It’s amazing how our thoughts work. One observation can take you on a journey through a scope of other thoughts and ideas and memories.
Sitting in the canteen where I work, I watched the crowds of students mulling around – in various deep or humorous discussions. There was a girl next to me who had a picture of herself and some friends heading on a night out as her wallpaper. Two girls sat on the other side of me laughing and joking about some work they had due.
It made me reflect on my life at university – I hadn’t had nights out with the girls. I hadn’t lived through the usual uni lifestyle. I had lived at home with mum as my university was just a 10 minute bus down the road. I’d enrolled at the age I would have been finishing had I not decided to take a few years out to think about what I really wanted and gain some work experience.
I thought about the life I would have had if I had done things differently – followed the same route the majority of my friends and people I have encountered over the years had gone down. Where would I be now?
I thought about why I hadn’t done those things. Why I hadn’t taken that path – it was my relationship. Instead of being secondary to my education, it was primary. My life revolved around it. I am immediately reminded of those familiar thoughts and feelings of regret – something I feel often when reminded of the latter of my teenage-years. I wish I had done everything differently. I realise how much animosity I feel towards the person I shared those years with. The person who held me back instead of propelled me forward; promoted an unhealthy lifestyle and would use mind-games and control to keep me under his possession.
As I sit and watch these students, I question what I do differently if I had the chance to go back in time. I think I would go back to the day before my 16th birthday. I would say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ and save myself those 6 years of unhappiness and pain. I would save more money, not get into stupid situations that could have been avoided.
I think about how I would get to where I am now in life? I feel content with my life; I have met the man of my dreams and we are building our future together. How would I make sure we met again if I was to go back? How could I convince him that we are meant to be and that I am his soul mate if he hasn’t figured that out for himself? I would need to plan meticulously that we crossed paths again. Would I do it the same? Would it even happen? I met him for a reason – I met him when I didn’t expect to because that was what was supposed to happen. Can you force something when the time isn’t right?
It hits me, then, that despite everything that has gone wrong in my life, everything that has held me back or affected my future, has led me to this point. It might not have happened this way if I hadn’t of been through those things. As much as it hurts and fills me with anger and regret, I needed to be in an abusive relationship in order to become unhappy and find the strength inside me to leave that relationship – a strength that helped me follow through on my decision and not accept defeat as I had for so long.
I had to take a break from my studies in order to realise where my passion was – my passion, not somebody else’s. I didn’t need the 3 years of partying and nights out in order to feel I had experienced university – I had other distractions going on that proved just as effective without the hangover.
I wouldn’t have learned what being silly with money can cause, and how important it is to avoid those situations again.
I wouldn’t have met the people I have since that I treasure today. Maybe I would still be talking to the people who didn’t respect me as I did them. Maybe I wouldn’t have learned to be assertive and decide what is best for me instead of making everybody else happy.
What would a 16 year old do with all that knowledge? It’s knowledge wise beyond their years, and the reason for that is experience. I went through those emotions and situations that hurt or affected me, but I learned from them. I was too young to understand the implications – would I have listened even if I did? Telling my 16 year old self that the person she is falling for isn’t the person she is destined to be with would have been shrugged off. I had to experience heartbreak to learn and never go back. Telling my 18 year old self to be careful with her money would have fallen on deaf ears.
I made mistakes just like everybody else. I made choices that were right for me, and although I paid a price, I got something back in exchange. Knowledge.
Because I have been through it, I won’t make those mistakes again. I always lived by the motto that any experience is good experience – and only ever thought of it in terms of work. But I realise it applies in life too. Without experience, there is no learning – and without learning, there is no progress.
Life doesn’t follow guidelines and doesn’t come with a rule book. We make our own story and pick up lessons on that journey. I am right where I am supposed to be – because it’s right for me. And despite those regrets and wrong turns, I made some right turns too and I survived.