On Wednesday, I completed my final A-level Physics exam. The exams themselves went far better than I anticipated. Paper 1 and 2 were smooth sailing with paper 3 posing the most significant challenge yet still tameable. I think its safe to say that I did not crumble and fumble (see my previous post). Of course, we will not know for sure until my second results day on the 17th December. In the meantime, though, I find myself presented with a lot of freedom.
It is strange to find myself free of academic responsibility: no more exams, no more classes, no more homework, no more timetables. And while we have been in Lockdown for the past eight months (wow!), this time it feels different. I no longer have the uncertainty of A-levels casting a shadow over my daily life. It’s done and dusted. Never again will I have to do Physics in my life, and in this, I take immense pleasure. But now I feel a kind of emptiness. A-levels had been the primary concern of my life for the past two years. Before that, it was GCSEs. Day in day out, Monday to Friday (and even some Saturdays) I was in school. For the next year, I will have no such commitments. My long-coveted gap year is finally underway, and I have a lot of time on my hands now. The question is: What to do with this time?
Believe me; I would love to spend the next year just kicking back and playing video games. However, this would be a complete waste of time. Not because I would not enjoy it but because I would have nothing to show for it – I am nowhere near skilled enough to be a professional esports player. I want to look back in a year and say: “Yo, that gap year was actually lit you know, I did X, Y and Z” as opposed to “Man, I sure could’ve used that time way better instead of just playing League all day.” So instead, I have decided to dedicate my time to the following endeavours.
I now present to you: Aqil Ghani’s Gap Year Goals! (This post is more for myself than anyone else to act as a record I can review at the end of my gap year). So, without further ado, in no particular order, let us begin:
For those who know me (and those who have read my last post), it is no surprise that I aspire to be an actor. It was my sole motivation for taking a gap year after all. A year to pursue acting. The main thing you need as a professional actor is an agent. Agents are what get you acting work after all. Now, this is no small feat, especially with the effect COVID-19 has had on the acting industry. Small acting agencies are going through financial difficulty, and a lot of the larger ones are not admitting any new actors in what was already quite a hard industry to get into. Nonetheless, this will not deter me from doing what I can to get the prerequisites covered.
The main thing you need to get an agent in the UK is a Spotlight CV (And this will be what I am going to work towards over the next year). There are two ways to do this 1) Go to drama school and graduate with a degree and 2) Have at least four professional credits in featured speaking roles. Unfortunately, I will not be able to go to drama school, and so I am left with the second option. Alas, we have the old “chicken and the egg” predicament. You see to get acting roles you need an agent, but to get an agent you need to have done some acting roles. This is very much the first of many mountains one must climb to become a successful actor. Fortunately, in the modern age, we have the internet. There are many sites online that one can use to find available casting calls, such as Backstage and StarNow, so I will be using said sites to find work. Once I’ve done this, I just need to put together a showreel showcasing my talent, get some headshots taken, and I’m good to go. Of course, this is all easier said than done.
The actual process of getting an agent once you’ve met the prerequisites is a long one. It took my acting coach a whole year to get an agent, and he had the added advantage of going to drama school in South Africa. It is going to be a process fraught with rejection. Even once I get an agent, this won’t change. The life of an actor is very much one of sacrifice, uncertainty and financial insecurity. There is no set path when it comes to becoming an actor like there is for doctors, lawyers or engineers. A drama degree and an agent doesn’t guarantee that’ll you will get work the same way medicine or law degrees do. This isn’t to say that treading those paths are easy – I know some doctors, lawyers and engineers who can tell you just how hard it is – but they are most definitely paths that have been trodden before with a set roadmap to follow. For an actor, there is no road map. Just a bunch of objectives hidden in a dense jungle that you need to find and even once you’ve found them you still need a massive dose of luck to get admitted into the temple filled with the treasures. A far cry from the well-paved highways with signposts that tell you where you need to go and what you need to do to get the keys required to enter the hospital, courtroom or construction site. That being said, I know that in front of the camera is where I want to be. Nothing else can quite match the thrill of tapping into one’s deep-seated courage to deliver a line to a captivated audience. And so if that requires me having to forge my path, away from the beaten track and into the dense jungle, then so be it.
