I woke up today feeling pretty awful. Reginald (the little device that lives in my chest) had somehow moved from his usual position, and as a result every time I moved it felt as though somebody was stabbing me. Rather than calling the hospital (I cannot deal with doctors right now) I attempted to move him back to his original location by myself. It turns out that this is quite a painful process. It also turns out that having a vaccination when you are already pretty run down is not the best idea. My body is officially unimpressed. I spent most of my day curled up under a blanket, wearing old clothes (the clothes I usually like to wear are all packed up in a suitcase ready for me to take to university), watching tv, messaging the world’s best flatmate (who I will be living with in less than two days time!) and arranging to have lunch with a lovely Italian girl from my uni course who I think I’m going to be good friends with.
For the past week, going to university has felt so exciting, yet at the same time terrifying. Today, it just feels surreal, because I never imagined that this would be in my future. I never imagined that I would get my A levels. I never imagined being well enough to leave home. I never imagined that people would be so accepting of me and my health, without even meeting me. Yet all of those things happened. And today, when I stopped to think about that, I couldn’t believe it. Rather than freaking out at such a huge change in my life, I was much less anxious – in fact, eerily calm (I felt too unwell to waste energy panicking)
I’ve been away from home for so much longer than ten weeks before. I was in hospital for two years, and since then I’ve bounced in and out of hospitals both at home and in London for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months at a time. Every time there was so much uncertainty, continuous IV infusions, stress, bad experiences, sometimes surgery… I missed my family (even though they visited), I missed my dog (even though eventually he was allowed in to see me), I missed normality. I thought that this would prepare me for leaving home… But I never walked into the building knowing that I was going to be away for that long. There was never any warning, never the time to overthink everything. I never looked my dog in the eye and knew it would be weeks before I saw him again. That’s the difference.
The thing is, I know that university is going to be one of the best experiences of my life. I know from the times that I have looked around the university that the staff are friendly and approachable, as are the students. There is so much more support available for me, and I will be surrounded by like minded people. It is such a fantastic opportunity… And the only thing ruining it for me… Is myself. People don’t like change. We settle into a routine, surround ourselves in familiarity like a comfort blanket, and we long for something to happen but are too afraid to take the first step. I know that once I get over myself, once I let go of all the ridiculous worries I have about starting university and replace those thoughts with fact – everything will be fine. But right now, like most “about-to-be-freshers” I’m nervous. New chances and opportunities are great, but it is ok to be a little frightened by them, and everybody else I have spoken too feels exactly the same way.
“People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground” – Marcel Proust
A while ago I wrote that you don’t have to start in an ideal situation to end up in one… Yesterday, after I’d had my vaccine, my friend came round to bake the cake that we had been planning to make for a couple of weeks (life gets in the way of most good plans, but it does’t have to stay in the way). We intended to make a red velvet cake, and after following the recipe exactly (well… we gave up with the ‘add a few drops of food colouring’ idea and added the whole bottle) we ended up with what can only be described as… A bitter chocolate brick, which squeaked when the knife eventually managed to break through the outer shell that developed around it (never has a cake gone so wrong!). It made me realise that having all the right ingredients or opportunities in life doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to end up where you want. Sometimes things are just completely out of our control. In fact, even the things we think we can control are often beyond our influence. Yet we still blame ourselves when life goes wrong. We refuse to believe that there was nothing we could do, because it is our life, and therefore we feel that we are responsible for everything that happens within it, and the path which it follows. We worry about what people will think when they look at us and where we’ve ended up in life, when the only opinion that should dictate our mood is our own.
But there is also another point I would like to make. Because a cake may never have gone so wrong, but also I have never had so much fun, or cried so many tears of laughter, while baking a cake. And so I realised that it doesn’t matter where you end up, because as long as you’ve made yourself happy, stuck with the things that you believe in and done the best that you can do… Who cares if your end result isn’t what you expected? The admirable thing about taking a risk is not what comes next, it is the fact that you had the courage to take the risk at all. Life isn’t about where you end up, it is about living, about enjoying the time you have and the processes you go through to get where you are going. Because eventually we all end up in the same place. We are all human, and as long as we can look back and be happy with the things we’ve done, it doesn’t really matter which viewpoint we are looking back from. The world will inevitably shape us far more than we will shape it, but so many of us are obsessed with ‘leaving a mark’, and when we don’t feel that we have done that, we feel like a failure. But we all leave our mark – just maybe not on the scale that we once hoped.
We compare ourselves to people that society admires. We raise the bar of our expectations to meet their lives, and we set ourselves unrealistic goals.The only person you ever need to aim to be is you – not the person you think you are expected to be, not the person you think people will like, or the person who pretends to be something they aren’t in order to fit in… But the person who hides behind all of that, the person you hide and never let out. The very best parts of ourselves are the things we keep hidden inside.
Step 22 to getting out of a rut in life:
The thing about life is that it often goes right and wrong at the same time. Happiness is often peppered with moments of unhappiness, and unhappiness is often peppered with reasons to be happy. New opportunities are exciting, but at the same time peppered with fear. Just don’t write them off until you’ve given them a chance. Sometimes all the possibilities we imagine just need to be replaced with fact, and that fact is often not as horrendous as we feared it would be. Don’t let your mind hold you back, push beyond your comfort zone, and if at the end of the day the end result is bitter and inedible and squeaks when you cut it… at least you can say that you tried. No failed attempt is truly a failure – we learn from our mistakes. The only failure is to never allow yourself the opportunity to fail – for then you never learn, you never laugh, you never feel the thrill of the fall.
“By not trying we throw away the chance of an immense good; by not succeeding we only incur the loss of a little human labour” – Francis Bacon
“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” – Erica Jong
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case you fail by default.” – J.K Rowling