Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
How I got here
In August last year I decided I had had enough of uni for the time being and that I was going to take some time off studying to focus on myself and the things I consider more important in life than a piece of paper that qualifies me to do exactly nothing. It was a decision that I came to after three months of consideration. Honestly, I would have immediately left uni at that moment that I came to the decision but I had no full-time employment opportunities, I was relying heavily on centrelink to get by, and I had nowhere to live. So, I would have to finish out the semester at university and spend that time ensuring I would be able to defer when the time came.
It was a mistake.
I didn’t actually go to any classes that semester as I had already come to the conclusion that university life didn’t suit me and it wasn’t working out and it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my time, so I automatically gave up. Although, that isn’t the right way to describe it. I’m not generally a quitter, but if I’ve decided I don’t want to do something or that I don’t care about it, I tend to turn my focus onto the things I do want to do and that I do care about. When university no longer sat on that list, I switched off. It wasn’t a conscious decision, perse, but it was a definitive one. Suffice to say, I failed that semester. Five years ago, when I was working my butt off to be accepted to my university, if that had happened to me I probably would have puked. I definitely would have cried. But now, it didn’t bother me, it still doesn’t as I write this and think about it. And that is due to the fact that that life is not for me.
I feel as though coming to conclusions about what is and isn’t important to you takes a long time, but when you do realise those things, it makes your life so much easier. It makes everything make that slight bit of sense and it provides you with direction, or an idea of the direction you might want to head next.
Not a decision made lightly
It took a long time for me to realise that taking time off uni was the right choice for myself. And there are a lot of reasons for that long thought process. It all comes down to expectation. I expect a lot of myself, every day, all the time, in everything that I do. My parents expect certain things from me. And, going back five-plus years, my teachers and peers expected certain things from me.
Every single person in my life, including myself, expected me to go to university and make something big and important of myself.
There are just a few things wrong with that expectation.
First of all, I didn’t come up with the expectation for myself. Teachers back as far as I can remember, all the way back to when I was eight years old, expected me to go to university. I didn’t even know what university was back then. I do know that when I found out it was ‘like school, but for adults’, I was intrigued. I liked learning. I still do. I love learning new things, I love reading, I love studying. I truly love knowledge and the acquisition of it. However, that wasn’t the reason behind why teachers told me university was where I was headed. They told me that because I was smart. And I guess I am smart. I’ve always gotten good grades, I’ve always been an expedient learner. I’m an intelligent person with the ability to comprehend almost any topic you throw my way, and if I don’t initially, to put my mind to it until I do. (Gosh that sounded vain… or was it sitting on the confidence and self-awareness line… I’m never actually sure if people think I’ve stepped over the self-confidence/arrogance line… Anyway…).
Once teachers started in on that, along came my parents. It’s probably unfair to lump them in together in this matter, but the fact is they both pushed me pretty hard. My father didn’t finish high school and he’s one of the most intelligent people I know. He always regretted not going to university and doing something academic as he had always wanted to. When it became clear at an early age that I had apparently inherited his brain (along with his personality, unfortunately for my poor mother), he started imagining a future for me where I was an academic, or a doctor, or a scientist, or a lawyer, or maybe a combination of some of them. He started in on me, pushing me towards that future. For a girl who has always wanted her father to be proud of her, more than anything else, of course I started to want to do that. Because he wanted me to. And my mother wanted it for me too, telling me that if I wanted a good job, a stable life, then I needed a university degree for it.
That’s the next thing wrong with their expectations. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a creator, an artist, a performer. I’ve wanted to go into entertainment and creation. I’ve loved writing and acting and performing. Considering how cripplingly awkward I am, it’s quite funny that I adore performing in front of crowds, but it truly is what I love. And writing. Oh, how I love to write. I love weaving words together until, like magic, they create entirely new world and whole people; until they tell tales of tragedy and courage and adventure and romance. I. Love. To. Write. And yes, I am aware that the entertainment and writing industries are very difficult to break into and even more difficult to maintain success in, and so I understand my parents’ hesitation when it came to my desire to follow those paths, but I don’t think it’s particularly kind or encouraging to tell a child that their dreams aren’t safe or suitable, and that they should choose a ‘smarter’ path for their lives; that building a stable career should come first and your dreams should come later, when it’s safer to pursue them. My teachers believed the same things. They steered me towards academic careers or scientific ones or really anything that wasn’t ‘a waste of my brains’ (and yes, that is something a teacher actually said to me once when I expressed my desire to go into entertainment), because they believed I was better off walking down a rather simple, easy to follow, safe pathway in my life. What the hell is life if we play it safe with every decision we make? Your twenties are the time you should pursue dreams. Let the so-called safe choices be your backup plans.
