I first got sick when I was nine. Not really sure what my goals were back then. I seem to remember something about wanting to be the safety pack monitor and/or bell ringer.
I was 19 when I got really sick, and was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. I know what my goals were then. I was at drama school, I wanted to do another year there and then go on to film school. I wanted to be and actor and filmmaker.
It became clear to me that I was too sick to be able to go back to drama school (at least in part when they suggested to me I was too sick to come back!) For a while I continued pursuing the goal of working in acting and filmmaking. I continued making my own films, helping out my friends with acting in and editing their films, and did a lot of extra work in New Zealand TV programmes, commercials and films (if you watch King Kong really closely, you’ll see me running around and screaming in the background.)
I’m not sure when exactly it was that I realised this wasn’t working.
I know there was the time when I sat at the computer trying to edit my friend’s film, crying because my back hurt so much. And then the film after that when I couldn’t even finish the work on it.
There was the day after my final day on the King Kong set, where I lay flat on my back wondering if I was actually going to be able to get up ever again.
There was the play, where we had to re-choreography everything between the second and third show, because I had flared so badly I couldn’t do anything we’d planned anymore.
I don’t think there was a single moment, that meant change - just a slow realisation that my earlier goals weren’t right for me anymore.
Even before I got sick, I’d known I wasn’t totally happy with the way my life was going, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. As a teenager, I’d loved spending my time acting and filmmaking, but when I thought back on it I realised it wasn’t really the acting or filmmaking that I loved. What I loved was spending time coming up with a story for a sketch or a film, or a short soap opera competition and then seeing that come to life. I realised, what I really love is storytelling and the moment I figured that out, I realised I was a writer not an actor (strangely, the head tutor at drama school spent a large amount of his time telling me this!)
In a weird way, I’m glad I got really sick at the time I did. I *might* have had a successful acting career if I hadn’t. But I would have been seriously unhappy doing it. Most of what I remember from my acting days is feeling self-conscious (largely because the tutors kept telling me I was fat!) anxious, and not good enough. As a writer, I’ve seen myself improve. I’ve seen myself succeed. And I’ve never once had a pen tell me I was fat :-P
My point is, when you get sick sometimes your goals have to change, but the essence of them doesn’t. It doesn’t mean you can’t be an actor, if that is what you want. It just happened that for me, it turned out it wasn’t what I really wanted.
Now for the shameless self-promotion:
I’m now a published author!
Little Miss Autoimmune