Riz Ahmed is having quite a year: The British actor has snagged several award show nominations for his role in The Night Of; he’s currently starring in the new Star Wars blockbuster Rogue One; his rap duo Swet Shop Boys released their first full-length album in October. However, Ahmed took to Instagram Monday to explain that despite his successes, it hasn’t been an easy road to the top — but that it’s important to stick to your dreams in the face of obstacles.
The post features a photo of Ahmed as a 7-year-old, rocking a pair of sunglasses and a crisp white outfit and standing next to several drawings he created as a child that show Star Wars characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader when they’ve gotten “old.” Ahmed begins his accompanying message by recalling his Dec. 7 appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and how surreal it felt hearing the host praise him for his recent accomplishments, including his role in the latest Star Wars film.
“Now I’m back home, I just saw these pictures I drew at age seven of Darth Vader and Luke after watching Empire Strikes Back,” Ahmed captioned the post. “I was reimagining these characters ‘when they gold old,’ reshaping their world, and nothing about that seemed weird. But somehow in the years between them and when I myself ‘got old,’ the constant message that someone like me couldn’t ever belong, or shape the world around them, had taken hold.”
Ahmed, who is of Pakistani descent, previously wrote about his experiences with feeling like he doesn’t belong in an essay called “Typecast as a Terrorist,” which was published this year in The Good Immigrant, a collection of essays from British writers of color. His powerful piece focused on discrimination he faced both in roles and in places like the airport.
“I had no road map or template to follow in trying to prove those messages wrong. I started believing them,” he continued on Instagram. “Only a year ago, for various reasons, I wasn’t sure I could carry on doing this. I had to embrace this helplessness, and through it, rediscover a sense of childishness, and of play. Finally, at that point I stopped doing and making things to prove myself to others, and started doing things for my younger self.”
Ahmed then called out the number of notable accomplishments he’s completed over the past year, from his Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for The Night Of, to Swet Shop Boys releasing their first album Cashmere, to his published essay, and his roles in Rogue One, Jason Bourne, and The OA.
“I have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants,” he wrote. “Walking off Jimmy’s chat show that night, I felt about as cool as I did in this photo age 7. But the best part of it wasn’t feeling cool, it was feeling like a kid. Keep your inner child alive. Keep dreaming.”
Read Ahmed’s inspiring note in its entirety below.