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  • Writer's pictureHelen Walling-Richards

A Sliding Doors Reflection

I'm feeling strange and reflective this evening, having stumbled across this whilst clearing out an old wardrobe. A prospectus for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, dated June 2007. Reading the letter, I clearly reached out to them to enquire about their post-graduate courses in Acting.

The date makes sense. It was in May 2007, during my final year of reading a Business Management degree, that my passion for acting ignited. I attended a training course with producer/director Jesse Malone, where I was pushed way beyond my comfort zone to a place that petrified me and made me realise just how emotionally and psychologically difficult - and vulnerably exposing - acting is. But I left the course ready to give up my degree to pursue acting professionally! "Igniting a deep overwhelming passion" is the only way I can describe or remember that pinnacle in my life. I had loved doing am-dram and other performing arts as a child and teenager, even going to London for a few training sessions on Shakespeare during my university years as it had never really left me, but it was this course with Jesse that changed everything and took my love for creativity to a whole new level.

Being only a few months from graduating, I decided not to drop out of university and to finish my business degree, whilst also exploring options of how to move into acting more and pursue it professionally later that year once I had graduated. I had arranged to work and travel abroad for a few months immediately after graduation, but planned to pursue this new avenue on my return. I remember researching different options before I graduated; however I sadly didn't remember contacting this great establishment. Finding their prospectus and letter today shows that I must have considered post-graduate training in Acting as a real near-future option to explore.

This is what has made me reflective. Sliding doors. If I had stuck to my plan to pursue acting immediately upon my return to the UK in the late summer of 2007, I may have been fortunate enough to gain an audition and entry into the RWCMD post-graduate training. The last 13 years would have been very different to what they actually were - something I've always been aware of, but to see this intent in material physical form has brought it a little more 'home'.

And yet my life has gone full-circle. I haven't applied for, or undertaken, a post-graduate degree in acting (although doing so does still cross my mind every now and again) but here I am, 13 years later, pursuing the life of an actor full-time. An uncertain, relentless, financially unstable, expensive, gritty, dogged, time-consuming, sacrificial, psychological, deep, emotional, vulnerable, constant endeavour. And I love it. The unpredictability excites me, the work challenges me. I meet beautiful people, grow, and feel very blessed.

As much as I've occasionally wondered how my life would have been if I had stuck to those previous time frame ideas - getting into acting when I was younger (with better skin and physique!) and enjoying life for all that time inbetween by doing what I actually loved - I also know that perhaps, ultimately, my life is better now for having joined the acting world at a later stage. I have shed insecurities, experienced much more of life, and become a different person to who I was 13 years ago. I suspect that I may not have survived the constant rejection that this industry brings. I doubt I would have had the depth of emotional range and experience to portray characters in the same way that I do now. I know I would have struggled with the lack of certainty or ability to plan. The demand for letting down barriers and exposing vulnerabilities (often a challenge anyway) would have significantly stunted me. And with the huge amount of insecurities I held at the time, I would likely have failed any auditions to begin with anyway!

Life may have been great for all of that time, if I had followed up on that prospectus. But I more strongly suspect that the route I've actually taken - although hard and empty at times, and much slower in reaching my current goal - was ultimately the better path for me. That's what I have to believe and hold on to anyway. There's no time machine or magic crystal ball. We only have what we have.

I virtually gave up on life several years ago, before I was accepted into Rose Bruford College (another great acting establishment and one which I'm thankful for) but positive life affirmations brought me back. It's not over till it's over, and it's never too late to make a change and pursue what makes you happy. Our destinies are in our hands to some degree, and it starts with a choice.

Sliding doors... What a funny tapestry life is.

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