Let me tell you the tale of a lantern. I’m sure you’ve never heard a more exciting introduction but bear with me, this is one of those posts where I go deep, yo.

When I came back from Los Angeles in September last year I was still waiting to hear from a really big agency that I met with days before flying back. All I could think about was getting that agent, applying for my visa and moving back to LA again.

Shortly after my return in the Netherlands I celebrated my birthday with some friends and family, and one of my aunts had gotten me one of those Thai wishing lanterns. When night fell we went outside to the garden at my parents’ place, and as we lit the fire of the lantern I silently made a wish. Everyone knew what the wish was of course, but then something happened…

Or actually, nothing happened. We had apparently held the lantern down too long and it never took off. Then deodorant was sprayed to grow the flamed which burned the entire lantern to a crisp. I also didn’t sign with the agency. Not that I believe in such things, but still. The nine months that followed were very tough. Pregnancy is no joke. Wait, what? Just kidding. The nine months were tough because I was living with my parents at 23, had no certainty of a visa, nothing to look forward to and was doing a very mind-numbing job in a very depressing office. On top of that winter in the Netherlands lasted forever. I so vividly remember being on my bike in the snow in the dark, on the way to work, trying to stay optimistic.

But I’m so grateful for those nine months, because they taught me something that I really needed to know before moving to LA. They taught me to keep myself sane by making a morning workouts a habit. They taught me to control my temper. They taught me to find happiness within myself, instead of in circumstances. They taught me how much writing means to me.

Most of all, they taught me which things matter in life.

For years I had been so focused on my visa and my acting career. I thought those were the things I needed to be happy. That without them there would be no life for me. But staying with my parents for nine months, watching my friends’ lives evolve, something inside changed.

At my moving-to-LA goodbye party for family my aunt got me a Thai wishing lantern again,  as she had said she would. Night fell, and once more we went outside and lit the lantern. I made a wish in silence again, and everyone thought they knew what it was: the acting career and the visa, just like it had always been. But they were wrong.

As the lantern’s fire lit up and rose into the night sky, I wished for my loved ones to stay healthy and happy. For my mom and dad and sister and friends.

Somewhere in those nine months I had come to realize that an acting career wouldn’t mean much if there would be nobody around to share my happiness with. I realized that The Beatles really were onto something: all you need is love. Well, maybe it’s not all I need; the film fanatic inside me will always want to work inside the film industry for piece of mind, but you get the point.

Don’t lose sight of love. Of family and friends. After all, an Oscar speech is empty without anyone to thank.