After years of travelling, living abroad, studying abroad, more travels and an odd idea that I need to settle in a different country from mine, I have moved back to Hungary. The country of my origins. The country that I always thought will choke me with its corrupted systems of all sorts. How and why this happened? It’s a story of inner battles and outer struggles, that I would love to share with you all.
Let’s start at the very beginning. I was born and raised in the countryside of Hungary (Palotás), as a middle child of an English teacher mother and a grocery store owner father. As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to escape that small place. I was looking at movies and admired actors, singers, dancers. I wanted to go and taste it. I learnt the piano and did my best in school, got really good grades too. (I’m also a nerd and had a bit of a problem with getting external validation. So I worked hard to be a good student, good daughter, good human in general, I guess)
When it came to choosing high school, I really wanted to go to the big city. Well, Budapest, with its 2 million people. As big as it could get for me. I wanted to study drama but I let my mother influence me to choose a school that has a better name and higher rates for students to go to uni from. What did I know? I was 14. “She must know better, she has more experience.” Of course I loved and hated my school. I was in a boarding school, living in the same building where I studied and some days barely saw the sunlight. I wrote letters in my mum’s name to go and take dance classes, which she didn’t know about because she couldn’t afford to pay for them, but I did! I sold the food tickets that I bought for the school canteen at 50% discount - because we were a household with 3 children, and got a discount as a government benefit - and sold them for more money but still below the full price. Good deal, right? I don’t know what my mother was thinking because I took so much food from home over the weekends and I also got some pocket money and I was still skinny, but the system worked. I got myself some cheap food in the store (I ate a lot of pasta with grated cheese on the top) and some savings that allowed me to take the dance classes I wanted and sometimes even go out with friends on the weekends.
Anyways, school ended. I hated it by the end because I put too much pressure on myself to do well, even though I was not sure why and just wanted to go away and live my life.Still the stressful times from my A Levels haunted me in my nightmares.
In my third year I got a boyfriend who was way older than me. (Yeah, probably some issues with a missing father figure. Took some years to process that.) After my A levels I started a tourism and hospitality uni but was only 6 months into it and of course I was sick of it to my gut, as I am a practical person and learning information that I saw nowhere near useful in real life just didn’t seem to fulfil me needs. So with my ex we got the idea to get work abroad. We moved to Caernarfon, Wales. I spent close to 4 years there and I was AMAZED how well things work in England. I mean: who wouldn’t want to live there? Jobs are so easy to get if you have common sense. I was bright and working hard and even was able to grab an opportunity to be a trainee duty manager in a lovely country house hotel. Career wise it was the best decision.
But life is not just career, is it? With a sense of humor not many could understand, with a constant craving for a warmer weather and tastier food and more sunshine (much much much more!!!) I became pretty miserable over the years. And of course with a relationship that made me feel trapped, I was going mental. Literally.
I was dreaming about moving to London and doing an actor training, but man, that is COSTLY! I can work as a waitress for the next 10 years to save up the money that pays for that... And I already felt so stuck on top of that. I just wanted to breathe and could not think to be where I was for that long.
So with my ex, whom with we decided to remain friends - because let’s be honest, we didn’t have any other friends with the same weird humour and I couldn't really speak English well enough to fully express myself -, we decided to travel through Europe all the way back to Hungary. It took us a month of bike rides, hitchhikes, camping, couchsurfing, hostels and shit load of PBJ sandwiches to get back to Hungary, still it was a fun journey. I’ve seen London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin. Wow. It was just, wow.
Finally we got back to Budapest. When I moved into a friend’s apartment and lived on my own I never felt so free and happy in my entire life. Me. Alone. Space. Quiet. Loud music of my choice. It felt and tasted like Heaven. Except the 14 hours of work I needed to do as a waitress on a boat because I wanted to save money quick so I can travel again. That was the only way I knew how to make money so I went with it. Despite the lack of sleep and unhealthy lifestyle I forced myself to live - to then be able to travel again. Following my dreams and my hunger for acting was met by simple acts like reading plays and books with techniques, dancing at home and… talking about it. Pretty soon I got together with my second boyfriend, who studied in Budapest and had film making desires. (No wonder I found him hot.) He also was finishing his studies and went back to Vietnam for the summer. I was madly in love and couldn’t care about waitressing, but got hooked on travel videos about Vietnam, so I followed him. For the summer. And I LOVED it! Then we moved back to Hungary, together even after a few more months living separate, and then the cycle began. I need to make money, I went back to my old waitressing job working shitty hours. Then I upgraded for an office job and we even made some short movies together and danced at events with our dance group. It was fun but my needs were not met. I wanted to act more. Like ACT act, be an actress, be in movies and on stage and tell stories and talk to people about behind the scenes and all that. Until his mum got ill so he told me he will move back to Vietnam to support her and the family. “Totally makes sense. I’m going with you, babe, you got my support.”
