I had ordered about 20+ prospectuses from different UK universities to find a degree course that was right for me. I was 17 years old and in my last year of school. I thought what I really wanted to study was Maths and Econometrics – as if I even knew what that meant anyway. I had also considered French, Politics, Drama, Arabic, Economics, Spanish and various combinations of all of the above.
About 2 months before the university application deadline I decided not to apply at all and take a gap year instead. Although that decision went against the expectations of those around me (e.g. teachers, parents, friends, etc.), I felt it was the best decision I could have made.
First of all, I was totally unsure about what to study and I didn’t want to force myself to commit to something I wasn’t 100% into. The thought of staying up late writing an essay on something I had no real passion for gave me serious heart palpitations!
Second, I needed a break from the education system as I’d been in school from the age of 4 (or 1ish if you count nursery too!). My life didn’t really exist outside of school because school was all I knew. I still refered to post-school life as “The Big Bad World” and I didn’t know or understand how adults “lived” once formal education eventually came to an end.
Drama school was an option I had thought a little about, but I knew I wasn’t on that level yet so I quickly dropped that choice.
After some reflection, I realised that acting was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But I had known all this already. I even remember being 10 years old and telling my mum that one day I would become a famous actress.
Having set my sights on a gap year, I told myself that I would use the year to get as much acting experience as I could. I had committed to this decision and my dreams, and I was therefore able to do whatever I could to make them come true.
I took weekly classes in camera acting for 6 months; I found a job as a part-time waitress and a nanny to support myself financially; I applied for countless screen roles for commercials and short films (and I only got one successful response out of more than 30 applications); I attended different workshops, talks and seminars on all things acting and how to get into the industry.
In retrospect, all of this work had prepared me for my first professional on-screen role, which I landed only 8 months after making the decision to follow my dreams. Fast forward 5 years and I’m grateful to say that I’m still living the dream.
I wonder how different my life would be now had I taken the other path.