Let’s mosey back to last Saturday night. I’m sitting in bed propped up against the pillows, staring somewhat vacantly at my inspiration board (cheesy as all get out, but yes I have one) and half listening to my little sister get ready for her first night out on the town. Gosh that makes me sound ancient, doesn’t it? I’m in a ponderous state – one reached by a combination of a nine hour shift, a hectic week (exams galore) and a late night baking frenzy. Through the jumble of thoughts, and all things considering I’m surprised there’s not just bits of fluff floating around up there, it dawns on me that a year ago I was flying across the skies over Asia, destined for Sydney with no voice and a very blocked nose. How is it that we remember mundane details such as head colds, but forget more important things like birthdays or where the house keys wandered off to? Aaannyways, it’s a bit of a ‘my god’ moment. One that threatens to bowl you over with a cartload of emotions. Because a year ago the beaten up station wagon (I like to tell myself it’s more akin to a Cooper mini, but lets be honest here) that’s my life took one massive hook turn and rumbled off down an entirely different highway. The destination of which I’m still trying to work out…but probably never will. Eighteen months ago I would’ve been having kittens over that. Now? Not so much. Maybe just one or two. Every once in a while. But that’s normal, right?
Deciding to leave Oxford will always conjure up those big (and awfully niggly at times) life questions “what if I had stayed?” “what would have happened?” “how would things have turned out?”. Yup. We all suffer from them. Fact of life. A large part of this year has involved attempting to limit the amount of times those questions float through my head. Trying to come to terms with the decision to terminate my Geography degree at Oxford. I think a smidge of heartache/confusion/regret/whatever you want to label it will always remain, but I’m ok with that. It’s good to be reminded that, as my Granny loves to say ‘there are no right or wrong decisions, only different ones’. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t bumble around and work things out from trial and error every now and then.
But wait, there’s more to the ‘oh god’ moment than musings on Oxford (heh, you should know by now that I never keep things short and sweet). Realising that it was December the following day was like getting bowled over by a big angry elephant – it came out of nowhere. Umm where did the year go? I’m now a qualified chef. Huh. I’ve survived a year away from study (in the conventional sense) without too many withdrawal symptoms. And quite enjoyed it. Rightyo. Certainly not what a 17 year old me had envisaged two years ago. I’m also now ready to move on, or in a sense backwards. Next year will be university take two. Though I have decided to settle for somewhere less prestigious and with, well, a lighter workload than Oxford. Just goes to show you can’t keep a nerd away from the books for absolutely forever!
You’re probably wondering by now – if you haven’t zoned out already (I see the eyes of family members start to glaze over when I begin ‘pondering’) – if there’s a point to all this mumble jumble. Here it is. It’s a waste of time to invest bucket loads of energy (and let’s be real, tears) into focusing on the ‘what if’s’ for too long. It’s fine to look back. In doing so you learn from things. But not for too long. Embrace the turn you’ve taken and see it as a triumph rather than an uncertain wibble on the roadmap of life. It’s also okay – healthy even – to admit that something you believed was 100% you actually isn’t, that you’re actually a different person. Why, you might even like this version better.
My obligatory big sister ‘wise comment’ before little sis traipsed out of the house was “it’s ok to drink, but not too much, know when to stop, have fun, be yourself”. I felt very wise-old-owlish after that, though I don’t think she was actually listening. Does she ever? In a roundabout way you can apply it to all aspects of life. Take some risks, know where to catch yourself, and if you do fall pick yourself up, shake out any sore bits, accept it for what it is and move on. It works in the kitchen so why shouldn’t it in the real world?
Life coach lecture over and out.