Praya Nataya Lundberg: Living the Dream at TEDxYouth@NIST (Transcript)

Watch and read here the full transcript of actress Praya Nataya Lundberg’s TEDx Talk: Living the dream at TEDxYouth@NIST conference.

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Praya Nataya Lundberg – Actress

Hi everyone. My name is Praya Lundberg and I’m an actress and a model in Thailand. That’s what I do.

I struggle with introducing my occupation to people, because it makes me nervous. I like to watch people’s reactions. I either get a weird smirk, or I can tell their thinking, “Yes, is that what you do?” Or especially abroad people who don’t know who I am, they are like, “Seriously, you paying your bills, okay?”

But when I was at NIST, my name was actually Nataya Lundberg. I’m the girl with the hair covering my face. I have no idea why I chose that hair style for my yearbook photo. Thankfully I dress a little bit better now.

My experience at NIST was a little bit different to everyone else. That’s why I’d like to share it. I can tell you that most of you in here don’t realize how fortunate you are to be able to receive an education that is not only a quality and professionally organized education, but also a beautiful multinational multicultural education. Just look around us how many nationalities do you see? How many languages do we speak between us? We are taught not only to embrace this naturally but to grow from it. Prevalent global issues such as racism, we would never even understand and I think that’s a beautiful thing, and that’s something that you will have to keep with you for the rest of your life.

My time at NIST was not the easiest time, I’d have to admit and me coming up here to talk about it isn’t the easiest thing for me. I started acting and modeling at the age of 14. In year eight, I was spotted at a mall on Sukhumvit and I later signed my contract two months after. My parents had no idea what would transpire for the next 10 years but they were supportive of my career path and my education.

My typical day at school would be waking up at 6 a.m., going to school at 7:30, going through the IB, going to class, finishing class at 3 and then afterwards going straight to a film set working from 12 to 1. I worked on weekends, I worked on school holidays.

High school was lonely for me. It stressed me out a lot. I didn’t — I was envious of my friends. I wished I could do things without being in the spotlight, making mistakes like normal teenagers could.

But looking back in hindsight, I couldn’t be more thankful for that opportunity, because it taught me to exercise strong self-discipline from a very young age. You see, with my job, if I don’t show up on set, not only do I let down 200 people, nothing happens. There will be huge financial consequences, no one can substitute for me. If I’m sick, they have a saying in my job, unless you’re dead you better show up. So — and trust me I’ve been — I’ve had an IV taken out of my hand and dragged back on set when I was dying. So yeah, the cons of my job.

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But I’d like to say that NIST was so supportive. That’s a great thing about being a NIST student is they’re supportive of your dreams. Whatever your dream is they make sure that you can achieve your dream at the same time get a great education.

After that my parents sent me to university in the UK and I was able to study without the pressures of having to work and without having to think about being an adult anymore. I was able to learn and grow and for some of you that’s happening really soon. So I just want to say enjoy your college years, they are the best years of your life, I promise you that.

When I moved back, I changed my negative emotions about my job to positive ones. And I can tell you that when you do what you love and you have gratitude, you achieve so much more with your life. So whatever you’re doing try to make it a positive experience, even if it’s hard right now, even if you’re doing your IB exam soon, you think God, it’s hard. Make it a positive thing and you’ll do so well.

Recently I went to a temple with my manager in Lopburi. It is a Buddhist temple that takes care of AIDS patients. We were visiting temples within the area and I decided to go to this one. We brought small donations. When I say small, I mean nothing special. It was snacks for 60 patients. They took me to the terminally ill warden. And as I approached the third patient lying in his bed, he was frail, thin. I don’t think he’s moved in a very long time. He can’t pick up a spoon when he’s hungry, go to the bathroom when he needs it, or even take a walk on a nice sunny day — things that we take for granted daily.

When I was walking up to him, I felt a sense of fear, I’ve never had that kind of fear. And as my hand touched his hand, I said in Thai, “I’m sorry for disturbing your rest time”. And he looked back at me with so much generosity and said, “No, your smile has made my day”. I held back my tears because I thought, God, everything that I looked and reflected in my life that I thought was so important all comes down to nothing. In a split second, he changed my life. And I’m thankful for that and I think that from that moment onwards my goal and purpose in life should be different.

We should not only just chase success, chase money, that’s what I do, but I think life there’s so much more to it. I think giving back to the community is something that we should all do and it doesn’t have to be about money, it doesn’t have to be something big. It could be something small, even doing something nice to your neighbor.

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I’m not here to tell you I’m perfect, I’m not a saint, trust me. If you’ve seen the Thai tabloids, you’d know. I’ve done so many things in my life I’m not proud of and my parents are either. But I’m human and the thing about being human is that you have the ability to learn, grow and reflect from your mistakes. Being human means that every day you have the choice to be compassionate, to be kind to yourself and everyone else around you.

So I will tell you that from today onwards someone is going to do something to you that will hurt you, that will disappoint you. Someone will embarrass you. It’s happened to me a million times. But don’t let that harden you. Let it soften you. Let it open your heart up and change you for the better so that you can be the change that you wish to see in the world.

I’m going to leave you with a quick end note from one of my favorite books. I did actually read this book in high school, I picked it up at the airport a couple of years back. I picked it up because it was on the bestseller list and it was the smallest one. So I was like, yep, that’s what I’m going for. It’s called Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It’s about a guy who goes back and see his sociology teacher who is terminally ill with ALS. And they had discussions about love, money and regrets. And the teacher says, “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because we’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose”.

This, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been working for 12 years, I still don’t know what I want. But I know that I feel happiest when I have a purpose. This is the first time honestly I’ve come up and shared a personal experience. You don’t do that often with my job. You’re taught to have a wall.

I’d like to say the thing that makes me happiest that I’m an actress is that of all the years that I’ve worked and all the exciting years to come is that I have a voice — I have a voice to share my thoughts, my visions, my passions and hopefully make a positive change in the world.

And I’d like to say that I don’t know where you all end up in life. But I hope that you find your voice and you make your voice powerful, you make it strong but at the same time you make it kind, you make it gentle. You have a voice with the intention to listen and let your voice change the world.

Thank you.