Please bear with me this week as I ramble on in this little stream of consciousness post. It’s on a topic that I feel could relate to so many of you reading this that I couldn’t not express my thoughts on it. Over the last couple of weeks I have been riding a rollercoaster of emotions all to do with life and growing up. December is the month where everything winds down for the year but with the busy Christmas season all these emotions are just hitting me now that this ridiculous year is finally over.
2016 was a rollercoaster. It was my first year out of school, my first year being an adult, finding independence, growing up. It’s inevitable that we all have to grow up but nobody prepares you for just how difficult finding your way after high school can be. Throughout high school you have constant structure, routine. You always know where you have to be and what you have to do. Yet all of a sudden you graduate and there’s no longer that strict routine to follow each day, no set lunch times, nowhere you are required to be if you don’t want to be and that can be great but it can also be dangerous. I like routine, I like knowing what’s expected of me and working to achieve that and in a way you still have certain expectations as an adult but the lines just become a little more blurred and you have to find a new path that is completely unique to you.
November 18th marked exactly one year since my high school graduation and being roughly one month after my 18th birthday too I couldn’t help but feel that dreaded feeling of getting older and time slipping away (I know I’m only 18 but you have to agree that last year flew by). As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed filled with hundreds of “Graduation”, “Class of 2016” & “Schoolies” posts I began to think back to this time last year and the excitement and promise 2016 held for me: University, new friends, turning 18, getting my driver’s license. Then I compared it to where I was one year on and couldn’t help but feel disappointed in myself. I didn’t go off to University with most of my friends, instead I stayed home to save up some money, I tried an failed on numerous occasions to pass my driver’s test, I haven’t made any new friends and through lack of effort I even lost some. What seemed to be the greatest year of all my friend’s lives, I can’t help feeling was one of the loneliest and most challenging years of mine.
But I am an optimist and I’m not about to sit around feeling sorry for myself and wasting anymore time moping so I decided to find a new perspective. I’ll start with my taking a gap year which a year ago was the most difficult decision I had to face. Going to university meant a severe lack of financial stability for me and my parents and moving to a city 8 hours away from my family, but I was convinced that not going meant falling behind my friends who seemed to have it all figured out. It was difficult and I can’t say for sure that if I was in a better financial situation that I would have taken the gap year but you just have to play with the hand you’re dealt in life and that was mine. For the first 6 months I felt FOMO like never before. I don’t even enjoy partying but every time I saw my friends post about the latest college event they went to I felt a divide growing bigger between us. Whenever I spoke to them I just felt like a child sitting at the adult’s table and boy did it make me miserable. Here they are saying goodbye to 2016 with their new experiences, new friends and not to mention their first year of University completed and here I am still living at home (which at 18 is nothing to be ashamed of), my highest form of education still being graduating high school and feeling like I had made no strides towards my future. But this isn’t true and so I compiled a list of the small wins I had this year and urge you to do the same.
From December to June I tried and failed to get my license and although I did pass eventually I still felt like a failure. My anxiety, particularly around exams, got the better of me and it caused a mental barrier that would send me into a flurry of panic attacks even just thinking about taking my driving test. I knew I could drive well so when it came to the test I would put so much pressure on myself to pass that I would crumble mid test. Still 6 months later I feel the butterflies in my tummy at the thought of ever having to take a driving test again. I have held a driver’s license for 6 months now, I am a safe, cautious driver and haven’t had any accidents or infringements and I believe that the extra 6 months of learning to drive I had undertaken in between tests has helped make me the better driver. I believe everything happens for a reason and who’s to say that if I hadn’t failed my first driving test due to my nerves that I wouldn’t have got myself into a sticky driving situation that I wasn’t yet prepared to handle because looking back I really wasn’t ready to drive then.
In this year alone I have achieved so many small things and overcome so many mental barriers I have set for myself for 18 years. As well as overcoming crippling exam anxiety to pass my driving test; I finally saved enough money to make my first big purchase and bought a laptop that I have had my eye on for years; and I have become so much more independent and have managed to settle my social anxiety to a point where I can book and attend appointments on my own which is something that terrified me a year ago. All of these things held me back and would have made living away from home so much more challenging but I took my time and remained persistent which has shown me that I am strong enough to able to overcome anything that comes my way. I gave myself time to grow and in doing so allowed myself to learn everything I would have learned anyway out on my own in the world but at a pace that didn’t send my anxiety through the roof.
I am so far from having it all figured out or from having my anxiety under control to a point where it can go unnoticed but I have learnt to focus on the small wins in life, rather than just the long-term, because there lies true success. As I walk along my new path in life I have learned to stop looking at every fork in the road and overthinking what may lay ahead. Instead I just choose a path and focus on crossing the next bridge when I get to it.
As I write this, I am packing my suitcase and preparing to move overseas next month to spend 2017 as an Au Pair in Germany. I put university off for another year or two, not because I don’t want to go, but because I have realised I was giving myself a time limit for everything and there really isn’t a time frame in which I need to get my degree. I thought I had to get my license as soon as I turned 17 and put so much pressure on myself that I contemplated never driving again but when I took the pressure off myself and gave myself time to become a better driver I did and now I love driving, I gave myself a year to save enough money to financially support myself moving out of home and going to University not to mention mentally prepare myself for that big step and until a month ago I never even let myself consider not going to university next year because I truly believed it would mean I was a failure but then I realised that wasn’t true.
My point is that whether we set these expectations for ourselves or those around us set them for us, we need to learn that there shouldn’t be and realistically isn’t a time limit in which we should reach milestones in our life. From the moment we are born, we are expected to walk by a certain age, know what career we want by the time we finish high school, get a degree straight after, get married and have kids by our 30’s, the list goes on but why? As a society we set these guidelines and expectations that we then put pressure on ourselves to achieve and if we don’t we are seen as less than if not by others than in our own eyes. Don’t ever feel as if you need to do what everyone else is doing just because it’s what society expects or for fear of falling behind. Even if it takes years until you feel ready, Give yourself time to grow because a flower doesn’t think of competing with the flowers around it, it just blooms…
What I can say is that if I get to this time next year feeling as proud of myself and the things I have achieved, in the way of my mental health, as I do today then I will be so happy. I hope 2017 is full of adventures and growth for each and every one of you, I appreciate your support so much more than you know!
Before I go, I’ve been prepping and planning posts for 2017 so that 2017 can be a successful blogging year. I will only be posting once a week in January as I will be super busy finishing up at my job and preparing to move overseas but I hope to post more frequently once I’ve moved and settled in. Let me know if you would like me to write a post about how and why I decided to be an Au Pair, my thoughts on taking a gap year or other rambling life posts like this one and please comment any other posts you might like to see in 2017. Happy New Year to you all!