered that nearly every girl I spoke to had experienced or was experiencing some form of disordered eating.
But this is not a post about eating disorders. This is a post about life. I told you I had trouble being moderate.
Eating disorders, I think, are merely symptoms of other issues. For me, it’s a symptom of not being able to mellow, among other things. Everything is black and white, including my moods. I’m either ecstatic or depressed, inspired to a point where I’m moved to tears and 12 hour work sessions without eating or peeing, or I feel absolutely pointless. It’s exhausting. Wait, an artist with psychological issues? Add that to my list of cliches, please!
But wether big or small, everyone has issues. Yet so rarely do we know those of others. And so we feel like we’re the only ones struggling. We feel like everyone “gets it” except for us. And social media has made that even worse. I myself am guilty of this, too. I simply don’t think to post on Instagram when I’m crying alone at night, but I surely grab my phone when I’m travelling or skydiving.
Make no mistake: I generally am happy with my life in LA. It’s spontaneous, sunny and filled with tasty food, creativity and hiking in the beautiful outdoors. Never do I seriously consider moving back. But that doesn’t mean it’s not also heartbreaking sometimes. I miss my family and Dutch friends, the career is never going as fast as I want it to, I get bad depressive moods, and am fighting a battle with food. There are moments I kind of just want to crash on a couch and be loved by someone who’s known me for years, and the fact that that option is not available makes it all the more difficult to find relief and balance.
But that’s life. It’s my life, and sadly the life of many others, especially here. They might be struggling with entirely different issues, but they’re issues all the same. And it’s fine to have them.
We might sometimes be led to believe our lives should at all times be glorious, fashionable and full of smiles, but that’s an impossible goal to attain. Sometimes things just suck, period. As long as those periods are sandwiched in between periods of brightness, we’re fine. In the end it’s the moments that catch us off guard that bring happiness anyway. Not the grand story so far, or the future plans. While the leitmotif is “cliche” can I just say: all we have is now?
That’s why I wanted to share this post. Because if there’s only one person who reads this and gets some sort of comfort out if it…well, yay!
We’re a work in progress, and always will be, so enjoy the journey.