I mean, it was fun to be there for the first time, so I went with him. I did an online teacher training and got myself some jobs that paid pretty well for teaching English for kindergarteners and teaching biology in English. Definitely not my dream, but we were dreaming of going to England together in the not too far future and getting that training done. Him his masters and I my BA. I kept on thinking about money and all that, until I met people who were telling me about student loans in England as an EU student. And I was like: “This shit exists???” In Hungary student loans are pretty crippling, so I never would have imagined taking any loan whatsoever, but I researched, and yeah, it did exist. My relationship was going pretty shit anyways, as me being a vegan by that point could just not fit together with a guy who’s culture encouraged him to eat all parts of all animals. Also I met my very best friend - online - from Romania, who kept me sane while I tried to live so far from everything I knew and she kept on encouraging me to listen to my inner voice and make a reality for myself that aligns with what was told by it. I decided. This is it. I am going to England, I am gonna get into drama school, I’m going to live The Life in London.
I moved to London, I found myself a crappy enough apartment with a room that was as big as my utility room right now. But I was there! Did the same crappy waitressing job, but after a few months at least I could do it at a vegan place. I told everyone, that I want to be an actress and that I am auditioning (which was OMG so expensive!). And there hit reality, like shit the fan…
You actually have to be good to get into drama school. Or you have to be fitting a certain profile, or I don’t know what exactly you need because I auditioned like crazy and got rejected with the same wind. I was low and felt stupid to be so naive and think I could actually make it to an English university… And already have spent so much of my hardly earned savings. I definitely had moments when I doubted myself, or was thinking what am I going to do in the future because waitressing is not for me and I have already spent so much time in hospitality! Ok, only like 5 years, but when you dislike something that kind of feels like 50.
2 weeks before the deadline for applications I added another school to my list that has an acting course for internationals. The 5th option one was allowed to have on their application list. My friend went there for his masters, so I was like, “OK, nothing to waste apart from an extra £60. But I am here already and I still make low budget bean burgers while working till 2 am in a restaurant, so… let’s go.”
The audition was better than any other! We did something called stage combat. I was like: “what is that even?” I didn’t know then, but I had fun ALL day pretending to punch people in the face and falling without breaking a tailbone, so I decided it was worth even going there. Best £60 ever spent on an audition. AND I could answer all questions related to my Shakespeare monologue so I also felt smart. Me, a countryside girl, speaking with a weird accent.
A week or two later (because I was pretty close to the deadline already when applying) I got my last letter of… NOT rejection this time. That was it, I made it. Into drama school! (And setting myself up for a dept of at least £29 950 for the total of 3 years by the end, but I was in.) I’m moving from London to Essex, bye Felicia! Hello East 15.
I loved my course, I have just submitted my thesis and I am missing the work we did for 3 years already. I learnt to act, to articulate better, to sing, to dance, to kick people in the face without actually hurting them and SO MUCH MORE. I evolved into a new version of me who gives less fuck of what people think and more fuck of being truthful and honest to myself, and I also got a job at a yoga studio that paid close to nothing but let me do teacher trainings there, which was my plan since I lived in Vietnam. Of course I stressed my brain out how I will ever make enough money to cover all this, but I was deep into self-help books on stretching my mindset into this abundant one in health, spirituality and finance alike. I evolved into this “I’m never stopping and turning back to downgrade myself to a fear-led, closed minded person” mentality. I still am training, but parts of it definitely worked. Also I got so much support from my friends who pretty much lived all over the world. Probably I had a better relationship with my phone than with my actual classmates, because I needed the boost of likeminded people. People who want to achieve more, live better, work harder, be more successful, have their own business (I am not waiting at another table unless it belongs to my business, that is the line I drew, thank you very much). They pushed me, supported me, listened to me, encouraged me and cheered me on. Thank you for all of you! You know, who you are.
The knowledge that trained me to be a self-sufficient, healthy and successful person came in a short amount of time. I definitely put too much pressure on myself to become all who I want to be in a short period of couple of years, because I wanted to be an actor, a person with healthy boundaries in relationships, a healthy person in general and business woman too.