For my entire life, I’ve always been the scrawny kid who was never particularly good at sports. Not because I don’t like playing sports – I do – it’s just that my enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily translate into skill as I’m sure my friends who played cricket with me at Lord’s are well aware. And while I may not look it, I consider myself quite physically fit having done several martial arts over the years from Karate to Muay Thai and even a little bit of Jiu-Jitsu. However, when you look at my skinny frame, you wouldn’t think I’m that athletic. It’s no secret that when it comes to acting, one needs to maintain a particular physique – you know the chiselled jawline, bulging biceps and six-pack that is all too familiar amongst Hollywood stars today. Furthermore, let’s not pretend that when it comes to finding a romantic partner that your physique doesn’t play a part. And so over the next year, I aim to significantly change my skinny frame into one that is more “swole”.
This is not the first time I’ve tried to do this. As someone who has struggled with body image issues – yes, men can also have body image issues – Its always been a dream of mine to one day become “dench”. Unfortunately, this desire has led me to take on board advice that in hindsight wasn’t the best. For example, when I was fifteen, I got the awful idea that drinking a gallon of milk a day would somehow magically turn me into the next Hrithik Roshan. As you can imagine, this ended horribly, I kept it up for about three weeks, and then my bowels turned against me. Now my body can’t even handle a single glass of milk, let alone a gallon. Even though now I’m a lot more cautious having learned that online advice isn’t necessarily the most reliable – what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the next – I still want to attain that so-sought-after figure of an ancient Greek statue. Fortunately for me, I have a friend I met in Sixth Form who used to be skinny like me. Now he is one of the “denchest” people I know. He’s offered to help guide me in my quest, and I most definitely will be taking advantage of his guidance.
One thing that people often say to me is: “Aqil you should start a YouTube channel”. The truth is, I did have a YouTube channel from when I was about eleven to fifteen. It wasn’t anything special: Just another kid with a high-pitched voice making Minecraft videos in an age when everyone was making Minecraft videos. I’ve since had it deleted. Now I suddenly find myself with an abundance of time, I thought, why not give it another try. However, I will be doing things differently. Instead, I will be tailoring it more towards acting rather than gaming. It will serve as a kind of portfolio of my work. I aim to write, direct and act in short films that I can share with potential collaborators in the future. I may even upload vlogs and make documentaries on topics that interest me. In many ways, it will be like this blog – just another way to spurt out my endless stream of thought into the universe.
Speaking of blogs, I started this site back in June as a way to occupy myself during Lockdown. Since then, I’ve only made a measly seven posts. This is something I want to change. I want to expand this into something I do more regularly. I want to make it something I can point to whenever anyone asks me: “So Aqil, what are you about?”. And so, I aim to post more regularly on more wide-ranging topics, and I may even expand this site to include some of my acting work with maybe even some occasional photography. So far, I’ve only really covered historical topics. While I still aim to complete my series on Jinnah’s Pakistan, I do wish to cover more issues relating to pop culture, society and politics in the future. Right now, I have an idea concerning everyone’s favourite brown girl from New Jersey (wink wink to my fellow Marvel fans). Furthermore, my last post and this one, which have essentially consisted of me waffling about my life, have proven to be a very therapeutic experience for me. So I also want to do more posts just talking about me, myself and I (the site is named after me after all).
Last but not least, I have an exciting project to share with you. A group of friends and I have decided to create and sell online GCSE courses. So far, we are still in the early stages as the courses are still in production, but you can still follow us on Instagram to stay updated. I will be making the Geography course which I am currently a third of the way through. Each course will consist of videos, worksheets, quizzes and tests that you will have lifetime access to. So if you know any current GCSE students, sharing this with them will be much appreciated. I aim to get the Geography course completed by the end of this year.
Alongside these primary goals, I also have secondary goals, that while not imperative for the next year, would be nice to accomplish. These include: doing some form of work experience, writing an article for a newspaper/magazine, begin writing a novel, learning how to cook biryani, develop a cure for cancer, and maybe even some travelling when/if COVID-19 calms down.
Alas, this concludes today’s post. I was going to end with an inspirational quote or something, but instead, I have decided to leave a message for my future self:
Your greatest blessing is an overactive mind that’s filled to the brim with ideas, yet you often fail to bring them to fruition. Instead of daydreaming about future possibilities, turn them into your reality. Live a life you can be proud of.