And this is what pisses me off the most about this entire situation: what is so much better about being a lawyer, or a scientist, or a doctor, or a psychologist, or a teacher, than pursuing my dreams? Of course, I have respect for each and every one of those careers, I know people pursuing those careers, I don’t see anything wrong with them, yet I don’t see myself doing any of them. My father always told me ‘work to live, don’t live to work’, but there’s an issue with that statement, because if I force myself to follow a career that I don’t enjoy and that doesn’t bring me fulfillment, I’m not really living anyway, so I’m not even working to live. I’m working to exist. Existing and living are two very different things, as I discovered over the last twelve months. I was merely existing, continuing my university education despite being desperately unhappy and feeling as though I was adrift. I looked around myself every day and it seemed as though everyone was miles ahead of me in this journey of life and I was just kind of stuck somewhere close to the beginning with a map that was labelled incorrectly and a compass that was pointing south. If I chose to continue and become a teacher or a psychologist or an academic, I would have just continued that stagnant existence. That isn’t living.
I want to live.
So, I had a decision to make: to continue existing, or start living? Since I’m sitting here writing this out and feeling much lighter than I did twelve months ago, it’s pretty obvious what I chose. It was almost easy in the end, once I’d figured out all of that (everything I just wrote was stuff I only realised about myself last year; and I always thought I was pretty self-aware, tsk tsk), I knew what I wanted and it wasn’t regret.
A planner versus a dreamer
The decision had been made: no more university, at least for a few years, maybe longer. What came after that, however, was a lot more serious thought about what exactly it meant to defer my studies. Was I simply taking a break to rejuvenate, during which I would realise university is still what I want and I am just being silly so it’s time to go back? Was I taking a more serious break to think long and hard about going back to uni to study something different, or study at a different institution that would better suit my needs? Or, far more terrifying a thought, was I doing this for good and running off to chase some crazy dreams I’d kept locked in a box labelled ‘Forget It’ for years and years?
I’d never considered myself a scaredy-cat or a nervous-nancy. I’d never really wanted to play it safe in my life, yet somehow that’s all I’d done since finishing high school. That realisation, out of every one I had last year, bothered me the most. I’m a fighter, a dreamer, a risk-taker, and an adventurer… or, more accurately, I’d always wanted to be. Suddenly, it was time to prove it. It was time to throw away the ten year plan leading to my ten-year school reunion and all the successes I was determined to have by then. It was time to stop pretending I was all these things and actually start being them, to ‘walk the walk’ as a former principal of mine would always say.
That was the most frightening thing I have ever done in my life. I am a planner. Yes, I’m a dreamer, I have always had huge dreams and I have always wanted to jump in head first and strive for them, but I also like to have plans. I like to-do lists and I like weighing pros and cons. Yet, the best decisions I make are usually the spontaneous ones. I dyed my hair blue and it was the hair I’d ever had. I got a tattoo and I love it. I shaved my hair for World’s Greatest Shave. I bought a ticket for my first (it ended up being my second) pop culture convention without allowing myself to really consider the expenses. Those was all done without forethought and consideration. And they were my favourite decisions. Planning things out was always my fallback when I was too scared to go for something, so I decided to treat my future the way I treated my hair, by leaping without looking for once. Now that I’m looking back on it, I did think about it a lot, but I thought about it in the sense of ‘this is what I really want’ rather than ‘what are the things that could go wrong?’.
The dreamer is finally winning out over the planner.
Where to now?
It’s time to be a dreamer, it’s time to stop hesitating.
I’m working full-time right now because following your dreams costs money and since I spent the last four years as a student, that’s not something I have a lot of. So, I’m saving, but I’m also enjoying the first time I’ve ever taken for myself. I’ll get there, I’m confident about it.
