Looking back, I might not have had the most conventional upbringing – living in a foreign country, surrounded by crystals and books about pornography as an art form, and allowed to run riot / swim naked in rivers / perform magic spells in public toilets.
It’s a wonder I even attempted a conventional adult life and career at all. But I did. And then it all went a bit wrong… So let me start at the beginning.
When I was eleven years old, my mother told me the world was going to end in 2012. It was confirmed – death by asteroid was a-coming for us all, just before my 21st birthday. Bit of a bummer, I thought, but might as well get on with things. I started by writing five YA fantasy novels (unpublished, you’re welcome) and designing my own clothing line called ‘Stazi’ (until we did WWII in history).
When I was thirteen, I realised my mother was a tad eccentric and that doomsday was not imminent. Phew! The pressure was off to be an award-winning-something by my twenty-first birthday. But apocalyptic fear, once introduced, is a tricky bastard to forget. It stayed with my subconscious, manifesting in severe impatience and a burning ambition to succeed. Couple that with being an entitled ‘Millennial’ and it’s a small mercy I never learned to code, or I’d basically be Mark Zuckerberg’s boss by now.
When I was seventeen, I set my sights on the film and television industry. I aced my A-Levels, did a gap year working in production as prep for my degree, made some really terrible student films, before graduating with honours and a healthy CV of top-notch work experience. It was time for Ana vs The Real World and my odds were on me.
When I was twenty-two (aha! Asteroid schmasteroid), I moved to London and accepted that for the next couple of years, at least, I was going to be very poor and getting high off printer fumes my only kick. I did an internship at Disney, then swanned off to make videos for British Vogue, decided I was ready to start my own business, caved into The Fear and went back to TV drama. I would eventually fight, crawl and blag my way up the career ladder to a respectful position where some other minion does my photocopying for me.
When I was twenty-four and a half, I realised that eleven year-old Anastasia had figured it out back in 2002. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write books and scripts and make them into great TV and films. Fortunately for us all, those YA novels I wrote were long lost to the aether but it was ok, I had shed-loads more ideas. And I was going to make them happen.
Now I’m twenty-five. I spent the last year dedicating evenings and weekends to my Dreams, whilst still working full-time in TV, feeling unchallenged and frustrated. I spent what little money I had (and it really ain’t much when you live in London) making short films and a crowdfunding campaign that was about as successful as keyboards for cats – oh, wait – less successful than keyboards for cats. All this and other personal nonsense amalgamated into anxiety and insomnia, then panic attacks and night terrors. Finally I returned to the black-hole of depression I thought I’d buried under my mental list of favourite Harry Potter moments. If you ever visit rock-bottom, you’ll find my name smeared on the wall in marmite and a bottle of Merlot under the pile of self-loathing – enjoy!
How I ended up shit-creek without a paddle still escapes me. I had done everything I was supposed to do – surprisingly good at school, better at university, with an enviable CV, and now I was living in Clapham and working for the UK’s biggest broadcaster. So why wasn’t I happy?
Could it be that my good grades, unyielding ambition and hard work ethic were just a twisted rebellion against my hippie-freak parents?! Well shit – 10 points to Gryffindor! Maybe I wasn’t supposed to climb this ladder after all.
My point isn’t an original one but, seriously, apocalypse or not, life is too short for climbing ladders you don’t want to be on. Especially not ladders that come with declining mental health, extreme social pressure and a near-empty bank account.
And that is why in June 2017, just before I turn twenty-six, I am getting out of here. I’m surrendering to an unconventional lifestyle, with few materialistic or permanent ties, to fill my days with artistic pursuits. Which, coincidentally, is Wikipedia’s definition of Bohemia. So YES all that reading was relevant in the end.
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