Listen to your heart.
Written by Mhairi Morrison
My parents had raised my brothers and I pretty strictly in the countryside of Scotland. I always wanted to be an actress, always looked for adventure and a way out of living in the middle of nowhere.
My mum is American, from LA. She had met my dad hitchhiking in the 70s with her sister around Europe. They spent 2 days together, wrote love letters for 8 months and then got married. They’re still together happy as ever 40 years on.
I have 3 younger brothers and my mum always wanted one of us to go through an American school system for a year, as it was so different from Scotland. I wanted to live in the States and so was excited to move in with family in Los Angeles for my senior year.
The family I was supposed to stay with ended up divorcing that year and so I wasn’t able to stay with them. That meant I enrolled in an exchange program that sent kids to high schools around America. I didn’t get to choose where I went I was simply placed with a family somewhere. I was sent to South Jersey, by the shore.
Before I left I auditioned and was accepted into a very prestigious drama school in Scotland and deferred entry to start when I came back from the States. I was over the moon to get in and felt this was the first serious step on my acting career ladder.
I didn’t know the East Coast at all. I remember being picked up from the airport in Atlantic City by a family I had never seen before in my life and thinking that nobody or nothing at all was familiar to me. I knew nobody and nobody at all knew me. The only thing that seemed familiar was a street sign that read Slippery When Wet, which reminded me of Bon Jovi. That was it. Everything else that night and in the weeks to come was completely foreign to me. The lockers at high school, the yellow buses and the classes…I was 17.
Then I met Jim and fell totally head over heels in love. He had the converse all-star logo tattooed in color on his leg which I thought was incredibly punk rock; which was what we were all about.
Anyway, the whole school year was intense but brilliant and I was super in love with Jim. Despite the fact he was in AA and that I had posted his bail on a couple of occasions; it was us against the world and that was it. It was like some kind of Bonnie and Clyde adventure.
At the end of the school year I came back to Scotland and started my drama course. 5 weeks in there was a week vacation and I had seen cheap flights to Philadelphia. I thought I could just about swing it to go for the week. My dad did not want me to go. I had just turned 18 and told him I could do what I wanted now. He told me that if I went he wouldn’t continue paying for my college course. I had a night to think about it.
I went to the pub and asked everyone I had known for the past 5 weeks what I should do. They all said to go. The Clash’s, Should I Stay or Should I Go Now played and I sold all my stuff (tap shoes and stereo) and bought a one-way ticket to Philadelphia. I regretted it as soon as I flew away from Scotland. I realized that I hadn’t made the decision myself. I had asked people (who I barely knew) and they had told me what they thought. Without thinking I had done what they had suggested. I had-on the advice of relative strangers-left my dream course and the beginning of my acting life to be with my boyfriend in a one room apartment on the Jersey Shore. I had let myself down. I had no idea what I had been thinking.
It was an extremely hard few months. We had almost no money, I struggled to get a job and everyday I felt that I had lost my dream. That I had left the life I had always planned for myself, on a complete whim. I felt alone and while all my friends had thought it was a great idea, they were all still in drama school moving on with there lives and I was stuck in a bleak situation. I felt I had been left behind.
6 months later after a wild police incident-that I won’t get into here-we broke up and I eventually flew back to Scotland and went back to drama school. So, All’s Well that Ends Well. Phew. I learned a lot of major life lessons through that experience. The main one being: listen to your own heart. I was extremely impressionable with friends, magazines etc and it was a massive lesson to me to listen to my own self. Nobody knows you as you do.
We live in a frenzied, packed world where people give you their opinions before you even ask. It takes thought to take a step away from the advice and opinions around you, but I would say it’s worth it to take the time to be quiet for a moment and listen to your own heart. At the end of the day it’s you who has to live with your decisions. Like Jiminy Cricket says, “let your conscience, your heart, be your guide.”
About Mhairi Morrison
Mhairi attained her BA in Acting from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and her Masters from Jacques Le Coq, Paris. She has acted in films including Green Street Hooligans, Young Adam and O, Jerusalem. TV shows including Casualty and Missing. Theater credits include Blues for Mister Charlie (London), Melody (Scotland) Low Life (UK and US tour) throughout London, Europe and USA. She now lives in Los Angeles and has created 2 seasons of the award winning web-series Feathers and Toast which is now being developed into a half hour comedy for TV. Visit www.FeathersandToast.com or www.mhairimorrison.com for more information.