I didn’t just want it, I dedicated my mornings, evenings, weekends and most my free time that I had to achieve all this. Practicing yoga for my spiritual health, learning about diet and nutrition and exercise for my physical one and doing free courses, reading books on finance and money for my financial abundance. Doing my BA training and also doing a 200 hour and a 300 hour yoga teacher training (I still need to do my final assessment for the later.) In my last year I already worked on my business idea and spent my Christmas holiday putting together my first yoga retreat. In Italy… Well, we will see how that goes under these circumstances. But the point is, if I had a Native American nickname, that would have a meaning of “obsessed with productivity”.
You see how in the picture I only talk about work and career? Underneath that layer I suffered from the same problems that I faced during the first 4 years I spent abroad. I get British humour less than someone from the culture, and when I try to be funny I come across rude, blunt, or just not funny at all. I was still freezing cold to my bones, even on summers, I thought of tomatoes as the most boring food on Earth and I couldn’t connect to people on a what I call, deep level. I was different. In every sense. My way of fun was not other people’s way of fun. I did not like to spend stupid amount of money on alcohol and entrance fees to parties that had shit music.
I had this underlying debate in me what to do. I always wanted to go to England to get my degree there, and I had most my knowledge on the industry there and any sort of contacts that could help me move forward in what I chose to be my profession. Every time my teachers or mates asked me what I will do after graduation, I said I would stay in England (right? I mean that makes sense, what would I do elsewhere?)
But I was sad. Very sad. I missed summer, I missed laughing on jokes that I considered funny because of the structure of the language (which doesn’t work the same in another one) I missed my family, I missed my friends, I missed tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. And watermelon! And every time I had this longing feeling in me, I was thinking of the sacrifices I made to get so far and would shut myself quiet because I thought I had no rights feeling the way I did, because I had everything I ever wanted and I should be grateful only (which I was, day in day out I said my prayers to God).
Until this breakout that wrote itself into history as COVID-19 happened. I was in my third term third year and I woke up to an e-mail saying that my school was canceled and I didn’t need to be at campus because all would continue online due to regulations. And I heard a voice so clear in my head, it was like not me talking. “I’m going home. I don’t care anything or anyone, I have the reason now. God gave me the reason to at least go home for a few months until this whole thing is over, because life is cheaper there, there will be no jobs in England anyways, so what to stay here for now? I can come back at any point. I’m going to summer baby!!!”
In 4 days I packed my life and let everyone know, and I was on the last planes that transported people between London and Budapest.
I learnt that decisions are now super easy for me to make (self-help books on how to build a successful mindset do work). I learnt that the illusion that you will be completely happy someplace else, is what it is: illusion. I learnt that it really is a good thing to get to know your true self and what matters to you. To me people, weather and culture (and nutritious tasty vegetables and fruits) rank higher than physically being where the big jobs are, which receive 500 times the applications anyways, so you know…
I got back, and with a mindset that is so different than what I had when I left the first time 10 years ago, I realised my country is pretty DOPE! People I reached out for info in the industry and help, gave my nothing but help, opened up doors, offered me their assistance and all with a smiling face. The community is smaller and is super kind, with occasional poop heads that are there in every country anyways. I pay less rent than in London and I have my own studio in the house, where I practice and teach yoga, move, dance and rehearse every day whenever I want. I live near 3 theatres and next to locations that are amazing to shoot my own productions at, once I have enough contacts and a team. But most importantly, I have my family near. I travel to the countryside now twice a month and not twice a year. I feel more connected even though I am under lockdown and haven’t even met my friends yet - which of course tires me emotionally because for years I waited to just hang out with the people of my kind, and now this bloody virus…
I realised you can work abroad if you want to, just be smart and find a way. Or not, work at home and learn to manage your finances so even though you earn less money, you know what financial freedom is. Learn until you make it work for you wherever you are. Wherever you feel you belong to. Not where you reason yourself to be, but where your cells tell you to be.
I cannot wait to go abroad again, of course. To do short courses for a week or a month, to do project based work or to take my productions abroad when I’m at that level. But finally I can feel that I am where I’m ment to be - where I was born to be. Are we ever fully satisfied with everything? NEVER. The human mind was built in a way that you see the next desire after one is met. So why fight it? Why not say your grace every morning for the things you have around you and build into a schedule the things you know you want to achieve, no matter how long it will take. I love acting in English, I love the language, the sound of it - could I have got this from my mother? I don’t know - but I don’t need to live in England forever to use it or to get jobs in English. What if I make my own work? What if I just go back for periods of time? I don’t know, could that work? I guess I will be finding those answers now, but also I think that whatever we want, we make it work. Didn’t you learn that from this story yet?