I’m also spending this year with a focus on writing my novels. I never had time in the last four years to write when I wanted to because studying is time-consuming. This year, I have all the time in the world to write and I’m taking advantage of it. I want to finish the first book in my planned fantasy series by the end of the year and then edit and search out some publishers. I have a few in mind and I’m hoping I can achieve this first one of my two huge dreams.
I have also decided to dust off an old, neglected, but never forgotten, desire.
When I was ten years old I fell in love. I fell in love with professional wrestling. I fell in love with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Undertaker, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, John Cena, Trish Stratus, Lita, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, and Kurt Angle. I fell in love with WWE. I didn’t just love to watch it: the matches, the trash talking, the violence and the blood. I loved to study it, I loved to stare hard at the television and try to figure out how they did the incredible things that they did. I wanted nothing more, for quite a long time, than to be Shawn Michaels. At the time I told my older brother, who is responsible for this obsession and passion of mine, that I wanted to be like HBK and I wanted to be a wrestler. He told me it was dumb, girls couldn’t be Shawn Michaels, and I would never be able to. Ten year olds tend to take that sort of thing to heart, especially from their idolised older brothers, so I tucked the dream away and told it I’d come back to look at it later. Of course, later became never when I decided to make my parents happy and stop dreaming about entertainment and writing and art, and go to university instead. The desire never left me though, I’d watch matches and I’d yearn. I watched the women’s division in WWE evolve into what it is now and it brought me so much joy, and I literally dreamed every week of being in that ring with those women and becoming stars alongside them. But I didn’t like to acknowledge those yearnings and desires; that way led disappointment, I was sure.
Screw that though. That was such safe thinking. When they unveiled the new women’s title at Wrestlemania 32 and Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks stole the show and tore the house down wrestling for it, I wanted once again. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything so badly in my life as I did to be in that ring with them. It was still months later that I decided to give into temptation and truly consider that an option for myself, but when I did, ooh boy, I was consumed with desire. Consumed. It genuinely burns through my veins as I’m thinking about it right now.
Of course, I realised, if I actually wanted that, jogging a few times a week and occasionally remembering to do some sits up and push ups wasn’t going to cut it in regards to my physical shape. I bought a gym membership and started going every day. I spend at least 2 hours a day in the gym, conditioning my body, strengthening myself, making myself as fit and strong and capable as possible. I decided that I wanted to learn from someone who I admired and so I chose a school that I would work towards attending, so that I could learn. That’s where I am now, working towards that future. In the meantime, I’m writing, as I mentioned, but I am working my ass off every single day to go to that school and fight my way to where I want to be.
There are only six people in my life who know anything about this dream and this plan. They are all supportive and I know they’re cheering me on, and they actually believe I’ll succeed. I don’t know about success, I don’t know if I have the ability. I have the desire and I have the determination, but ability comes into it as well. Only time will tell. The only thing I know for certain is that I have to try, I have to know for sure one way or another, because if I don’t, then I’ll wake up one day with regrets. I do not want that. I know it’s crazy but just try to stop me.
In five years time…
As I said, only time will tell where I end up, but I know where I want to end up.
This November is five years since I finished high school. In five more years it will be time for my ten year reunion and I know how I want to walk into that event.
I want to be happy and I want to be successful. Success for me means having achieved those crazy dreams I want so badly. I want to be a published author. Five years is enough time to have two, possibly three, of my fantasy novels finished and published. I hope they’ll sell really well, only because I love that successful books have such dedicated fandoms with gorgeous art and fiction. Also, it would just be nice to be known as a bestselling author, and let’s be honest, I’m vain enough to want to have ‘Bestselling Author’ mentioned beside my pen-name. I also want to be a WWE superstar. Five years is a truly ambitious desire for that, considering I won’t really be attending school for it for another two years, but that is where I want to be the day I step foot in front of my schoolmates again. I want to be able to walk into a room full of people who bullied me and put me down for six years, knowing that not only I was brave enough to quit my safe, easy existence, and chase the life I truly wanted in my heart of hearts, but that I succeeded on that insane journey despite all the rocky slopes (or mountains), despite the doubt, despite the blood sweat and tears, despite everything.
In five years time, I just want to know it was worth it.