“Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.“
My biggest decision was not, as some might think, going to university, or wanting to write. Those things are innate to me – learning and writing. My biggest decision so far is not one that I made contemplating the pros and cons. It was not a decision I backed away from only to reconsider later when I built up enough courage. My biggest decision I made instantly – I knew it was something I had to do – and it was by far one of the easiest decisions I’ve made, despite the process being stressful and difficult.
My biggest decision was whether or not to go to Australia on my own to study. You may think that this decision doesn’t beat life or death situations – and it’s not as though the alternative of staying in the UK to study for that year ever seemed appealing to me. But this daily prompt is about what would have happened had I not gone to Australia – if I had stayed in Salford for my second year instead.
There are any number of possible alternatives, because I needed that opportunity, which is why making the decision came so easily. And because I was looking for something to break the cycle of adolescent-hood, I may have done a variety of things to make myself grow up.
First and foremost, in my first year of my degree which I quit out of before the year ended I was miserable. My dog had died and I used this as an excuse to skip two or three weeks of classes, but it was just that – an excuse. Since the age of 11, having the only opportunity for creativity in an academic environment was through Drama at highschool so I needlessly forced myself into trying to become something I wasn’t cut out for. So it took me a while to realise my passion was writing.
You must understand though, that my need to study in a different country and to experience new things wasn’t anything to do with my satisfaction on my English course. Everything about that decision was right. It presented itself to me when I needed it the most, and I somehow managed to beat the odds and gain a place on the programme.
Had I not had the courage to go, somehow not been able to go due to illness, if others had persuaded me easily, things may or may not have been different. For one, I know I would have either spent my second year entirely broke or be living with a stranger I probably don’t get on with. My flatmate at the time was going back home to do stuff for her work placement she had to do for her own degree, so I knew in my second year I would have to live with someone else, which would usually mean living with someone who doesn’t get on with me (because boys are messy and girls are bitchy) or on my own and having to pay extortionate amounts of rent.
So say I managed to live with someone and just get along with them okay until I left. That’s alright. I would have taken some courses I didn’t really enjoy, because some were still mandatory in second year and Manchester is a bleak city so the weather and the dull work would have made me want to stick pins in my eyes.
I would have lived out my second year pretty much in the same way that I did my first. Just getting by. Getting by with being okay, getting by with just routine and getting through the next day just to find out what tomorrow will be like. But again, in Australia, I did just that – I took each day as one, and no more. I didn’t think ahead much in terms of what I wanted to do once I left uni, or I thought about it too much and stressed myself out.
I’d have left my second year and gone into my third exhausted from frustration. Yet again unsure, yet again unhappy, yet again not knowing who I am, what I want, who I want to become.
Going to Australia changed that marginally. It wasn’t the nice weather, the nice people or the difference in culture. It wasn’t studying or experiencing new things. It was doing it all on my own.
When I came back home, I was different. Somehow, the scariness of basic things dissipated, like getting on the wrong train, or not knowing what to do if this bill is late, or the university lose my work. None of that matters really, when in hindsight I’d travelled on my own to a country that has some of the world’s most deadliest creatures, where the Sun is deathly hot and the land might just flood, suffer drought or raging forest fires at any point. Traveling on my own made me take responsibility for the things I can control and gave me the courage to accept the things I can’t.
It opened my eyes to just how much sailing I’d been doing in my own life until that point. I had just been existing, and not really knowing why. I’d been confused and upset and tormented by inane things that just came into my mind everyday. And in some ways, I still suffer from them. But they are better.
Traveling on my own made me grow up. Just like being in a proper relationship has made me grow up, like having a job I enjoy and want to do well in, has made me grow up.
The daily prompt said “the road less traveled” but the road I am on hasn’t been tread on yet, and that is the scariness of life itself. That I’ve never known where I’m going, that I’ve never known what will happen or who I will become and I never will know.
If I had never made that decision to go, I would probably be still sat here, only wondering where it all went wrong. I went on my gut instincts and it was a risk and it was hard to not get waylaid by all the forms and processes it took to get there. The only time I voiced my concern was at the airport saying goodbye to my family and I said “I’m scared.” But I said goodbye, took one foot in front of the other and never thought anything different.
If I hadn’t gone, it would have taken me longer to get to where I am now and I’d be kicking myself for not taking that risk.
And so I’ve learned to never be really scared of anything, to try to not let fear immobilize me, because the scariest thing in life is not living it – a phrase said often, but rarely is it followed.