I’m 20 years old, and I’m a Portuguese student about to move to Cambridge, UK, to study drama. I hold a vast world inside of my mind. There were times when I was alone in my home and I’d start imagining myself somewhere else, imagining as if there was a perfect place just for me. And that’s when I’d feel agony because I didn’t feel right where I was. I would cry over that, that strange feeling of dis-belonging, a need to run away from everything I knew and enter into something or some place that would perfectly fulfill me. It was a utopia, of course. My daily anxious feelings don’t help either—every thought of self-doubt consumes me every single time.

Then, the performing arts came as a sort of liberation in my life. With every drama group I’d join, every time I would step on stage, the voice that was locked inside me screaming to get out was finally and wildly released on a theater stage. It was as if I was telling the world: “I’m here. I belong here.”

Though I’m reserved socially and speak only when I truly think I have something important to say, when I’m about to perform in front of a big audience, nothing holds me back. I’m not afraid of their reactions; in fact, I want reactions. I’m not afraid of being eccentric or even obscene. I’m being seen and heard, and I love it.

As I’m growing up, there are decisions about life to be made and day-to-day activities to be done, and there is little time to torture myself with these thoughts of self-doubt that creep into my mind. But I’m not going to lie, they are still there, every single day—only it’s up to me to not be my own enemy and listen to them.

Instead, I’ve decided to make my life’s journey joyful. I will not listen to the self-doubt if I can help it. And now, I’m taking the next step towards joy by moving to the UK to graduate as an artist, to work as one, and travel a lot.

Am I afraid of going forward? Hell, yes. But the fear doesn’t overshadow my strong desire to see what I can make of my path, of where I can go, and of what I can conquer. I’m pursuing my dream, I’m going to learn and to discover. And sometimes, I will still be alone with myself and with that screaming feeling of dissatisfaction. But other times, I will get out of my head and just go, probably always in pursuit of that place that doesn’t exist, that feeling of complete fulfillment that probably will never come. And that’s okay because I don’t know anyway what I would do if I found it.

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  • Thank you for sharing. How true your words do sound to me.
    I do want to wish all the success in your new endeavor.
    I also live in Portugal.
    Cheers

  • Jenny Murphy

    I am almost 60 years old, and am so impressed with your insight and words at just 20. Although I am not a performing artist, I have always wanted to be one. My daughter is a professional ballerina. When I last visited her, I stepped out on the stage and performed to an empty audience. Someone back stage whispered how they wish they had my confidence. I am quite insecure, anxious, and doubt myself, but on stage I felt empowered. My daughter has a life full of wonderful friendships, thanks to her being a ballet dancer and an introvert. She has formed strong bonds with the people she practices and performs with. I hope the same for you. Brava to you for finding a way to be fully yourself.

  • Marlana Sherman

    Good for you for not letting your fear hold you back from your dream of performing

  • Julie

    Cristina, thank you for writing this, it’s helped me enormously. I identify very much with what you’ve said. It helps to know you feel afraid, but do it anyway. So glad you have found where you belong, a place that is so necessary for the rest of us to truly live – the arts, the theatre, performance, creativity. Thank you, and my warmest wishes for you in my home country.